SpectraCell Blog

Vitamin A: Functions and Benefits

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 @ 11:30 AM

vit A.jpgVitamin A was one of the earliest vitamins to be discovered – hence its top rank in the alphabetical vitamin nomenclature.Vitamin A is a family of fat soluble compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, and immune system regulation. Most people associate vitamin A with carrots, and for good reason: the common orange veggie has high amounts of beta-carotene, which is actually a vitamin A precursor and also the reason carrots got their name. But vitamin A is actually a group of chemicals that are similar in structure, and include retinol (the most biologically active form of vitamin A), retinal, and retinoic acid.

β-carotene is slightly different in that it is cleaved in the intestinal mucosa by an enzyme to form retinol. Other carotenoids include lycopene and lutein but, although similar to vitamin A, they are not actually vitamin A in the truest sense. One distinction is that excessive amounts of vitamin A from over-supplementation, can cause toxicity (although deficiency is much more common). On the other hand, β-carotene does not cause vitamin A toxicity because there exists a regulatory mechanism that limits vitamin A production from beta carotene when high levels are ingested.

A large number of physiological systems may be affected by vitamin A deficiency which is most often associated with strict dietary restrictions and excess alcohol intake. Patients with Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and pancreatic disorders are particularly susceptible due to malabsorption.  Vitamin A is also essential for the developing skeletal system and deficiency can result in growth retardation or abnormal bone formation. 

The functions of vitamin A are very diverse:

  • Eyesight: Vitamin A forms retinal, which combines with a protein (rhodopsin) to create the light-absorbing cells in the eye. This explains why a common clinical manifestation of deficiency is night blindness and poor vision.
  • Skin: In addition to promoting healthy skin function and integrity, vitamin A regulates the growth of epithelial surfaces in the eyes and respiratory, intestinal, and urinary tracts. Deficiency impairs epithelial regeneration, which can manifest as skin hyperkeratization, infertility, or increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.
  • Anemia: Vitamin A helps transfer iron to red blood cells for incorporation into hemoglobin; thus, a vitamin A deficiency will exacerbate an iron deficiency.
  • Weight management: Vitamin A reduces the size of fat cells, regulates the genetic expression of leptin (a hormone that suppresses appetite), and enhances the expression of genes that reduce a person’s tendency to store food as fat.
  • Cancer prevention: Vitamin A deficiency impairs the body’s ability to launch cell-mediated immune responses to cancer cells. Vitamin A inhibits squamous metaplasia (a type of skin cancer) and inhibits breast cancer cell growth.
  • Fertility: Vitamin A plays a key role in the synthesis of sperm.
  • Autism: Vitamin A is part of the retinoid receptor protein (G-alpha protein), which is critical for language processing, attention, and sensory perception. Some autistics have a defect in this protein that vitamin A supplementation can modulate.
  • Sleep: Vitamin A deficiency alters brains waves in non-REM sleep, causing sleep to be less restorative.

Vitamin A also interacts with other micronutrients. For example, zinc is required to transport vitamin A into tissues, so a zinc deficiency will limit retinal binding protein (RBP) synthesis and thus limits the body’s ability to use vitamin A stores in the liver. Oleic acid, a fatty acid found in olive oil, facilitates the absorption of vitamin A in the gut.

Find out if you have a vitamin A deficiency, and take steps to correct it, by ordering a micronutrient test today. 

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Topics: micronutrients, Vitamin A, Vitamins, Fertility, Cancer Prevention, Celiac Disease, Supernutrients, Weight Management, Vitamin A Deficiency, Chron's Disease, Anemia, Nutrients, β-carotene

SpectraCell Partners with Gluten Free Works

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 @ 03:48 PM

Hand and HealthSpectraCell has recently partnered with Gluten Free Works who is “Helping people get well, look good and stay healthy living gluten free.” ™

Gluten Free Works® helps you understand your food, your diet and your digestion. They show you what causes health problems and how to treat them naturally. One of the tools that they suggest is nutritional testing.  They believe that the key to good health for those with gluten sensitivity and/or celiac disease is a gluten-free lifestyle.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is characterized by the inability to tolerate gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When gluten is ingested by a person with celiac disease, an allergic reaction follows that causes serious damage to the intestinal wall, ultimately creating malabsorption issues and a host of cascading health problems. Some estimate that celiac disease is prevalent in over 2% of the general population.

I take a Multi-Vitamin and Eat a Gluten Free Diet.  Isn’t that Enough?

Multi-VitaminThe simple answer is no. Just as every person is different, the “normal” amount of each micronutrient varies from person to person, and even in the same person depending on circumstances in his or her life.  We are all biochemically unique, and several factors affect personal micronutrient needs – age, lifestyle, metabolism, prescription drug usage, past and present illnesses, absorption rate, genetics and more.

Especially in the case of celiac disease, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, comprehensive nutritional testing is super important.  Celiac patients are notoriously at higher risk for nutrient deficiencies, largely due to malabsorption issues.  But when it comes to supplements, the “more is better” philosophy is just plain wrong.  Balance is key. SpectraCell’s Micronutrient test is the answer.

SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test measures 33 vitamins and minerals in your body.  But the SpectraCell test goes even further – it measures functional, long-term levels within the cell, which means SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test evaluates how well your body actually utilizes each nutrient.  Your body may need more of a nutrient than someone else, or perhaps your body lacks the coenzymes needed to transport it, or perhaps it is not absorbed properly after ingestion.  That is why an individual assessment of your nutritional status is important.

