Excess Vitamin A Can Thwart Vitamin D
Most aging people take a multi-vitamin supplement. In some cases, these commercial supplements may be doing more harm than good.
Preformed vitamin A is active retinol as opposed to beta-carotene that can convert to retinol in the body. We reviewed 14 popular multivitamin formulas and found the average amount of preformed vitamin A to be 4,395 IU, while the average vitamin D content was only 407 IU.
The problem with this potency ratio is that in the presence of excess preformed vitamin A, the beneficial effects of vitamin D can be neutralized.73
The first hint of this problem occurred when a group of doctors reviewed historical medical records on the use of cod liver oil to prevent respiratory infections. In the 1930s, two large controlled studies showed that cod liver oil reduced incidence of common colds by 50% and respiratory infections by 30% in adults.74-77
A study published in year 2004 showed that cod liver oil and a multivitamin slightly reduced mean number of respiratory infections in children, but the total number of doctor visits for these infections was slightly higher in the cod liver oil/multivitamin group (68 versus 61).78 The 1930s study demonstrated far superior benefits with cod liver oil.74-77
One difference between these studies is that cod liver oil in the 1930s study had more vitamin D. The other issue is that children in the 2004 study received 3,500 IU of preformed vitamin A (not beta-carotene) and only 700 IU of vitamin D.
Given what we now know, a more appropriate dose should have been 500-1,000 IU of vitamin A (instead of 3,500 IU used in the 2004 study) and 2,000-3,000 IU of vitamin D3 (as opposed to 700 IU used in the 2004 study).
Vitamins A and D compete for each other’s function in the body. Preformed vitamin A, found in excess amount in many commercial supplements, can thwart vitamin D’s protective effects.73 This is not an issue with beta-carotene, as it converts to vitamin A in the body only on demand.
Consumption of excess preformed vitamin A, as found in commercial multivitamins and modern cod liver oil, may cause bone toxicity in those with inadequate vitamin D status. One study showed that women with the highest intake of preformed vitamin A had 2.1 times more hip fractures.79,80 A meta-analysis found that people who took preformed vitamin A supplements had a 16% increase in overall mortality,81 perhaps through antagonism of vitamin D.
When vitamin A supplements are given to children with low vitamin A status, the children have far fewer infections.82 When children hospitalized with pneumonia were given higher doses of preformed vitamin A, however, it worsened the clinical course, suggesting that the vitamin should not be given unless there is clinical evidence of deficiency (or concurrent measles infection).83
While vitamin A is critical in regulating cellular proliferation, and thus helping to protect against malignant diseases, when taken in excess amounts, preformed vitamin A can suppress the even more important anti-cancer effects of vitamin D.33,34,39
Modern day cod liver oil contains 4,000 to 10,000 IU of preformed vitamin A, and only 400 to 1,200 IU of vitamin D. The adverse ratio (i.e., too much preformed vitamin A and insufficient vitamin D) is true for most multivitamin supplements.
As mentioned earlier, Life Extension® conducted a survey of popular multivitamins and found the average amount of preformed vitamin A to be 4,395 IU, with vitamin D averaging only 407 IU. Published studies confirm that 400 IU of vitamin D a day, even if taken by itself, is not enough to protect against age-related disease.52,64,66,71,72,84 In the presence of excess preformed vitamin A, as is found in commercial multivitamins today, the effects of the small amount of vitamin D they contain may be nullified.
Our Blood Test Analysis Corroborates This
Most Foundation members take the Two-Per-Day or Life Extension Mix multi-nutrient formulas.
The amount of vitamin D contained in the daily dose of each of these formulas has been 1,000 IU. Based on our many years of recommendations, members often take 1,000 to 6,000 IU of additional vitamin D. Yet blood test readings from this group found 38% had insufficient levels according to conventional medicine standards, and 85% were below the optimal minimal level of 50 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
There was no preformed vitamin A in the Two-Per-Day formula and only 2,300 IU of preformed vitamin A in Life Extension Mix.
Those who rely on commercial multivitamins may be obtaining too much preformed vitamin A (4,395 IU/day on average) and not enough vitamin D (407 IU/day on average). We fear that consumers learn of the favorable data about vitamin D and erroneously believe they are taking enough of it because they see it on the label of their multivitamin.
In response to what I have written so far, I hope commercial companies will increase the vitamin D and reduce the excess preformed vitamin A in their multivitamin products. I also anticipate in response to this article, that consumers will increase their vitamin D intake. A number of chronic disorders are potentially reversible if vitamin D status is optimized,85-95 and vitamin D3 is a low-cost dietary supplement sold virtually everywhere.
Changes We Are Making Based On This Data
Based upon our extensive research, we believe that most people require 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D each day to achieve optimal blood level status. The need for preformed vitamin A, on the other hand, is only 500-1,000 IU each day.
