A friend, and fellow RD, alerted me to a brief article on vitamin A and asthma recently. Good thing, because I really wasn’t sure what I was going to blog about. Sometimes I have a wealth of topics to cover and sometimes I’m desperate for something to rant about. While this article is a good thing for my blog it’s not such a good thing for the advancement of nutrition knowledge and supplements.
Of course, this article appeared on a supplement store page. Hopefully most readers would be savvy enough to do their own research, or at least consult with their doctor before deciding that it’s a brilliant idea to supplement with vitamin A during pregnancy to reduce the risk of their unborn child developing asthma later in life.
I found the research publication upon which the article was based. Um, you guys, check out the title of the paper: Prenatal retinoid deficiency leads to airway hyperresponsiveness in adult mice. That’s right, mice. You really want to start popping vitamin A pills during pregnancy on the basis of a mouse study?? It’s important to note that they were also comparing mice that were vitamin A deficient to mice that were supplemented to optimal levels of vitamin A. The study was considering populations in developing countries which are commonly vitamin A-deficient. Not our North American population which is very rarely vitamin A deficient (1).
The article does make an important point: “adverse fetal exposures that cause subtle changes in developing organs can have lifelong consequences.” Too bad they fail to mention that excessive consumption of vitamin A can be the cause of such developmental changes. Vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects (2). Adequate amounts of vitamin A can be easily obtained through food. And, especially when taking a prenatal multivitamin, women are ill-advised to taken an additional vitamin A supplement. Please consult with your primary health care practitioner before taking any supplements. Especially when pregnant, as the consequences can affect more than just yourself.