vitamin A retinol retinyl hypervitaminosis toxicity adelle davis


Adelle Davis Revisited:
Vitamin A

"Individuals deficient in Vitamin A allow conditions ideal for bacterial growth to be set up in their bodies..."
Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit, p. 56

"The safe upper single dose of retinol [natural vitamin A] in oil or liver seems to be approximately 4-6 mg/kg body wt."
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003 Dec;78(6):1152-9

For a 150-pound person, that equals 1,360,000 units of fish-liver-oil vitamin A!!! To get this toxic amount in fish liver oil pills of 10,000 units each, one would have to take 136 pills all at once.

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There are chemicals made in the laboratory that are vastly different from natural vitamin A. But they are legally allowed to be sold as "Vitamin A." They can be extremely toxic even in small amounts.. It is this synthetic vitamin A that is causing all the hysteria.

A teaspoon or more of cod-liver oil, quickly swallowed, is a very excellent source of A as well. But Beta carotene, which is a plant-source pre-cursor of vitamin A that isn't as effective as fish-oil A, is turned into vitamin A in the body only if many specific nutrients are obtained with it, which may not happen during infections. Adelle Davis wrote that during any infection, "the need for vitamin A skyrockets."

Many decades ago, an acne cream was marketed containing a very bizarre chemical that was called "vitamin A" even though it was a laboratory-made product that bore little resemblance to the natural vitamin A. This acne cream's "vitamin A" was so toxic that even a tiny bit of the cream on the face of a pregnant woman would penetrate through the skin and cause birth defects in the baby. This most probably started the universal medical admonition in America that "vitamin A even in small amounts can be toxic." This idea persists today, tragically causing many Americans to be grossly vitamin-A deficient.

In our opinion, only the unadulterated fish-oil chemical called "retinol" should be allowed to be marketed under the term "vitamin A." Vitamin A was the first vitamin to get a label ("A") because it was thought to be the greatest nutrient for preventing infections.

On dosages of vitamin A that cause toxicity

"The safe upper single dose of retinol in oil or liver seems to be approximately 4-6 mg/kg body wt."

From the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Dec;78(6):1152-9.

The authors canvassed the entire available medical literature, and retrieved (only) 259 thoroughly documented case histories of persons who experienced effects from excessive vitamin A intake. From this information, the limits of retinol that one can safely take were determined. Note: the term "retinol" should be used only to designate the unaltered compound as derived from animal sources. However, the authors do not distinguish between completely unaltered, naturally-derived retinol and laboratory-modified retinol. Therefore, even this study cannot be said to demonstrate ANY toxicity from natural retinol.


"Chronic hypervitaminosis A is induced after daily doses of 2 milligrams of retinol per kilogram of body weight in oil-based preparations for many months or years. In contrast, doses as low as 0.2 mg retinol. kg(-1). d(-1) in water-miscible, emulsified, and solid preparations for only a few weeks caused chronic hypervitaminosis A. Thus, water-miscible, emulsified, and solid preparations of retinol are approximately 10 times as toxic as are oil-based retinol preparations. The safe upper single dose of retinol in oil or liver seems to be approximately 4-6 mg/kg body wt. These thresholds do not vary considerably with age." (Abstract from PubMed)

It should be noted that retinol, when sold as vitamin A in oil-based capsules such as fish liver oil, is measured in International Units, not milligrams. So are vitamins D and E, which are also oil-soluble.

One milligram of oil-based vitamins equals 4,000 to 6,000 International Units ("IU" or now simply called "units"). Thus a person weighing 150 pounds (a little over 68 kilograms) would have to take about 700,000 IU of oil-based vitamin A daily for many months or years, before "hypervitaminosis" would possibly occur. This does not say that this amount will definitely cause hypervitaminosis to occur, only that it might, and several times has.

