Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 7 Issue 13 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 13-Jan-2005 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 14-Jan-2005
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Vitamin A warning: Limit liver, watch other sources of vitamin A

(13 January 2005: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- The UK Food Standards Agency is warning consumers to limit eating liver to once a week and be careful about other sources of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A is toxic and increases the risk of bone fractures. Combining supplements with vitamin A-rich foods such as liver is risky.

A post-menopausal woman or elderly man--persons at highest risk of fractures--should not have more than 1.5mg per day, according to the agency.

The draft recommendations reinforce current advice that pregnant women and women trying to conceive should avoid taking supplements containing vitamin A and avoid eating liver or liver by-products because of the risk of harm to any unborn child.

Preformed vitamin A, called retinol, is found only in foods of animal origin and is particularly plentiful in liver. Plant foods, such as carrots and spinach, contain compounds that are converted to vitamin A in the body, but it is unlikely that these levels can become toxic. At recommended levels, retinol is good for the immune system and eyesight.

The advisory committee will produce a full report on vitamin A in the summer. Committee member Professor Peter Aggett said: "The report will be reviewed in light of any comments received or new research and we will then present our final conclusions to the Food Standards Agency. Our initial conclusions are that although there is insufficient evidence on the relationship between vitamin A and bone health to warrant a change in advice to all consumers, it may be advisable for some population groups to limit their vitamin A intakes."

People should be able to get all the vitamin A they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

Vitamin A is fat-soluble, which means you don't need it every day because any of the vitamin your body doesn't need immediately is stored for future use. The committee said consideration should also be given to reducing the levels of retinol in vitamin A supplements.

Dietary supplements can contain 30-100% more retinol than the amount stated on the label. Claire Williamson from the British Nutrition Foundation said: "There is some evidence that high intakes of vitamin A - 1.5mg per day or more - are associated with an increased risk of bone fractures. We welcome extra research into this area. Further studies are needed. Revised public health guidelines are expected to follow."

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