Nutrition & Physical Activity

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Better to drink warm rather than cold water?

Dear J,

Staying well-hydrated is extremely important for an active athlete. It's great that you want to make staying hydrated as easy and healthy for your body as possible. In this case though, you're in luck — health and preference coincide!

In a happy coincidence of what feels good and what's good for you, it's actually cold water that's recommended when exercising vigorously. During intense physical activity, the body's core temperature rises above the normal 98.6°F (37°C). Drinking cool water lowers the body's temperature and helps it settle back to its normal range. Studies have also shown that cold water 41°F (5°C) is absorbed more quickly from the stomach than warm, abating dehydration and allowing you to play harder and enjoy your game of soccer even more. Sweating also helps to lower the body's temperature, but through sweating we lose a lot of water, so it's important to keep drinking.

The body is smart and often craves what it needs. That doesn't mean you should have an ice cream sundae every time you get a hankering, but in this case, cold water is what you want and cold water is what your body uses best. That said, if the only water around is warm, or if some prefer it warm, that's ok too. The main point is — listen to your body, stay hydrated, and have fun!

Alice

Gym manners

Dear Reader,

Working out the details of health club etiquette may cause some to break a sweat. Following some simple guidelines should set the pace for everyone to have an enjoyable gym experience and still gain the fabulous health benefits that come with exercising!

Starting in the locker room:

  • Exercise control when loading and unloading your gym bag and locker. Remember, you are in a locker room, not at a picnic, so refrain from spreading your towels, clothes, shoes, and toiletries all over the benches and floor around you.
  • In the name of prevention, apply some extra deodorant before your workout begins. Even the freshest-smelling folks can have others reaching for their gas masks during a vigorous workout.
  • Before hitting the gym floor, wash your hands, and, yes, wipe off some of that cologne/perfume.

Moving on to your workout:

  • Do you have an extra towel with you? Wipe off aerobic equipment, free weights, weight machines, and mats after you use them — even if you don't sweat. Some gyms have disinfectant wipes for this purpose.
  • If you're a multi-set kinda gal or guy, glance around to see if someone else is waiting to use the machine or area you currently occupy. Offer to let them work in (alternate) with you, and if you're feeling particularly generous, ask if they'd like you to "spot" them.
  • Obey posted time limits on equipment to avoid long waits during high traffic times.
  • If you are waiting for equipment currently in use, don't hover! Give your fellow exerciser some space to move and breathe — you'd probably appreciate that same courtesy.
  • Put free-weights back in their proper place after you use them. Who wants to clean up after others or search high and low for equipment scattered far and wide?
  • Allow other people to focus. Distracting other gymrats with loud grunts, sing-a-longs with one's music, chatting on your cell phone, and social hours with friends and neighbors should be avoided.
  • Gyms and health clubs may be great places to meet that special someone. But if an object of your desire doesn't return your winks and smiles, take a hint: they are probably there to work out, not to hook up.
  • Finally, timeliness to classes, racquetball games, and training sessions not only gives you more exercise time, but also reduces back-ups and waiting time — helping the whole place run like a well-oiled stairclimber.

Often times, health clubs post their own set of rules or etiquette. If you are uncertain about your gym's specific policies or have concerns about fellow member's behavior, you may want to speak with the desk staff or management. You'll also get a good sense of things simply by observing the patterns of most fellow gym-goers. In the end, it's often about respect in a shared environment.

Here's to a good workout... and many more!

Alice

To supplement or not to supplement my diet

Dear Supplementally Confused,

It may depend on the type of dietary supplement. Supplements range from daily multi-vitamins and minerals to anabolic steroids. Certain supplements are recommended for various conditions. For example, calcium supplements are often encouraged to help prevent osteoporosis, and iron is recommended for those who are anemic. Pregnant women's increased nutritional needs may require that they supplement with vitamins and minerals. The performance enhancing supplements that are so widely advertised today (i.e., creatine, chromium picolinate, protein shakes, amino acids) are not needed by the average person.

The best way to get all of the nutrients your body needs is to eat a healthy diet. To do this, you should eat a variety of foods, have a good balance within the food groups (read Food Guidelines — How much is a serving?  for details), eat enough calories (at least 1200), and make nutrient-dense choices, such as whole wheat bread and skim milk as opposed to white bread and whole milk.