As for the "safe upper single dose" (the authors do not say how frequently this single dose can be taken), for a 150-pound person, it is 1,360,000 units!!! Since the Food and Drug Administration now limits the amount of vitamin A in pills to 10,000 IU, one would have to take 136 oil-based pills all at once, or 70 of these pills per day for months or years, to be in danger of possible "hypervitaminosis."

The study is very clear that water-based vitamin A, or creams or solids, can be 10 times more toxic than oil-based. I think it would be more fair to say that these preparations require only 1/10th the dose to cause toxicity. Note that the study only uses the term "toxic" in reference to water-based preparations, and chooses the more benign term "hypervitaminosis" for the effects of too much oil-based, natural vitamin A.

What is "hypervitaminosis"? It means literally "symptoms from taking too much vitamin A." The term doesn't say what these symptoms are. Adelle Davis says that for fish liver oil vitamin A, taking too much is almost impossible, but that eating something like polar bear liver (which has millions of units) can eventually cause itchy skin, headaches, or other unpleasant abnormalities that fade and reverse themselves if the vitamin A is discontinued. She made the statement (albeit decades ago) that no clinical study has ever proven toxicity caused by vitamin A from fish liver oil. She says that taking vitamin C with the A prevents even these mild symptoms. Dr. Mercola says that taking vitamin D with vitamin A prevents any chance of toxicity.

Hypervitaminosis of vitamin A/retinol is NOTHING LIKE the severe birth defects that were caused by the acne cream that contained a laboratory chemical that was vastly different from retinol, so different that it was unconscionable to call it "vitamin A" at all. And yet MD's throughout the United States will tell you straight to your face that anything over about 5,000 units of A per day can be dangerous. This ignorant advice is causing millions of people to suffer needlessly from infections that would be prevented if they were taking adequate vitamin A.

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Many MD's and researchers today testify clearly that fish-liver-oil vitamin A can be taken in doses of tens of thousands of units per day or more. If one were limited to taking only a single vitamin supplement, natural vitamin A would have to be the chosen one.

See Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D. on the subject.
Synopsis of Adelle's viewpoint on Vitamin A, by "Adelle Davis Revisited" website:

Of all the vitamins, Vitamin A is probably the most important for overall health. One reason this is true is because Vitamin A strengthens the mucous membranes, keeping them coated with clear mucus that prevents bacteria from attaching to them and growing. Bacteria cannot live in this clear mucus. The mucus flows over the surfaces of the inner linings of the body, washing germs and other debris off. For a germ to try to grow in a lung with good mucus flow is like the seed of a plant trying to take root in a flowing river.

Mucous membranes line the interior of the body, including the lungs (bronchial tubes as well as air sacs), throat, nose, sinuses, gall bladder, urinary bladder, middle ears, prostate gland, and more. As the cells of these membranes grow and die, they slough off and are digested by enzymes in the mucus.

Furthermore, the mucus contains anti-enzymes which destroy enzymes produced by bacteria, thereby making the bacteria incapable of setting up an infection.

Thus the mucus keeps the membranes clean and germ-free. That is, IF there is sufficient vitamin A in the body.

The need for Vitamin A skyrockets during infection. When infection is present, Vitamin A content of the body is invariably extremely low.

When vitamin A is low, cells of the mucous membranes divide quickly, then die and accumulate in a dry "cheesy-like" layer on the mucous membranes, allowing bacteria to invade and multiply in profusion. This may "...obstruct narrow ducts..." that then cannot pass the necessary bodily secretions such as saliva and pancreatic enzymes.

Quote [paragraph breaks mine]:
"Studies have been made of the mucous membranes of animals fed different amounts of vitamin A. It was found that harmful bacteria were always present. The animals deficient in this vitamin had millions of bacteria feeding off their dead cells, however, and 98 per cent showed infections; those fed adequate vitamin A harbored few bacteria and showed no infections.

