A panel of experts at the National Academy of Sciences recently lowered the amount of vitamin A recommended for men (3000), women (2300) and children (1000-2000 depending on age). They also established an upper limit of 10,000 IU for adults, 5,600 IU for kids 9-13, 3,000 IU for kids 4-8 and 2,000 IU for infants and toddlers. These levels apply only to the form of Vitamin A that is found in animals (retinol) and not to the vitamin A precursors found in plants (beta carotene and other carotenoids) because the body converts only what it needs to retinol.
An excess of beta-carotene from eating lots of carrots, spinach and mangoes may turn your skin yellow-orange but it does not lead to retinol toxicity. There is growing concern that some Americans may be getting too much retinol. Last spring, Metabolife International recalled its ?Diet & Energy Bars? because they contained a toxic dose of retinol (32,500/bar). Some food supplements containing 25,000 IU or more of retinol per pill are still being sold. Vitamin A toxicity has also occurred in people eating a lot of liver. Just 3 ounces of beef liver has over 30,000 IU. Chicken liver has about 14,000 IU in a 3 ounces portion. Cod liver oil is also very high in retinol. Many multivitamins contain 5,000 to 10,000 IU. In addition several popular cereals, nonfat milk and a growing number of other foods are fortified with Vitamin A.
Americans are getting too much retinol.
The more retinol one consumes and the longer one consumes it, the greater the danger of toxicity. Too much retinol can cause nausea, dry scaly skin, hair loss, and bone pain. In adults, excess retinol can lead to headaches and blurred vision. In babies, vitamin A toxicity can lead to an enlarged liver and a failure to grow. A supplement of as little as 10,000 IU a day in pregnant women can cause birth defects. There is growing scientific evidence that an excessive intake of retinol over many years may weaken bone and contribute to osteoporosis. However, a deficiency of vitamin A remains a major cause of permanent blindness worldwide. Low levels of vitamin A can lead to night blindness and roughening of the skin but both of these resolve quickly with just 3,000 IU daily.
My advice: Don?t take supplements with more than the new RDI for vitamin A and don?t overdo it with cereals, nonfat milk, and other foods with added retinol. A little is good but more may be harmful.
By Dr. James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.