Although vitamin and mineral supplements serve an important purpose for some people, you cannot depend on pills alone to provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Pills do not have phytochemicals, the non-nutrient compounds found in plant-derived foods that have biological activity in the body. Approximately 150 phytochemicals are found in foods along with the vitamins and minerals the body needs. Phytochemicals play a very important role in helping the body defend itself against cancer and cancer-causing agents, and probably many other things as well. An example of a known phytochemical is beta-carotene, a carotenoid. It is found in deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and apricots. Carotenoids act as antioxidants, reducing the risk of cancer. Read Antioxidants for more info.

So the best bet is to do what you were told as a child and, "eat your fruits and veggies!" Five servings a day is a great start. If you do supplement, be careful not to overdose. More of a "good" thing is not necessarily good for you. Besides being expensive, over-supplementing can be harmful to you. For more information, read What's the difference between vitamins and minerals? from the Go Ask Alice! Nutrition & Physical Activity archives.

Alice

What is chondromalacia?

Dear Reader,

Under the knee cap and covering the ends of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) is a sort of natural shock absorber made of cartilage. This shock absorber does not come with a lifetime guarantee; wear and tear over the years can result in a loss of mass of the shock absorbing cartilage. Once some of this cartilage has degenerated, the knee obviously cannot absorb or handle shock from running, for example, as well as it could before. This condition is referred to as "chondromalacia patella."

Technically, chondromalacia is an overuse injury that causes a dull, aching pain under and around the knee cap. Climbing stairs, walking up hills, and doing anything that involves a fair amount of running can all become painful activities for someone with chondromalacia patella. This knee condition is fairly common among runners — by some estimates, almost 30 percent of runners develop this condition. Skiers, cyclists, and soccer players also have a higher risk for chondromalacia patella. The tendency to develop chondromalacia patella also seems to run in families.

Everyday that you get up is a day of stress as far as your knees are concerned. Walking around, climbing stairs, running, dancing, waiting in lines — all of these activities put some amount of stress on the knees. As far as joints go, the knee is the largest one in the body; it's also multi-talented, acting as a hinge, a lever, and/or shock absorber at any given time. For support, the knees rely almost entirely on soft tissue (ligaments, tendons, and muscles), which isn't always the most reliable. It's no wonder that knee pain and injury are so common!

You can do some things to prevent (further) knee injury and pain. Always wear good, supportive shoes that aren't worn out, especially when you exercise. Have a health care provider check your feet to make sure that they aren't contributing to a misalignment of your body that puts undue stress on one knee over the other. Or, if you get a chance to see a physical therapist, ask her/him to check the way you walk. If you ride a bike regularly, make sure that your seat is up high enough so that your knee is only slightly bent at the bottom of a pedal stroke. If you're a runner, avoid running on uneven surfaces as much as possible to lower your risk of falling and/or twisting your knee.

If, after every time you engage in a certain sport, say racquetball or running, you experience a great deal of knee pain, you might want to take a break from that particular activity and try different options that won't aggravate your knees (hopefully). A few "easy on the knees" sports are swimming, slow jogging, walking, and cross-country skiing. If you choose swimming, be aware that strokes involving the frog kick will put more stress on your knees than those that use a straight-leg, flutter kick (such as freestyle and backstroke). Any sport that requires deep knee bends and/or twisting at the knee causes knee pain most often.

It's extremely important to strengthen your leg muscles, especially those that support your knee, primarily the quadriceps; but, it's best to work on the leg as a whole so as not to favor one muscle group over another (this, too, can lead to injury). Remember, the knee doesn't have much of a support system, so you need to do all you can to build up what it does have. Ask your health care provider to show you some strength building exercises you can do. Perhaps you can get a referral to see a physical therapist or orthopedist to learn how to build up strength and reduce any pain. Keep those joints happy!

Alice

May 19, 2004

20567

Dear Alice,

I suffered from chondromalacia for years. Arthroscopic surgery a few years ago helped, but what did the trick was developing the muscles that hold my knee in place and allow...


Dear Alice,

I suffered from chondromalacia for years. Arthroscopic surgery a few years ago helped, but what did the trick was developing the muscles that hold my knee in place and allow them to track properly. Spinning classes 2 - 3x/week for the last two years *really* helped with this. I am also sure to stretch it well, including the ITB. Anyone with chondromalacia should see a good sports- and fitness-focused physical therapist, and with their blessing, try spinning!