"Microscopic studies of the mucous membranes of hundreds of humans dying from accidental death or infection show similar correlations; there is freedom from an accumulation of dead cells and from infections; or the number of dead cells parallels the severity of the infections.

"Furthermore, the liver tissue of adults meeting accidental death has been found to average 20 times more vitamin A than that of persons dying from infections or infectious diseases."
Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit, p. 57.

Numerous studies are quoted by Adelle throughout her books, which show that the more vitamin A one takes, the healthier one is.

In Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit she talks about the numerous benefits of having enough vitamin A in one's body, including good vision (especially night vision), development of bones and tooth enamel, digestion, reproduction, lactation, and the formation of both red and white blood cells. She even tells of a woman whose face was covered with warts, which disappeared after four months of large amounts of vitamin A added to her diet.

Vitamin A is especially crucial to fetal development, and it is here that too much synthetic vitamin A can have such disastrous consequences. Fish liver oil vitamin A capsules are the vitamin of choice.

Foods over vitamin pills:

Much discussion is also given to the ways in which we get vitamin A from foods (or rather, ways we do NOT get it). Many things destroy vitamin A, especially nitrates, found in preserved meats such as bacon, ham, sandwich meats, etc., and in chemical fertilizers, as well as the homogenization of milk. Three-quarters of Americans studied got less than 2,000 units of vitamin A in their diets. Clearly, most people are in danger of being deficient in this crucial vitamin.

Adelle's philosophy is that foods rich in vitamins are largely preferable over taking vitamin preparations (which she called "concentrates"). Man's natural diet in the past, and in our rural areas today, has included large amounts of green leaves, which are quite high in Vitamin A. Adelle recommends raising your own vegetables to get the richest supply of vitamin A. Likewise, choose the greenest greens in the store. Also, liver from animals fed on green leaves is also very high in vitamin A. (Sadly, cattle today are "finished" on grain, not greens, so their livers may not be as high in A as they used to be in the "old days," when cattle were not brought in to feed lots before slaughter.)

Amounts in pills recommended:

"The Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry of the American Medical Association [JAMA, 1946] has approved the following therapeutic doses: 25,000 units three times daily for prolonged or chronic deficiency; 25,000 units twice daily for two months for general treatment. They have not approved any single dose larger than 25,000 units." ALERT, p. 61.

Toxicity Symptoms:

Adelle writes in ALERT:
"Amounts of vitamin A greater than 50,000 units daily can be toxic if continued for a long period and can cause headaches, blurred vision, itching skin, thinning hair, sore lips, bruising, nosebleeds, painful joints, and tenderness and swelling of the long bones. These symptoms disappear in a few days after the vitamin has been withdrawn. Even when toxic doses are taken, the damage can be prevented or corrected by an increased vitamin-C intake."
ALERT, p. 60.

This author has taken hundreds of thousands of units of (fish-liver-oil) vitamin A weekly, for the past three years (today is August 9, 2005). When my seemingly-incurable cough was really bad, the only thing that kept it under control was this high dosage of vitamin A. What I did not know was that vitamin D should be well-supplied whenever one takes lots of vitamin A. See Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D. for a full discussion of vitamin A toxicity. I have found that a very stiff and tender knee cleared up entirely when, thanks to Dr. Mercola's article, I remembered my college-days dose of 1200 iu of fish-liver-oil vitamin D and 4 bone meal tablets.

Links to information on vitamin A toxicity

There are 35 or more names for chemicals that are derived from vitamin A, or synthesized in a chemical laboratory to imitate vitamin A. Some of these chemicals are extremely toxic, and just applying them to the skin to help acne will cause birth defects. Yet, while 200 cases of birth defects were caused per year by this weird acne-treatment chemical compound, while it was on the market (of course, it is no longer being sold), over 1,000,000 birth defects are caused each year due to pregnant mothers who do not get enough real vitamin A.

We think the scare over "vitamin A toxicity" is causing untold amounts of human misery and harm.