We are reducing the relatively low amount (2,300 IU) of preformed vitamin A in the daily dose of Life Extension Mix to 500 IU. We are adding 500 IU of preformed vitamin A to the daily dose of Two-Per-Day to make sure that even those who don’t adequately convert beta-carotene to vitamin A (retinol) will have a sufficient amount.
We are increasing the daily dose of vitamin D3 in our multi-nutrient formulas to 2,000 IU. I need to emphasize, however, that almost everyone will need additional vitamin D based on our extensive analysis of members’ blood tests. We believe people should strive for precise individualized dosing to achieve a blood level greater than 50 ng/mL.
We are introducing a low-cost 7,000 IU vitamin D capsule to make it easy for those who take one of our multivitamins, plus our mineral formulas (that contain 1,000 IU of vitamin D) to supplement with the upper limit of vitamin D. Not every one will need to take this 7,000 IU vitamin D capsule, but if your 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test result is under 50 ng/mL, please consider higher doses.
You may also need higher dosing if you weigh more than 180 pounds, if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, and if you are over age 55. As we have previously published, all of these factors conspire to deprive your body of optimal vitamin D status.
Millions of Needless Deaths
The cover story of the September 2007 Life Extension Magazine® was titled “Should the President Declare a National Emergency?” This issue was designed to alert the nation’s leaders to the fact that the health care crisis could be averted if the President gave a televised speech urging all Americans to consume more vitamin D. The President at the time ignored my plea.
Exactly one year ago, I wrote an article titled “Millions of Needless Deaths” that provided unassailable documentation that millions of Americans were suffering and dying because they were not ingesting enough vitamin D. Despite hand delivering this article to every Congressional office, the federal government did nothing. The government also disregarded my offer to donate 50,000 bottles containing 365 capsules each of 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 to the indigent in exchange for the President recommending that all Americans consume more vitamin D.
The federal government thinks it can resolve today’s health care cost crisis by raising taxes and providing universal substandard sick care. I can tell you from my over 30 years of designing individualized “outside the box” approaches to saving lives, that a bureaucratic “one-size fits all” medical mandate will not work. The federal government’s so-called “health” care initiatives, which are really “disease” care dictates, are economically and scientifically unsound.
While new data indicates that “disease care” costs could be cut in half if all Americans achieved a 50 ng/mL vitamin D blood level, most textbooks do not view a person as vitamin D deficient until their blood levels drop below 12 ng/mL. The epidemic of medical ignorance continues unabated, while the country wrestles with a seemingly impossible-to-resolve disease-care cost crisis.
Don’t Be A Victim
Vitamin D is so inexpensive that almost all Americans can afford optimal dose supplementation. The government could save hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare/Medicaid outlays by simply giving vitamin D supplements to those who cannot afford it.96 This common sense approach, however, is not being considered by bureaucrats who instead want to take your tax dollars to cover medical costs caused by widespread vitamin D insufficiency.
As a Life Extension® member, you don’t have to suffer the agonies and premature mortality associated with inadequate vitamin D. We have rapidly cut through the red tape to uncover and provide hard hitting data to enable your vitamin D status to be optimized.
Our analyses of over 13,000 vitamin D blood tests reveal that most of you are not ingesting enough vitamin D3. If you are relying on our multi-nutrient supplements, these will provide more vitamin D than others, but they still do not provide most of you with enough vitamin D.
With winter upon us, I suggest that all members consider taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day in addition to what they obtain in their multivitamins. Overweight and certain elderly individuals may need 7,000 IU of vitamin D3 in addition to what they get in their multivitamins.
The many members who have already had their blood tested for vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) should review their numbers to see if they need to increase their vitamin D intake to achieve a reading greater than 50 ng/mL. According to our records, more than 85% of you are not ingesting enough! If you can’t find your blood test result, just call 1-800-208-3444 and we will send you a copy.
Remember to avoid supplements with excess levels of preformed vitamin A (greater than 1,000 IU to 2,300 IU). Commit to having a blood test (CBC/chemistry and 25-hydroxyvitamin D) within the next two months to evaluate your vitamin D status and to make sure your blood calcium and kidney function indicators are in normal ranges.
These simple approaches could spare you the agonies of the multiple degenerative diseases that plague the majority of the elderly.
Making A Difference!
As greater numbers of Ameri-cans realize the absurdities of governmental health care programs, they are joining the Life Extension Foundation® to avoid becoming personal victims of these bureaucratic failures.
I want to thank Life Extension® members for purchasing most of their supplements from our Buyers Club. We use these sales to fund critical research projects aimed at eliminating needless disease and death. We also support a campaign to reform incompetent government policies that deprive Americans of life-saving medical therapies.
Just once a year, we discount the price of every product we offer. During our annual Super Sale, members stock up on our most advanced formulations and enjoy considerable savings.
Every day we hear from grateful members who successfully follow our novel health-promoting suggestions. By relentlessly tearing down the walls of medical ignorance, we are making substantial positive differences in the lives of many human beings. I am enormously grateful to be part of this unprecedented endeavor to eliminate these underlying causes of illness and mortality throughout the world.
For longer life,