January 31, 2003

20468

ALICE,

I JUST WANTED TO SAY THANK YOU FOR YOUR PAGE. I HAVE HAD KNEEE PAIN FOR OVER TWO YEARS AND FINALLY GAVE IN AND WENT TO THE DOCTOR. I HAVE CHONDROMALACIA AND DID NOT KNOW WHAT IT...


ALICE,

I JUST WANTED TO SAY THANK YOU FOR YOUR PAGE. I HAVE HAD KNEEE PAIN FOR OVER TWO YEARS AND FINALLY GAVE IN AND WENT TO THE DOCTOR. I HAVE CHONDROMALACIA AND DID NOT KNOW WHAT IT MEANT. SO THANKS FOR THE INFO. I WAS A RUNNER AND I AM NOT READY TO GIVE THAT UP, SO I AM DOING MUCH RESEARCH NOW. AGAIN, THANKS FOR YOUR PAGE AND INFO.

DEE

One cannot live on water alone

Dear Reader,

How much did you bet? It's time for your co-worker to pay up!

The human body can survive a surprisingly long time on water alone, but it is nowhere near six months. When the body is deprived of new fuel (i.e., food), it breaks into its energy reserves to keep going. The body stores energy in the form of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

After one day without food, the body will have used up its carbohydrates, which are stored as glycogen in liver and muscle cells. After that, it's on to the fat reserves. Your average Joe/Jane, weight-wise, has enough fat reserves to live for four to six weeks without food. After that, the body begins to use its protein reserves (basically, the body itself). Body proteins are used up at a much faster rate than fat, and you could really only get another two to three weeks out of protein. At that point, however, you can't really call it living since so much irreparable damage has been done to the body, including the brain.

Bottom line: an average person could live for about eight weeks on water alone, give or take about a week for an over- or underweight person, respectively.

Alice

Is juice as good as whole fruit?

Dear Joyful Juicer,

Juicers can be a great low calorie, high nutrient, tasty treat. However, they don’t generally carry all the benefits of eating the original fruit or veggie from whence it came.

If you've made juice, you know that it takes a lot of fruit to make a container of juice. Usually, juicers extract the juice and some pulp from fruits and/or vegetables. You’ll get all of the vitamins, minerals, beneficial plant chemicals (phytochemicals), and carbohydrates in juice that's extracted from a whole fruit. However, you won’t get much of the fiber, and depending on the fruit, you may not get any of it.

Fiber aids in the digestive process. It acts sort of like a scrub brush for your intestines and speeds up the movement of waste through your system. It also can fill you up, and may help protect against certain cancers. Fiber in fruit is found in the membranes between sections, the white part around the outside (as in oranges and grapefruits), the seeds, the skin, and the peels. For example, orange juice contains no fiber (even if it has pulp) because the fiber is found in the membrane, which is lost during the process of juicing.

It is also important to remember that juice is not a low calorie drink. An eight ounce glass of orange juice contains 110 calories — the equivalent of two oranges (each contains about 60 calories). But you won't feel as filled up from juice since it doesn't contain any fiber. For many people, drinking a caloric beverage, such as juice, isn't as satisfying as eating the same amount of calories in food. For those who need to increase caloric intake — such as athletes, children, or teens — juice is a great choice.

Fresh juice is certainly tasty and an excellent source of many nutrients. Less stable vitamins, such as vitamin C, are not compromised in fresh juice as they may be in some processed varieties. Also, watch for added sugar in many processed juices that can increase caloric content.

In general, juice is just fine. But if fiber’s what you’re after, go for the whole fruit or veggie over the liquefied form. Happy juicing!

Alice

Beans cause gassy discomfort — any relief?

Dear Patriski,

In terms of locating naturally occurring sources of alpha-galactosidase, unfortunately you won't have much luck. Aspergillus niger is found in rotting cassava vegetables (also known as yucca). The enzyme alpha-galactosidase is, in turn, isolated from the aspergillus mold and incorporated into Beano tablets along with invertase, a sugar-hydrolyzing enzyme. Alpha-galactosidase and invertase help to relieve gas symptoms due to their ability to break down complex sugars before they become gaseous. If you really like the effects of Beano, stick to it – however, there are cheaper ways to manage your gas that don’t necessitate the use of expensive dietary supplements.