Also, there are 35 or more names for variants of plant chemicals ("carotenes") that are precursors of vitamin A. They are not vitamin A, but they can become vitamin A in the body, if health conditions are right. Actually, over 700 such chemicals have been identified. These carotenes and associated chemicals must go through myriad steps in order to become vitamin A. Often, an ill person's body cannot perform all of these steps, and a person who relies on these plant chemicals for "vitamin A" is robbed of their vitamin at precisely the time they need it most: during an acute infection.

But one, and only one, chemical, which is called "retinol" and which is found only in animal sources, can perform all the necessary functions of vitamin A in the body. Only retinol can truly be called "vitamin A." However, publishers now are claiming that there is "no such thing" as vitamin A! And that one can only say the words "vitamin A activity," not "vitamin A."

We think that the public can understand the vitamin A toxicity issues, and the chemical names involved. Adelle Davis once wrote, that there has never been a study proving toxicity of vitamin A from fish liver oil.

In the Adelle Davis Revisited website, we will use the term "vitamin A" to refer to retinol, and only to retinol. All the other vitamin A-derived chemicals, such as retinyl and retinoid acid, have been chemically altered, and cannot perform all of the health functions in the body that retinol can do. Fish liver oil is rich in real vitamin A, in real retinol.

We are looking for any and all information that is explicit in saying just how much vitamin A from fish liver oil causes toxicity symptoms in a significant number of people. It is one thing to make a statement that vitamin A "can" cause toxicity at 50,000 units, and quite another to say that "most people are likely" to become toxic at more than 50,000 units of fish liver oil vitamin A per day.

Below are some of our findings:

From the website InfoTrac American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec 2003 v78 i6 p1152(8)


Background: It is well establishe that an excessive intake of retinol [animal-source vitamin A] is toxic; however, it has been [over 25 years!] since the last extensive treatise of case reports on this subject [was published].

Objective: The objectives were to identify and evaluate all individual cases of retinol toxicity published in the scientific literature that assessed the thresholds and symptoms induced by high intakes of retinol and to compare the toxicity of different physical forms of retinol preparations.

Design: We performed a meta-analysis of case reports on toxicity claimed to be induced by intakes of excessive amounts of dietary retinol (ie, retinol and retinyl esters in foods or supplements). ["Retinyl esters" are not Retinol. Which compounds are they studying?] Using free text and MESH (medical subheading) strategies in PubMed, we identified 248 articles in the scientific literature. From these initial articles we identified other relevant citations. The final database consisted of 259 cases in which individual data on dose, sex, age, time of exposure, and symptoms are reported. [Note: this is meaningless for evaluating retinol toxicity! They admit they included any number of reports on retinyl esters, not retinol.]

Results: Chronic hypervitaminosis A [i.e., toxicity] is induced after daily doses of 2 mg retinol/kg in oil-based preparations for many months or years. [Note: 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight equates to 12,000 to 18,000 units, "i.u.," per kilogram of body weight ~~ for a 150-pound person, this is about 800,000 to 1,200,000 units per day for many months or years.]

~~~~~~end of abstract~~~~~~~~

This was the only article on "retinol toxicity" in the entire "County of Los Angeles Public Library Health Reference Center-Academic."

Searching for "vitamin A toxicity" the same online source resulted in 35 articles. Here are some quotes:

[From The Journal of Nutrition, Sept 2002 v132 i9 p2907S(13) Estimating the potential for vitamin A toxicity in women and young children.] "There are few data on which to establish thresholds for excessive vitamin A intake or vitamin A concentrations in tissues."


{From American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2001 v73 i5 p934] Background: Serum retinyl ester concentrations are elevated in hypervitaminosis A. It was suggested that retinyl esters greater than 10% of total serum vitamin A indicate potential hypervitaminosis, but this cutoff was derived from small clinical samples that may not be representative of the general population. [Emphasis ours.]

Conclusions: The prevalence of serum retinyl ester concentrations greater than 10% of the total vitamin A concentration in the ... sample was substantially higher than expected but elevated retinyl ester concentrations were not associated with abnormal liver function.

