Can you get vitamin A from plant foods? It depends on your genes.
Watch this video to learn how to figure out your BCO1 genetics and how this impacts your vitamin A requirement.
Vitamin A is found in the form of carotenoids in red, orange, yellow, and green vegetables, and in the form of retinol in animal foods, especially liver. BCO1 helps you convert the carotenoids to retinol, which is the form you need to have in your body to be healthy. Many of us have genetic impairments in BCO1. In fact, for genetic reasons alone, if you took 100 of us, half of us would make the conversion less than half as well as the other half. A quarter of us would have our ability to make the conversion slashed four-fold.
But it isn’t *all* about genetics. There are many other factors — thyroid health, iron, protein, zinc, vitamin E, parasites, oxidative stress, heavy metals, polyunsaturated fats — the list just goes on and on for the things that can affect this conversion. Knowing your genes is helpful, but only one piece of the puzzle.
Watch the video for how I recommend handling this.
I recommend testing your BCO1 genes with StrateGene, which you can get here:
For more information on how to get the StrateGene report, watch this video:
For 5 Ways to Eat Enough Liver, watch this video:
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Read the Transcript
Are your genes wrecking your ability to derive vitamin A from plant food? Here’s how to find out.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. And this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!” And today we’re going to talk about how your genetics can impact your ability to derive vitamin A from plant foods.
Vitamin A comes in two forms: carotenoids are found in red, yellow, orange and green vegetables and fruits; and retinol, which comes in animal foods. And in order to get carotenoids to be a source of vitamin A for you, you need to convert the carotenoids to retinol. It’s the retinol that you need, but there are things that can interfere with that and genetics.
So today we’re going to look again at the StrateGene report. As before I’m putting the link on how to get the StrateGene report in the description of the video, but if you look at the second page of the overview in the StrateGene report, shown on the screen here it’s listed bonus SNPs, this is page 3 the second of two pages of overview. And you can see at the top are five genetic variations in BCO1, this is the enzyme that converts carotenoids to retinol, this is the enzyme that you need to derive vitamin A from plant foods.
And all of these mutations decrease the activity. If you look here I have a number of mutations, I’m heterozygous for two of them them, I’m heterozygous for these two, I’m homozygous for these two. If you add up the effects of those individually from experimental studies, if you add them all together this means that I have a negative 25% rate of converting carotenoids to retinol.
I don’t know if that means that when I eat carotenoids it robs retinol from my body or if I eat retinol it’s converted back to carotenoids. Obviously neither of those two things make any sense at all. Clearly you can’t add up the individual variations and know what it sums to, but I think it’s pretty clear that I’m really bad at deriving vitamin A from plant foods and if you have a buildup of these BCO1 mutations so are you.
So what do you do about that? Well it just means that you need to get enough vitamin A from animal foods and if you want to make sure you have your basic needs covered so you don’t wind up deficient you should get 3 to 5,000 IU per day of vitamin A as retinol.
The simplest way to do that with food is to eat three and a half ounces or a hundred grams of liver once a week. In fact I previously showed you a video on how to eat enough liver and I’ll put that link in the description as well. You can also take cod liver oil at a dose that provides the RDA for vitamin A on a daily basis. You can also take a vitamin A supplement to get at least 5,000 IU per day as retinol.
But are your genetics the whole story? Not really. The reason is there’s many other things that contribute to your ability to derive vitamin A from plant foods. For example, you can have digestive problems, particularly intestinal parasites, that hurt your ability to make that conversion happen.
There are multiple nutrient deficiencies including protein, iron and vitamin E that hurt your ability to make that conversion. If you don’t eat enough fat you can’t you make that conversion. If you eat polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oils instead of saturated and monounsaturated fat from things like olive oil or animal fats you will be less effective at making that conversion. If you have thyroid problems you’ll be less effective at making that conversion, and the list goes on.
There are so many different dietary factors and health factors that influence your ability to make that conversion happen that even if you don’t have an accumulation of the BCO1 mutations you should still try to get at least 3 to 5000 IU of retinol per day.
So my opinion is that when you have a buildup of these mutations that might explain why you’re more vulnerable to vitamin A deficiency, it might reinforce your behavior to motivate you to get the amount of vitamin A you need as retinol, but it’s not really the deciding factor, it’s just good insurance to make sure everyone gets 3 to 5,000 IU of retinol per day whether it’s from foods or from supplements.
All right, I hope you found this useful. Signing off, this is Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. You’ve been watching Chris Masterjohn Lite, and I will see you in the next video.
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