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Vitamin A and Osteoporosis: Cause or Cure?

Are you concerned about Vitamin A and osteoporosis?  You should be, but probably not for the reason you might think.  Osteoporosis and menopause often go together, but you can use nutrition for osteoporosis prevention.

Whether you are approaching menopause or have already gone through it, you may be wondering about the relationship between Vitamin A and osteoporosis.  If you believe what you read, or what many doctors and other health providers say, you might be concerned about getting too much Vitamin A, because you have heard that too much will cause osteoporosis.

What you may not know, is that vitamin A could actually prevent osteoporosis, and not cause it as many articles conclude.  

Getting enough Vitamin A has proven to be one of the most important ways to fight osteoporosis. 

Women in earlier times consumed at least ten times the amount of Vitamin A than women today, without any side effects, and they had very strong bones.

Vitamin A and Osteoporosis:  A Unique Insight

Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who conducted extensive nutritional research in the 1940's, observed that many people who lived in the first part of the 1900's and ate their native diets had bones that were much denser and stronger than the bones of the average person today. 

In fact, these people had a much better skeletal structure overall, and this has been attributed in part to the amount of Vitamin A that was present in their diets. Vitamin A is one of the best fat-soluble vitamins, and you will find that consuming proper amounts of Vitamin A can actually help to strengthen your bones against the ravages of osteoporosis.

So why do so many people believe Vitamin A and osteoporosis go together?  One reason is because some studies found that taking too much Vitamin A increased the risk of contracting osteoporosis. These people took as little as 1500 IU of Vitamin A per day.  

Unfortunately, these study reports do not distinguish between what form of Vitamin A they are talking about and whether it was obtained through food or supplementation.  

Beta carotene and other carotenoids are referred to as Vitamin A, but many people cannot convert this form into preformed Vitamin A, which is obtained from animal foods.  All of these factors matter.  

The factor that matters most, as it turns out, is how much Vitamin A you consume ALONG WITH Vitamin D.  There are many nutrients that need to be consumed in certain ratios in order to create optimum health.  Vitamin A and D are two of these.

Is there Such a Thing as Too Much Vitmamin A?

Further analysis of these studies showed that the problem was not too much vitamin A, but the fact that people consuming larger amounts of Vitamin A were not getting the right amounts of Vitamin D to balance the ratios.  When you have the right amounts of both A and D, you end up with very strong bones!  

The Proper Vitamin A to D Ratio

Vitamin A is a toxic substance, as are all vitamins. However, the amount of Vitamin A that should be taken cannot simply be measured against body weight, but needs to be measured against the amount of Vitamin D that a person is consuming. Vitamin D is the vitamin that best counteracts the toxicity of Vitamin A, hence it is important to have the right Vitamin A to D ratio.

Vitamin A and Vitamin D both work to decrease the toxicity of the each other, as well as to increase your body's need for that particular vitamin. Vitamins A and D work hand in hand to create the perfect balance in the body, but the imbalance of these two substances can lead to osteoporosis.

It is more important to consume a balance of both vitamins than high amounts of either one. Thanks to the fact that both of these vitamins are vital for the proper functioning of the body, consuming sufficient quantities of both will be essential. However, for anyone looking to remain healthy and avoid bone fractures and hypervitaminosis, it is important to consume the proper amounts of both Vitamin A and Vitamin D.

Nutrition for Osteoporosis:  Best sources for Vitamin A

The best food source for Vitamin A is liver.  If you cannot stand the thought of eating liver, you can buy it in supplement form.  Just be sure it is from an animal that was raised without antibiotics and hormones.  Three and a half ounces of cooked beef liver contains only 49 IU of Vitamin D, but a 3-ounce portion will provide 27,185 IU of Vitamin A.  If you are going to use liver to obtain Vitamin A, you will need to supplement with Vitamin D to balance out your ratios.

Supplement Sources: Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is the best type of supplement for obtaining Vitamins A and D in the right ratios.  Cod liver oil naturally contains these vitamins (do not take synthetic forms of A or D; they are toxic).  There are many cod liver oil supplements on the market that have had some of these vitamins removed, and so the amounts are too low or the ratios are not right. The right daily dose for women is 10,000 IU of A with 1000-2000 IU of D, when you are taking cod liver oil.

In addition to finding products with the right amount of vitamins, you need to be concerned with rancidity. Always buy cod liver oil that comes in a dark bottle and keep it in a place that is dark, dry and cool.

I use the cod liver oil brands recommended by the Weston A. Price Foundation, because they have done extensive research on the subject, and do not have anything to gain by promoting one brand or another.  I have provided a few of them below.  

Be sure to buy the exact product shown here.  For example, there are several different formulations of Carlson's cod liver oil.  The one shown below is the only one recommended by the WAP Foundation.   I have also included some varieties of Green Pasture's oil, which is the brand I take.

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