~~~~~~~~~end of abstract~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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vitamin A retinol retinyl hypervitaminosis toxicity adelle davis


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Nomenclature of Retinoids

"Vitamin A"
by Dr. Mercola, M.D.

Toxicity of Water-Based Vitamin A
(PubMed article)

vitamin A retinol retinyl hypervitaminosis toxicity adelle davis


Acid: a substance or chemical that has a high number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; capable of combining with a base to produce a salt

ALERT: abbreviation for Adelle's book Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit

Alkaline: also called a base; a substance or chemical that has a low number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; it is capable of combining with an acid to produce a salt

Amino Acids: An amphoteric organic amino acid containing the amino group NH2: esp: any of the alpha-amino acids that are the chief components of proteins and are synthesized by living cells or are obtained as essential components of the diet. They are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids contain nitrogen, unlike other foods. There are 22 kinds of amino acids. Thousands of kinds of proteins can be made from these 22 amino acids. (See "Essential Amino Acids" below.)

Atom: the basic unit of matter, generally thought to be composed of three kinds of smaller particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons), the number of the particles in the atom determining the observable properties that that substance has; generally, the nucleus of the atom is made of protons and neutrons, while the much smaller electrons orbit around the nucleus, one electron for each proton, in an arrangement of spherical shells, or so it has been conceived in the past; there are only about 100 different kinds of atoms in the universe, numbering from 1 (which is hydrogen, having one proton and one electron) to Lawrencium (having 103 protons and electrons) (See "Elements" below.)

Beriberi: a disease caused by B-vitamin deficiencies, marked by inflammatory or degenerative changes of the nerves, digestive system, and heart caused largely by a lack of, or inability to assimilate, the B vitamin thiamine, as well as other B vitamins

Bioflavonoids: Ketone derivatives that occur in many parts of primroses and other plants, and which enhance the activity of Vitamin C in humans; sometimes used as dyestuffs

Calorie: 1. One of two recognized units of heat. The large or great calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water 1 degree Centigrade. The small calorie is the amount of heat required to raise one gram of water 1 degree Centigrade. 2. Physiol. The large calorie, a measure of the energy value of foods or the heat output of organisms./ An amount of food having an energy-producing value of one large calorie.

Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches and cellulose; compounds containing carbon combined with hydrogen and oxygen, which break apart to release quick energy

Chemical: a substance derived by chemical processes, or used to create something through chemical processes; a chemical is usually composed of just one kind of molecule, or a specific blend of several kinds of molecules in specific proportions

Complete Protein: A protein food that contains all 8 essential amino acids, and thus is capable of supporting life if no other protein source is consumed.

Compound: a mixture of chemicals; also called a "chemical compound"

Element: a substance composed of just one kind of atom; look up "element" in your dictionary for a list of them; they can be gaseous, liquid or solid; there are 102 different kinds of elements, at last count.

Emulsified: when a substance has been blended into another substance in an emulsion

Emulsion: a combination of two liquids that normally will not mix, accomplished by breaking up one liquid into extremely tiny particles that remain suspended in the other liquid; most commonly, a combination of an oil or fat in a water-based liquid; oil-based vitamins are often treated this way in hopes they will be better absorbed in the digestive tract

Essential Amino Acids: Of the 22 amino acids, all but 8 can be manufactured in the body. These 8 amino acids must be obtained from foods; thus they are termed "essential." They are tryptophane, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Two more are sometimes essential to children: histidine and arginine. The proteins of beans (legumes) and grains have complementary essential amino acids, and when the two foods are eaten together, the resulting protein provides all 8 essential amino acids.