Being knowledgeable about the following causes of gas can provide you with some additional comfort to help reduce gas production:

  • Gas can be caused by swallowed air. Try to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. If you tend to gulp beverages, make an attempt to sip instead. Carbonated beverages can also cause belching.
  • Sugar-free foods containing sorbitol or xylitol are poorly digested and can cause gas. Read labels to look for and avoid these ingredients.
  • Lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest lactose, the naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products, causes gas. Try eliminating milk products from your diet for a few days to see if your symptoms improve. If this is effective, you may be somewhat lactose intolerant. Look for supplements and food products that contain lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose during digestion, which may help you feel better.
  • High-fiber diets can result in flatulence (gas). If you have suddenly added a great deal of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and whole grains to your diet, the result may well be gastrointestinal discomfort. Try to add these foods to your diet slowly. While 20 - 35 grams of fiber is recommended as part of your average daily intake, you don't want to shock your system by jumping from low or medium fiber intake to a high fiber intake at the drop of a hat. However, you can eat lots of high-fiber brown rice without worrying about passing gas because rice is the only whole grain known not to cause gas.
  • Yes, beans do live up to their reputation, both for being a healthy addition to your diet and for causing gas. Here are methods for "de-gassing" your beans: soak dry beans for at least eight hours and rinse thoroughly before cooking them; if you buy canned beans, drain off the liquid and rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking. This will also help to reduce your sodium intake.

Keep in mind that gas is perfectly normal. Many people assume they produce excessive amounts of gas; however, it’s quite typical to pass gas around 20 times a day!

If none of these suggestions are helpful, talk to your primary care provider, gastroenterologist, or nutritionist about a "complex carbohydrate elimination diet." This is a strict diet that excludes all forms of complex carbohydrates and high-fiber foods (i.e., fresh fruits and veggies, and whole grains). Over time and as tolerated, these food sources are gradually added back to the diet. Columbia students can also reach out to Medical Services (Morningside Campus) or Student Health Services (Medical Center Campus) to make an appointment with a health care provider or registered dietitian. You can also take a peek at Columbia’s get balanced! Guide for Healthier Eating for more ideas.

Alice

September 28, 2012

516832
When preparing dried beans of any variety my grandmother taught me to pre-soak them over night with 2 to 4 tablespoons of salt and an equal amount of baking soda. Just before cooking them drain and...
When preparing dried beans of any variety my grandmother taught me to pre-soak them over night with 2 to 4 tablespoons of salt and an equal amount of baking soda. Just before cooking them drain and rinse them in cold water. She said that it not only made them cook faster but also cut down on the gassy feeling when eating them. Hope this helps you.

September 28, 2007

21332
My husband's grandmother always stuck a peeled raw potato in when she cooked her beans, and threw away the potato when the beans were done cooking, it always seemed to work well for us. The potato...
My husband's grandmother always stuck a peeled raw potato in when she cooked her beans, and threw away the potato when the beans were done cooking, it always seemed to work well for us. The potato absorbed the gassiness of the beans

Managing high blood pressure through diet

Dear Reader,

Hypertension is known as the "silent killer" and is one of the most common diseases of the cardiovascular system. It is defined as a condition of sustained elevated pressure in the arteries of 140/90 or higher. In this case, 140 is the systolic pressure. Simply put, systolic pressure represents the blood pressure against the arteries while the heart is contracting or beating. The number 90 is the diastolic pressure, meaning the blood pressure while the heart is relaxing or between beats. People who are genetically sensitive to sodium experience high blood pressure from excesses in salt intake. People who are most likely to be salt sensitive include children of parents with hypertension, African Americans, and people over 50 years of age. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone is salt sensitive. As hypertension in the body becomes prolonged, the risk for heart failure, vascular disease, kidney (renal) failure, and stroke increases.

Although there has been no cause identified for hypertension in 90 percent of people, dietary factors have been shown to influence blood pressure. People with hypertension can use the following food guidelines:

Avoid foods high in sodium.
Sodium causes vasoconstriction, the narrowing of blood vessels. Therefore, the amount of space blood has to travel through decreases. This decrease creates an increase in the resistance the blood has to overcome. This increased resistance makes it more difficult for the arteries to expand with each beat of the heart, causing the internal pressure to rise. High sodium foods include processed meats, salted snack foods, cheeses, and canned foods.

