An article in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine warned of the possible relationship between consuming vitamin A at levels at or above 10,000 IU (200 percent of the Daily Value, or DV) or 3000 Retinol equivalents (REs) and some types of birth defects. A relationship between vitamin A intakes and birth defects has been known for some time, but the level of vitamin A that was associated with earlier studies was much higher than the levels indicated by the new study.
As a precautionary measure, the FDA has issued several recommendations to women of child-bearing age about consuming foods containing pre-formed vitamin A, including dietary supplements.
Pre-formed vitamin A is found in animal products, primarily liver, and may be added to fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and dietary supplements. (Examples of pre-formed vitamin A include retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate, which can be found in these products’ ingredient listings.) Women should not exceed the recommended DV for pre-formed vitamin A from these sources.
On the other hand, beta-carotene is a substance found naturally in plants, and it can be converted to vitamin A in the body. It is considerably less toxic than the pre-formed vitamin A. Therefore, women of child-bearing age are advised to choose fortified foods that contain vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene rather than pre-formed vitamin A, whenever possible. The vitamin A in fruits and vegetables is naturally in the form of beta-carotene, and high intakes of vitamin A from these sources is generally not of concern.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient and, as with all nutrients, the good health of women throughout child-bearing years, including during pregnancy, depends on consuming the appropriate amounts of this nutrient. Taking too little vitamin A can result in adverse effects just as can taking in too much. The key is in finding the “right amount” by carefully reading product nutrition labeling.
The adverse effects of excessive vitamin A intake
For women who supplemented with 10,000 units of vitamin A (IU) daily, the risk of birth defects of the baby increased 2.4 times compared to those whose mothers only had less than 4,000 units. These risks include cleft palate, cleft palate, hydrocephalus, heart defects, and fertility. That’s the result of a study by Dr. Kenneth J. Rothman, a nutritionist, and his colleague at Boston Medical College on 22,748 pregnant women in Boston from October 1984 to June 1987.
Mothers need to remember that vitamin A is stored for a long time in the body. So even if the mother supplements vitamin A beyond the recommended level before pregnancy, this excessive amount is still likely to affect the pregnancy’s forming.
There is no epidemiological research has confirmed the role of vitamin A in causing birth defects in the fetus. Despite this, it is recommended to use only vitamin A with the content of 4,000 IU per day (including the amount of vitamin A contained in food).
How to take vitamin A efficiently?
Many researchers have discovered that there are several multivitamins with a vitamin A content of 10,000 or even 25,000 units. So the choice of functional foods during pregnancy is not natural.
Besides, vitamin A is also very easily found in foods. Approximately 85g of beef liver can provide up to 30,000 units of vitamin A. Therefore, and sometimes although not taking more vitamin A, some people still have an excess of this substance.
Vitamin A is also found in eggs, milk, meat, fish, and some grains. Keeping a balanced diet is one way we prevent the risk of excess vitamin A.
Another point to note is that supplementing with beta-carotene, also known as vitamin A precursor, is a safe way to increase vitamin A because the body will convert this chemical to a safe. Therefore, when choosing supplements with vitamin A, mothers should choose products with beta-carotene.
Should pregnant woman take vitamin A in the first three months of pregnancy?
In results, pregnant women should not take too much vitamin A in the first three months of pregnancy, which can cause some birth defects to the fetus. Supplementing with too much vitamin A can cause adverse health effects for pregnant women such as headache, vomiting, nausea, blurred vision, and feeling sleepy.