Essential Fatty Acids ("EFA's"): Fatty acids that the body cannot produce, and which are extremely important for myriad health processes. There are two types of EFA's: Omega-3 and Omega-6. They cannot be interchanged in the body. Omega-3's come largely from the green parts of plants (especially grass eaten by ruminants) but including some seeds, and the sea plankton eaten by fish. Omega-6's come from many seeds of plants and animals that eat them. Today, with most of our food animals being fed corn and other grains, Americans are extremely high in Omega-6's and deficient in Omega-3's, which can cause major health disorders. Many, many nutritionists are recommending supplementing the diet with Omega-3 EFA's as a preventative measure for myriad diseases. This was research that was just beginning to come to the public's attention in the 1980's; before that time, Adelle Davis was seeing the very earliest research when she commented on the linoleic, linolenic, and arachnidonic EFA's.

Fatty Acids: Any of numerous saturated aliphatic monocarboxylic acids, including many that occur naturally, usually in the form of esters in fats, waxes, and essential oils; any of the saturated or unsaturated monocarboxylic acids (as palmitic acid) usually with an even number of carbon atoms that occur naturally in the form of glycerides in fats and fatty oils

Gram: Unit of measurement of weight; about 454 grams ("g") equal one pound. About 28 grams equal one ounce. In measuring vitamins, 1/1000th of a gram is a milligram, written "mg"

Iodide: any of several compounds containing iodine, artifically added to salt to prevent goiter, an enlarging of the thyroid gland of the throat due to deficiency of iodine; Adelle believed strongly in using real sea salt, or iodized salt

Iodine: chemical element number 53, using the symbol "I"; needed by the thyroid glands to produce the hormone thyroxin, which profoundly regulates growth and metabolism; certain soils that were once under the ocean (along the Atlantic Coast, and parts of Kansas, South Dakota, Utah, western Texas and New Mexico) have enough iodine to produce foods of adequate iodine content --- elsewhere, the only reliable sources are sea foods including ocean fish including shellfish, kelp of all kinds, and real sea salt (ALERT p. 181)

I.u.: International Units, a unit of measurement for oil-based vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E. One milligram (mg) of vitamin A equates to 4,000 to 6,000 international units (i.u.)

Mg: Milligram, one one-thousandth of a gram

Mineral: homogeneous substance composed of molecules made of a combination of several elements, usually in solid and/or rock form, often as crystals, generally found in the ground and sea water (which contains all of the elements on Earth); when nutritionists speak of "minerals" they usually mean elements, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, many others; this website will use the term "mineral elements" for such chemicals

Nutrient: a general term for any substance in foods, or added to foods, that promotes health in describable ways

Organic: Adelle writes, "grown on humus-rich soil without the addition of artificial fertilizers" and in her day, the term "organic" meant food grown to be vibrantly health-promoting, full of life, close to nature, and all the indefineables we all know mean naturally grown on rich soil, managed by good farmers who keep down pests through their expertise and skills; in chemistry, the term "organic" simply means molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which all life is largely composed of; today, states and countries define the term differently, but it usually means food that does not have added artificial chemicals of any kind; such a term says little or nothing about the vibrancy of life in the food

Pellagra: a disease caused by a multiple B-vitamin deficiency, marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, and central nervous system symptoms, and associated with a diet deficient in niacin, protein and other B vitamins (See "Beriberi" above.)

Protein: Unlike other living molecules, proteins contain nitrogen. They are made from "Amino Acids" (q.v.); there are thousands of kinds of proteins. The body is built largely of proteins. Therefore, meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs are excellent sources of protein.

Retinol: the original "vitamin A," which is the unadulterated compound found in animal fats, especially liver

Salt: the word itself is cognate to the Greek hals, meaning both "salt" and "sea"; sodium chloride, or "table salt", is just one type of salt, which generally means a residue left over from the evaporation of a large amount of water.