Eat foods high in potassium.
Good dietary sources of potassium include bananas, potatoes, avocados, tomato juice, grapefruit juice, and acorn squash. Potassium helps maintain intracellular osmotic pressure, which is the force required to stop the flow of water across a membrane.

Limit adding salt to foods, particularly in restaurants.
Most foods, especially at restaurants, are already high in sodium.

Use salt substitutes.

Eat calcium and magnesium rich foods to help reduce blood pressure.
Food sources rich in calcium include low-fat milk, green beans, sardines with bones, broccoli, spinach, and tofu. Good sources of magnesium-rich foods include any legumes and seeds, such as navy beans and sunflower seeds.

Lower saturated fat intake.
Saturated fat increases the level of low density lipoproteins (LDL), which tend to stick to the sides of the arterial wall. This deposit of fat is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis begins with the accumulation of fatty streaks on the inner arterial walls. When this fatty buildup enlarges and becomes hardened with minerals, such as calcium, it forms plaque. Plaque stiffens the arteries and narrows the passages through them. Thus, blood pressure rises. This rise in blood pressure is due to the arteries' lack of elasticity.

Hypertension can also be treated with drugs, including diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitors. Talk with your health care provider to see what treatment is best for you, if you need it.

According to a Harvard research study, the DASH! Diet could be another possible way to decrease blood pressure. DASH! stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The Dash trials began with 459 adults with systolic pressure of less than 160 and diastolic pressure between 80 and 95. The Dash study randomly assigned people to one of three diets for eight weeks. The first diet was the Control Diet. This diet had levels of fat and cholesterol that matched the average American's diet. It had lower than average levels of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The other two groups were divided into a "Fruit and Vegetable Diet" and a "Combination Diet." The Fruit and Vegetable group matched the control group in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and protein. However, the difference was that this diet had more potassium and magnesium. The fruit and vegetable diet reduced systolic blood pressure 2.8 mm Hg more than the control diet. It also reduced diastolic blood pressure 1.1 mm Hg more than the control. The Combination Diet had less total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than the fruit and vegetable and control diets. The combination diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, also had more potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and protein. This combination diet reduced systolic blood pressure 5.5 mm Hg more than the control diet. It also reduced diastolic blood pressure 3.0 mm Hg more than the control diet.

To adapt the Dash Diet into your lifestyle, follow these guidelines:

  • Make gradual changes in your eating patterns.
  • Center your meal around carbohydrates, such as pastas, rice, beans, or vegetables.
  • Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Treat meat as one part of the whole meal.
  • Decrease use of fat.

For example, total number of servings in a 2,000 calorie per day menu would look like this:

Food Group Servings
Grains 8
Vegetables 4
Fruits 5
Dairy Foods 3
Meats, Poultry, & Fish 2
Nuts, Legumes, & Seeds 1
Fats & Oils 2.5

For more info on the Dash Diet, you can go to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide website.

Finally, weight loss is recommended if you are overweight. Obesity can worsen hypertension. Extra adipose tissue means miles of extra capillaries through which the blood must be pumped. Weight loss can be accomplished through aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise will utilize fat stored in the body. This, along with weight training, will increase your muscle mass, which, in turn, will raise your metabolic rate. Therefore, you will expend more calories throughout the day.

Alice
[Material adapted from:

Marieb, Elaine N. Human Anatomy and Physiology. CA: The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Co., 1997: p. 710.

Whitney, Eleanor and Sharon Rolfes, eds. Understanding Nutrition. Minneapolis/St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1996.]


Importance of eating breakfast

Dear Breakfast Boycotter,

Your brain (and central nervous system) run on glucose — that's the fuel you need to think, walk, talk, and carry on any and all activities. Let's say that the last time you eat something at night is at 10 or 11 PM (not optimal, just an example). The following day, you don't eat breakfast but wait until about noon or so to eat — you've gone thirteen or fourteen hours with nothing in your system. Your poor brain is surely deprived — and your body has to work extra hard to break down any stored carbohydrate or turn fat or protein into a usable form for your brain to function. That's a lot to ask for when you're sitting in a classroom, trying to concentrate on reading, or doing any other work. Eating breakfast has been proven (many times) to improve concentration, problem solving ability, mental performance, memory, and mood. You will certainly be at a disadvantage if your classmates have eaten breakfast and you've gone without. On average, they will think faster and clearer, and will have better recall than you. School or work can be tough enough without this extra added pressure.

