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Birth defects and fat soluble vitamin a

A Deficiency of Fat-Soluble Vitamin A Can Cause Birth Defects

Every parent desires to conceive and raise a healthy child, and parents make decisions for their child’s health based on information that is given by people they trust: doctors, nurses, friends, and family. The problem is that sometimes the mainstream advice may not be in the best interest for your child.

One example of this incorrect advice is regarding a healthy pregnancy diet. There are numerous suggestions and eating plans for pregnancy, each of which detail the foods that should or should not be eaten to provide your baby optimal health. Often, these diet plans can be confusing, because some of them are contradicting. Also, these diestary suggestions are made by organizations who stand to profit when the general public is following the advice that is given… so, it can be hard to decipher if the advice is given for business purposes or health purposes.00-31

A healthy pregnancy diet should include a variety of foods that will provide you with high levels of nutrition, so that those nutrients can also be passed down to your child as well. There are a number of essential vitamins and minerals which are important for the growth of your child, and these nutrients are better gained through food sources instead of synthetic supplements.

Today, we are going to isolate one of those essential nutrients: Vitamin A, and how it relates to the health and wellness of a developing baby.

One Cause of Birth Defects: Vitamin A Deficiencies

The cause of all birth defects cannot be attributed to only one factor, because there are various elements that can cause different types of birth defects. But, one of the most important factors to look at is a deficiency of Vitamin A, which has been found to be directly related to birth defects.

In pig experiments published in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a lack of Vitamin A led to defects in the snout, dental arches, eyes, feet (such as clubbed feet), and displaced kidneys, ovaries or testes. The missing  vitamin A also produced nervous system problems. These include: extreme incoordination, spasms and paralysis. It also led to aborted and stillborn pigs. In cattle, vitamin A deficiencies produced the birth of dead or weak calves and led to sterility in females. Researchers were able to produce varying severities of birth defects based upon how much vitamin A they supplied in the mother’s diet. The less vitamin A supplied, the more severe the birth defects. Again, in several experiments and variations, the pigs with defects had healthy offspring when vitamin A was restored to the diet.

Modern science has now more accurately shown that a vitamin A deficiency in women can cause birth defects in the heart, central nervous system, the circulatory, urogenital and respiratory systems, and the improper development of the skull, skeleton and limbs. Vitamin A is found in grass-fed liver, raw grass-fed butter, wild-caught seafood, farm-raised egg yolks, and raw grass-fed milk. This preformed and easily assimilated vitamin A is different from and yet complementary to the carotenes found in vegetables like carrots that the body can partially convert into vitamin A in some circumstances.

Modern Pregnancy Diet vs. Traditional Diets

Because we now know that vitamin A deficiency can be so harmful during pregnancy, it is interesting to see that modern pregnancy diets don’t emphasis the consumption of healthy foods that are high in vitamin A. Traditional cultures still rely on their native diets for the best pregnancy health, and they experience lower rates of vitamin A deficiency, which leads to lower rates of birth defects related to this vitamin. These cultures included animal foods which contain fat-soluble vitamins as a good source for nutrition for both the mother and baby. Some of these special foods may include things such as liver or fish eggs, which are great sources of natural vitamin A.

The problem with the modern pregnancy diet is that there is not a strong focus on these essential fat soluble nutrients, so many women in Westernized countries are missing these nutrients in their diets. Some pregnancy diets will suggest that a multi-vitamin be used to help avoid nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy, but these synthetic pills are not a substitute to the optimal nutrition that can be found within natural food sources.

In fact, using synthetic vitamin A supplements may actually result in toxicity within the body, causing harm to both the mother and baby. When synthetic vitamins are used, the vitamins are not easily assimilated into the body, which may result in a build-up of toxic synthetics. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a poor diet can be substituted with supplements, because your baby will be missing the nutrition that is needed for healthy and strong development.

Sources about Birth Defects and Vitamin A

Price, W. A., Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 8 th Ed La Mesa: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation; 2004: 306.


Ibid., 309.


Photo Credit: Emery Co Photo from Flickr

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