Sea salt: as a food labelling term, this means any kind of salt derived from the sea, even pure sodium chloride; usually this product has added iodide to protect against goiter, and some other chemical to keep it from attracting moisture. The term was popularized during the Health Food Movement when people made real sea salt by evaporating sea water and keeping all the crystals and compounds that were formed; the salts thus obtained are composed of all the numerous mineral elements on Earth, in proportions needed by the body (mineral elements occur in the blood in almost the identical proportions in which they occur in sea water). Ironically, there is more iodine in real sea salt than in the commercial product, and in its natural form. Yet the FDA has decreed that real sea salt must be labelled with the repelling words: "Does not contain iodide, a necessary nutrient." Currently we have not found any way to determine from the label whether anything called "sea salt" contains the numerous elements of the ocean, or only sodium chloride. Real sea salt (we make our own) is gray and stays moist due to its power to attract water from the air. Any salt that does not get wet has an added chemical, not required to be identified on the label.

Synergistic: When compound (or muscle) enhances the effectiveness of another compound (or muscle); compounds that work together in the body, an absence of one can cause inefficiency of the others; an oversupply of one or more synergistic compounds can cause a deficiency in the others; pertains especially to the B vitamins

Unit: International Unit, or iu: a unit of measurement for oil-based vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E. One milligram (mg) of vitamin A equates to 4,000 to 6,000 international units (i.u.)

Vitamin: literally means simply "life-giving"; a man-made chemical or naturally-occurring compound derived from foods, plants, or animals, that is essential to human health

Vitamin A: Fat-soluble vitamin obtained largely from animal sources (IF the animal is allowed to eat green plants, not grains, a rarity in the US today); the absence of vitamin A results in hardening (keratinizing) of the mucous membranes

Vitamin B: Water-soluble vitamin complex found especially in the germs of seeds, in yeasts, liver, and vegetables that have varied metabolic functions and include coenzymes and growth factors; the B vitamins work synergistically, and a deficiency of one or some may bring about deficiencies in others

Vitamin C: Water-soluble vitamin found largely in fruits and leafy vegetables, or made synthetically; absence of vitamin C causes scurvy, a breakdown of the cell walls of the body's cells; vitamin C detoxifies toxins in the body, and is used in food preparation to prevent destruction by oxygen

Vitamin D: Fat-soluble vitamins chemically related to steroids, essential for normal bone and tooth structure, and found esp. in fish-liver oils, egg yolk (from naturally-raised chickens), and milk (from grass-fed cows), or produced by activation (as by ultraviolet irradiation) of sterols: as vitamin D2, an alcohol usually prepared by irradiation of ergosterol and used as a dietary supplement in nutrition and medicinally in the control of rickets and related disorders, called also calciferol, or vitamin D3, an alcohol that is the predominating form of vitamin D in most fish-liver oils and is formed in the skin on exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet rays

Vitamin E: Fat-soluble vitamins that are chemically tocopherols, are essential in vertebrates for fertility, preventing muscle degeneration and vascular abnormalities; found especially in leaves and in seed germ oils; used chiefly in animal feeds and as antioxidants

Vitamin G: Riboflavin, one of the B vitamins

Vitamin H: Biotin, one of the B vitamins

Vitamin K: Two fat-soluble vitamins essential for blood clotting because they promote the production of prothrombin; can be produced in the intestine when yogurt is consumed

Vitamin P: Bioflavonoids; enhance the activity of vitamin C

Water-Miscible: a vitamin or other substance, normally not able to mix with water, that is altered to be able to be mixed into water without separating out; water-miscible vitamin A is ten times more toxic than oil-based vitamin A

Wheat Germ: Every seed has an embryo plant inside it called the "germ." It is the part that grows to become the new plant. This embryo is full of vitamins and protein. Since growing cells need B vitamins, the germ is rich in B vitamins. The germ is ground off and sold separately (sometimes it is given away) when wheat and rice are milled. The rest of the wheat and rice grain is mostly pure starch, without many B vitamins.

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