DEFENDING VITAMIN A: PAUL PITCHFORD’S POSITION
As we have just recently released my new book, “Health Secrets for The 21st Century,” this blog will now serve as a way to dialogue with my readers. Questions that you may have about the data in the book can be addressed here, as well as any related tangents that may ensue, or any disagreements that you may have with my ideas and opinions.
It is with “disagreements” that I will begin. While I was preparing to publish the book another assault on vitamin A issued from two main sources. Launched by “The Vitamin D Council” and reiterated by Dr. Joseph Mercola on his website, I was faced with incorporating new material, in response to their arguments, into my (already overdue) book, or finding another way to address the issue.
This is the other way. The first few postings will be a response to this latest attack on vitamin A. Those who have followed my work in the NutriStart newsletters, and on “Kensvitaminutes” (on Youtube), know that I belong to the camp that believes vitamin A deficiency is rampant in the Western world. This thesis is fully maintained in my book and so it is important that I offer some response to these criticisms, aside from those arguments already made in the book, which are in response to the last generation of attacks on vitamin A.
Before I get to that defensive posture, I would like to bring on another respected supporter for my position on vitamin A. Namely, Paul Pitchford, author of “Healing With Whole Foods.” If you are not familiar with this book all I can say is, amongst my peers it is referred to as a “bible.” This massive tome is a synthesis of Eastern and Western natural healing traditions and is based mostly upon the specific use of foods, herbs and superfoods to attain well being. Even if all vitamins and minerals were to be outlawed, this book would serve as a useful healing guide.
And, while few of us would actually read it cover to cover, it is an invaluable reference book, and I particularly encourage people to read the chapters on the Chinese medicine concepts of “dampness” and “kidney essence.” “Dampness” is especially important to those living on the West Coast (or any coast), which is a damp environment that requires us to avoid “damp” foods in order to maintain good health. “Kidney essence” is important to understand if we wish to age well and explains why we lose our teeth, hair and sexual functions if we don’t understand the principles of conservation of “jing.”
So, Paul’s position on vitamin A: “One of the most widely recognized nutritional deficiencies of recent times is of vitamin A.” He maintains, as do I, that this is due, in part, to the fact that people no longer consume the livers of animals, which is “the only good source of vitamin A in the animal kingdom,” (cow’s liver contains from 30,000 IU to 40,000 IU in a serving). And further he believes that people in general simply do not consume enough vitamin A-rich green and yellow vegetables.
Given the sad state of the average North American diet, I don’t know how critics of vitamin A supplements, such as Dr. Cannell (from the Vitamin D Council) can suggest with a straight face that we will get enough vitamin A from the carotenoids that we pick up from our massive vegetable intake. In fact, I just ran across this tidbit of data in the MAR/APR 2010 issue of “Alternative Therapies” magazine: “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32.6% of adults consume fruit two or more times per day, and only 27.2% eat vegetables three or more times per day.” (Source)
Of course, let’s not forget there is a good reason why we stopped eating liver, and that is because of the amount of chemical toxins that accumulate in the liver of factory farmed animals due to the antibiotics, hormones and other drugs that they are pumped full of.
One of the main criticisms of vitamin A in “excess” is the damage to the liver that is associated with it. I will address some of these studies further on but I find Paul’s take on it, using the Chinese medicine perspective, to be worth a mention here. Contrary to the Western medical assumption that vitamin A is hard on the liver, Pitchford points out that vitamin A is key to the metabolic processes performed by the liver. And, in the West, our livers are overworked because of a diet high in fats, toxins, over-processed foods and just simply overeating. He goes so far as to state: “Once an excessive diet is moderated, the vitamin A can help re-establish proper liver function.”
In the book I state, and still maintain, that the “science” that we see trotted out on various issues is often purchased by those with an intent to “prove” what they already believe or need for marketing purposes. Thus any one of us can find “studies” to both “prove” and contradict pretty much any given thesis. I also maintain that dis-information is deliberately cast upon the media to cloud the issues.
If you ask me, the cat is out of the bag when it comes to vitamin D. And, while in part we can thank the Vitamin D Council for their endless work on making this information widely available, I question their motivation when it comes to their fervent rejection of vitamin A. My experience, knowledge and observations indicate that vitamin D and vitamin A work together. I’ve seen people with asthma get off of “puffers” with $10 worth of vitamin A and D. Asthma is a billion dollar business. Follow the money.
Now, would I go as far as saying that villainous pharmaceutical companies deliberately put out wrong information to confuse the issue, so as not to lose business? Yes I would.
Next time I will look at another defender of Vitamin A: The Weston Price Foundation.