True healing begins with your body’s foundation – micronutrients – the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs to function optimally every day and over a lifetime.

Predisposition to Nutritional Deficiencies

Researchers followed a group of celiac patients who were on a gluten-free diet for 10 years and they found that half of the adult celiac patients showed signs of poor vitamin status. Since production of digestive enzymes is generally less efficient in celiac patients, absorption of nutrients from food is compromised.  

Antioxidant Status of Celiac Patients

Intestinal inflammation, so commonly seen in celiac patients, creates oxidative stress and as a result, the antioxidant status of celiac patients is significantly reduced, mostly by a depletion of glutathione, considered by many the most potent antioxidant in our bodies. In addition, levels of other antioxidants such as cysteine and vitamin C will affect glutathione status.  You can see how measuring a single nutrient only gives a small piece of the metabolic puzzle.

Fortunately, SpectraCell’s micronutrient test also gives your SpectroxTM score, which is a measurement of your Total Antioxidant Function. In short, it measures how well your cells stand up to oxidative stress.  SpectraCell’s micronutrient test also measures the function of several powerful antioxidants such as lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 and vitamin E.  Even a single deficiency can negatively affect your SpectroxTM score.  Since oxidative stress is an important factor in the pathogenesis of celiac disease, raising your SpectroxTM score is important.

A Special Role for Glutamine

One hallmark of celiac patients is that they tend to have damage in the lining of their small intestine.  This damage increases the permeability of the walls of their digestive tract, allowing normally benign substances into the bloodstream, where they are no longer treated as harmless.  An allergenic, or autoimmune, response follows wreaking havoc throughout the body. Glutamine is an amino acid that is particularly effective in mitigating this dangerous cascade of events starting in the gut. Deprivation of glutamine results in increased intestinal permeability since glutamine helps to form tight junctions between cells of the delicate intestinal wall.

NeurologyNeurological Problems Stem from Nutrient Deficiencies

Researchers estimate that 11-41% of celiac patients have vitamin B12 defiency, which impairs function of the nervous systems.  In fact, resolution of vitamin B12 deficiency will in many cases resolve neurological problems associated with celiac disease. Similarly, a deficiency in copper will often manifest as neurological problems or anemia in celiac patients.  In fact, some researchers suggest that celiac disease should be considered  in patients with copper deficiency, even if there are no gastrointestinal problems.

Folate Deficiency

Celiac patients are at higher risk of B vitamin deficiencies, specifically folate. There are several reasons for this. First, the primary transporter of folate into our bloodstream is found on the tips of the finger-like projections in the intestinal wall called villi. Since intestingal damage (called atrophy) is so common in celiac patients, the process of absorption of nutrients, and especially folate, is severely impaired. Second, the pH of the stomach affects folic acid absorption. The higher the pH, the lower the absorption of folic acid, which is the case in celiac patients. Third, many medications used in inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract are known to be folate depleting.

Bone Building Nutrients for Celiac Patients

Compromised bone health is often an unfortunate consequence of celiac disease largely because a much higher percentage of children with celiac are deficient in magnesium, calcium and vitamin D compared to children without celiac.  These nutrients work together in many ways.  For example, when there is sufficient vitamin D, 30-40% of intestinal calcium can be absorbed but in the presence of vitamin D deficiency, only 15% of calcium is absorbed, leading to poor bone health among other things. It is easy to see how correcting even a single nutrient deficiency can indirectly help the status of another.  

Depletion of Minerals

The impact of mineral deficiencies is extremely broad.  For example, zinc deficiency compromises the immune system and is implicated in many skin disorders, which often accompany celiac disease.  In a recent study on children with celiac disease, it was found that zinc  levels were up to 30% lower in children with untreated celiac, and that over 50% of patients with celiac have low zinc levels. Selenium deficiency is also common in celiac patients.  Since thyroid is particularly sensitive to selenium, a deficiency in this mineral, which also serves as a powerful antioxidant, can contribute thyroid dysfunction.

Fatigue in Celiac – Corrected with Supplementation

Fatigue is a very common symptom of celiac disease.  Although several nutrients contribute to energy production (such as B vitamins and chromium, for example), the relatively unknown amino acid carntine is intimately involved in energy production and particularly effective in reducing fatigue.  Interestingly, levels of carnitine are lower in celiac patients.  In fact, one study showed that fatigue was significantly reduced in a group of celiac patients when they were supplemented for six months with carnitine.

A Multi-Faceted Approach

Since so many nutrients are needed to keep our amazingly complex digestive, immune and other systems functioning properly, a comprehensive assessment of your nutritional status is key, especially indisorders like celiac disease where the risk of deficiency is particularly high.  The potential improvement of symptoms when even a single deficiency is corrected can often be quite dramatic.  

SpectraCell's micronutrient test evaluates how well your body absorbs and utilizes each of these nutrients.

Talk to your doctor about SpectraCell’s micronutrient test or order online from Gluten Free Works.

Gluten Free Works

SpectraCell Laboratories

Topics: SpectraCell, micronutrient testing, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Cysteine, folate, Vitamin D, Carnitine, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, B Vitamins, Folic Acid, Fatigue, Nutrition, immune system, Calcium, deficiency, Glutamine, Neurology, Diet, Minerals, Digestion, Inflammation, Gluten Sensitivity, Gluten-Free, Celiac Disease, Gluten Free Works