But some explorers found that when they killed polar bears or seals for food that they became ill when they eat the liver.
Nobody gets ill or dies when eat a plateful of carrots!
Both are powerful sources of vitamin A – and you can see which is the safe way to get your daily allowance!
So there are two types of vitamin A – retinol which is animal based and builds up in the body because it is an oily molecule; and the other, carotene / Beta carotene that is more water soluble that is activated and used as the body needs it.
Eat too much high retinol from the liver from Bears, seals or fish and you can become very ill; eat sacks of carrots and other veggies and you may get a slight yellowy orange tinge to your skin which will fade when you eat fewer high carotene foods.
Both are called vitamin A although sometimes beta carotene is called pro vitamin A.
When is vitamin A not vitamin A ?
What is also called vitamin A are various artificial chemicals cooked up in chemical factories and sold and written about as vitamin A or synthetic vitamin A. Synthetic here means man made.
The real issue for people who want natural nutrition is not that it is man made really, it is that the molecule that is produced in the factory is not identical to the natural chemical.
And that means in my view that the chemical is not vitamin A at all.
I have no problem at all with chemical plants churning out tonns of any nature identical chemical they like. But when a company produces a designed imitation chemical which is labelled as the natural then I regard that as tantamount to fraud.
This kind of malarkey happens in clinical trials too. There is an infamous study of smokers treated with synthetic beta carotene.
What happened in the study?
Well the smokers in the synthetic beta carotene group had an increased rate of lung cancer. The conclusions drawn were that beta carotene is dangerous and may increase your risk of cancer.
Dr. Michael Schachter discusses the study very ably here
One gem that I did not know before reading his discussion is "And all of the supplements were colored with quiniline yellow, a substance with known carcinogenic properties."
So Schachter tells us that the absolute geniuses that did the study on cancer polluted all the supplements they used with a cancer causing substance!
The sheer stupidity of this is startling.
For me though the crucial point I want you to come away with is that the study was not done on beta carotene but on an artificial chemical cooked up in a laboratory. So called synthetic beta carotene and not natural beta carotene.
The study may reflect issues with the lifestyle of the Finnish male smokers involved but for the rest of us it has no meaning at all.
So we've seen some possible dangers from eating high retinol foods and from synthetic vitamin A.
What can the safe and genuine vegetable form of vitamin A do for you?
The main visible sign of deficiency occur in the eye. Both the retina at the back of the eye and the cornea at the front both deteriorate on vitamin A deficiency and the individual experiences poor vision at night and impaired adaption to changes of dark and light.
And then vitamin A boosts the immune system – especially that part of it concerned with fighting viral illnesses.
Supplementation can reduce death from measles by 50%. This is not just in third world countries – a study in California showed that half of the children were deficient.
Finally a study on vaginal candida found that women with low levels of vitamin A were more likely to have candida.
We cannot say that beta carotene is a cure for candida but boosting your supplements with a beta carotene and adding more fresh salads and veggies to your diet is probably going to help a lot.
You might use lettuce, dark leafy greens, apricots and sweet potatoes. And maybe try a green smoothie a few times a week.
And remember put some carrots in your smoothie and definitely leave out liver from Polar bears.
Photo credit the4mahers