Breakfast skippers also have a harder time fitting important nutrients into their diet. Many foods eaten at breakfast contain significant amounts of vitamins C and D, calcium, iron, and fiber.

Some people believe that skipping breakfast may help them lose weight. Not so! Skipping meals often leads to overeating later in the day. Becoming overhungry often leads to a lack of control and distorted satiety signals (meaning it's hard to determine when you're full). This can result in taking in more calories than if one had an appropriate breakfast. As a matter of fact, it's easier to control one's weight by eating smaller meals and snacks more frequently.

What if there's just no time in the morning to eat breakfast? There are plenty of items you can bring along with you to school or work. Carry a resealable bag of easy-to-eat whole grain cereal, or bring a yogurt or small box of skim milk, juice, or fruit. If you just can't stomach food in the morning, try to have a little something — such as some juice — and bring along a mid-morning snack. Other good portable items include: whole grain crackers, a hard boiled egg, cottage cheese, low-fat granola bars, or even a peanut butter sandwich. Single serving hot cereals, such as oatmeal, are handy — all you have to do is add hot water, available at most cafeterias or delis.

Whatever your choice, eat something. If you think you're doing fine with no breakfast, just try changing your tune for a week —you're likely to notice a difference. You will undoubtedly perform better with some fuel in your system, and, hopefully, become a breakfast believer.

Alice

Why do we need vitamin A?

Dear Reader,

Vitamin A is an essential, fat-soluble vitamin that has many diverse benefits for humans. Vitamin A promotes eyesight and helps us see in the dark; aids in the differentiation of cells of the skin (lining the outside of the body) and mucous membranes (linings inside of the body); helps the body fight off infection and sustain the immune system; and, supports growth and remodeling of bone. In addition, dietary vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene (an antioxidant), may help reduce your risk for certain cancers.

Adequate vitamin A intake is essential to human health. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness (inability to see in the dark or to recover sight quickly after being exposed to a flash of bright light in the dark) and xerophthalmia (progressive blindness that becomes irreversible if not treated in time with vitamin A).

Vitamin A deficiency can also reduce the health and integrity of skin and other epithelial tissues. The effect on skin can result in dry skin and hyperkeratosis (the development of clumps of skin around hair follicles). The effect on epithelial tissues can negatively affect the digestion and absorption of nutrients and cause infections of major systems and their organs (i.e., gastrointestinal, nervous/muscular, respiratory, and urogenital). In addition, bone growth can stop and normal bone remodeling can become impaired, resulting in anemia and weakened immunity.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is measured in retinol equivalents (RE), retinol being the active form of vitamin A. For adult men, the RDA is 900 micrograms of RE per day and for adult women it is 700 micrograms of RE per day.

Despite its benefits, too much Vitamin A can cause toxicity, the effects of which can vary depending on its source.  Excessive intake of vitamin A in dietary form is not harmful, but will cause one's skin to turn yellow in color. In contrast, large dose supplements (10 - 15 times the RDA) of vitamin A (as retinol) is harmful, and could result in the development of a fatty liver (hepatomegaly), dry skin, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headaches, anorexia, and/or possibly increase the risk of birth defects among pregnant women. Symptoms depend upon whether or not vitamin A intake was taken over a long period of time (chronic) or a single excessive dose at one point in time (acute). In general, fat-soluble vitamins should not be consumed in excess of the recommendations because, unlike water-soluble vitamins in which the excess is excreted out of the body, an excess of fat-soluble vitamins will be stored and accumulated in the body.

It is highly recommended that vitamin A be consumed in the diet rather than from supplements. The richest sources of dietary vitamin A are liver, fish liver oils, milk, milk products, butter, and eggs. Liver is an especially rich source because vitamin A is primarily stored in the liver of animals and humans. Vitamin A is also found in a variety of dark green and deep orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, butternut squash, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens, and romaine lettuce. Beta carotene is the most active carotenoid (the red, orange, and yellow pigments) form of vitamin A. In addition, cooking (but not overcooking) increases the bioavailability of carotenoids in plant foods and absorption of dietary vitamin A is improved when consumed along with some fat in the same meal.

Hope this helps,

Alice

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