Known for its role in healthy vision, Vitamin A is one of the most critical nutrients.
Did you know that this fat soluble vitamin is actually the master at protecting mucosal membranes? This means that your gut, your lungs, and every opening of your body require sufficient stores of active Vitamin A, called retinoids. That's so much more than just healthy eyes....
So what are retinoids, and what happened to beta-carotene?
Simply put, carotenoids (most of you know beta-carotene) are the inactive form of Vitamin A that you get from orange fruits and veggies. There is a conversion process in the body that turns carotenoids into retinoids - turning inactive to active.
But you didn't come here to get a degree in biochemistry, so what's the point?
Well, it turns out that there is a gene, called BCMO1, that is in charge of this conversion. When you have a variation in the gene, you become less efficient at turning your carotenoids into retinoids. Basically, you can't get enough active Vitamin A from plants alone.
So what do you have to eat to get active Vitamin A?
Yep. Unfortunately, a plant-based diet doesn't provide active Vitamin A.
Here are the foods that do:
- Cod liver oil
- Grass-fed beef liver
- Wild-caught salmon
- Lamb liver
Adding these items into your diet may be useful, especially if you have variations in the BCMO1 gene. If you don't want to consume animal products, you can consider taking Vitamin A as a supplement. Be careful, however, as there is an upper level of toxicity with supplementation.
Generally considered safe levels of retinol supplementation:
|0–6 months*||400 mcg RAE||400 mcg RAE|
|7–12 months*||500 mcg RAE||500 mcg RAE|
|1–3 years||300 mcg RAE||300 mcg RAE|
|4–8 years||400 mcg RAE||400 mcg RAE|
|9–13 years||600 mcg RAE||600 mcg RAE|
|14–18 years||900 mcg RAE||700 mcg RAE||750 mcg RAE||1,200 mcg RAE|
|19–50 years||900 mcg RAE||700 mcg RAE||770 mcg RAE||1,300 mcg RAE|
|51+ years||900 mcg RAE||700 mcg RAE|
We recommend getting Vitamin A from food as much as possible. Do not fret. If you are a vegetarian, you are still getting Vitamin A if you consume things like pumpkin, sweet potato, and carrots. However, if you notice you or your child turns orange with hefty doses of these fruits and veg, they may have that pesky BCMO1 gene variation. Look out for potential for Vitamin A deficiency.
Symptoms associated with Vitamin A deficiency:
- Poor growth in children
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Dry skin and eyes
- Poor wound healing
- Chronic lung or throat infections
- Night blindness
These symptoms are found throughout all stages of life, so be sure to see if you are eating enough sources of active Vitamin A.
Want to know more about your genes? Check out our genetic test.