History and Characteristics

Vitamin A is soluble in fats and oils and insoluble in water. It is not affected by dilute alkalies and acids. It is stable to heat with little loss of activity, even at boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit) if air is kept away from it. But it is unstable in air, even at room temperature. Any jar containing vitamin A should be tightly sealed.

There are two types of vitamin A: preformed and provitamin. Preformed vitamin A is concentrated in certain tissue of animal products in which the carotene contained in the food has metabolized into vitamin A. Fish-liver oil is a rich source of preformed vitamin A: vitamin A-l (retinol) is found in sea water fish only; vitamin A-2 (3-dehydroretinal) is found in fresh and salt water fish. Provitamin A is carotene, a substance found in fruits and vegetables that must be converted into vitamin A before it can be utilized by the body. Carotene is especially abundant in carrots.

People unable to synthesize vitamin A from carotene will need a vitamin A supplement. In ailments of the abdominal region of the body loss of vitamin A can bring on ulcerative colitis, obstruction of the bile duct or cirrhosis of the liver. In such cases unhealthy flora is retained in the intestines and can prohibit the conversion of carotene to vitamin A.

Vitamin A is used for promoting healthy tissue formation both inside and outside the body and increasing blood platelets (round or oval disks in the blood that aid in blood coagulation after an injury). It gives strength to the cell walls, aids in good digestion and helps prevent senility. - -

Vitamin A is especially important to people who live in high pollution areas. Those individuals may have their respiratory tracts taxed to the limits because of poisons; hence frequent colds, bronchitis and even pneumonia develop easily and seem to hang on. Once bodily defenses are broken down, these people cannot repel the invaders until the necessary vitamin A has been supplied. The vitamin also aids in the relief of bronchial asthma, chronic rhinitis and dermatitis.

Vitamin A has been used successfully in treating many types of eye disorders—such as blurred vision, night blindness, Bitot's spots {white patches on the whites of eyeballs), cataracts, glaucoma and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the eyelids).

Communicable diseases—such as measles, colds and scarlet fever—as well as infections of the intestines, ovaries, uterus and vagina, have been halted with dosages of vitamin A. In addition, high cholesterol and atheroma (fatty deposits in the arterial walls) have been controlled with the vitamin. And people who suffer from hyperthyroidism, nephritis (inflammation of the kidney), tinnitus (a ringing sound in the ear) and migraine headaches have also benefited from adding more of this vitamin to their diets.

Allies: Vitamin A's primary allies are protein and vitamins D and G. It is also more effective when taken with the vitamin B complex (especially cholin), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, fatty acids, calcium (bonemeal, gluconate or lactate), phosphorus and zinc.

Antagonists: Vitamin A's effectiveness is diminished by mineral oil, fertilizers with high nitrogen content, ozone and nitrogen dioxide, found in air pollutants.

Dosages Si

Recommended Dietary Allowance: ; . -Infants 0-1 yrs. 1,500 I.U. Children 1-6 yrs. 2,000 I.U.6-10 yrs. 3,500 I.U. Men 10-12 yrs. 4,500 I.U. 12-75 + yrs. 5,000 I.U. Women 10-12 yrs. 4,500 I.U. 12-75 + yrs. 5,000 I.U. Pregnant Women 6,000 I.U. Lactating Women 8,000 I.U. ' s'J - "

Therapeutic Dose; With a physician's guidance 25,000 I.U. to 50,000 I.U. daily in case of deficiency are recommended.

Megadose: With a physician's guidance 125,000 I.U. to 200,000 I.U. daily are recommended.


Vitamin A is one of only two known vitamins (the other is vitamin D) that in its synthetic form can cause harm if the dosages are too large. It has been suggested that 50,000 I.U. daily for six months can cause toxicity. Dosages of 18,500 I.U. given daily for one to three months have been reported toxic for infants.

Common symptoms of a mild vitamin A poisoning are nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, dry skin, loss of hair, headaches, loss of appetite and sore lips. Deep bone pain, thickening of long bones, Wurred vision, skin rashes, enlargement of the liver and spleen, reduced thyroid activities and abnor malities of the mucous membrane, skin and eyes are more severe symptoms.

In cases of vitamin A toxicity a person should refrain from taking any more vitamin A, and within a few days to weeks, depending upon the severity of the overdosing, the symptoms will disappear. Vitamin C has also been known to help prevent the harmful side effects of vitamin A toxicity.

Fish liver oil does not seem to incur toxic side effects. Instead, the synthetic varieties of vitamin A build up in the body and produce toxicity.

Deficiency Symptoms

Sinus trouble, catarrh (inflammation of mucous membranes), ear abcesses, eyelids glued shut in the mornings upon waking and "sleepy sand" in abundance around the upper eyelids upon waking are warnings that there may be a slight deficiency of vitamin A. Clues of a moderate deficiency are the appearance of skin blemishes—such as acne, pimples and boils —as well as increased susceptibility to infections, especially psoriasis and chest colds. Other common signs are night blindness, xerosis (when the eyeball loses luster, becomes dry and inflamed and visual ability is altered), rough, dry skin, prematurely wrinkled skin, a poor sense of smell and/or taste and poor appetite. Pneumonia, softening of bones and teeth, defective gums, sties in the eye, corneal ulcers, formation of gallstones or kidney stones, retarded growth in children, diarrhea, lack of stamina and vigor and sterility in both male and female are signals of a severe deficiency. - , ■

Recent Clinical Developments

Vitamin A is valuable in the correction of various skin problems. External application of the vitamin (fish liver oil perles), for instance, can aid in rapid healing of skin conditions and open wounds and can prevent scarring in much the same fashion as vitamin E. Injections of vitamin A have also helped remove Plantar's warts. Moreover, premature aging, liver spots (brown dots appearing first on the hands and arms then all over the rest of the body), dry and wrinkled skin, flabby muscles and poor resistance to disease are all found to be caused by malfunctioning of a very small but important genetic linkup, which can only be maintained with sufficient vitamin A.

As this information indicates, sufficient vitamin A on a regular basis insures younger bodies for many years for most people. In a test performed at the University of Oklahoma in 1968 Drs. Johnson, Kennedy and Chiba found that 10 milligrams of potassium retinoate (vitamin A) increased the incorporation of uridine into total ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the liver up to 30 hours after administration. RNA contains the proper code of instructions for individual cells to know how to perform so that life, health and metabolic functions may be evenly maintained. RNA must reproduce itself; otherwise, as it becomes old its computer patterns blur, the physical body distorts more and more, and liver spots and other signs of aging appear.

Vitamin A also helps overcome certain reproductive problems. For example, the vitamin has been effective in relief of premenstrual cramping and tenderness of the breasts. Furthermore, the problem of sterility in men and women in some cases may be nothing more than a deficiency of vitamin A.

Proper glandular functioning is linked to vitamin A as well. The vitamin fortifies and strengthens the thymus so that the gland does its job. Part of the lymphatic system that alerts the body to invasion by foreign viruses and bacteria, the thymus sends hormonal messengers (white blood cells) to fight the intruders. These cells (lymphocytes) stay on duty because of a good, regular supply of vitamin A. Especially during childhood the thymus is large and extremely active: if it is functioning properly, there are few childhood ailments; if it is hypofunctioning, a child runs the risk of continued colds, allergies, flu and other viral ailments.

Those who have hyperthyroids or diabetes mellitus (a pancreatic disease, characterized by a deficiency of insulin) are seemingly incapable of storing vitamin A in their bodies. Such individuals are advised to take recommended allowances of vitamin A suggested by their physicians to insure against deficiency.

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