I have come across a fascinating new rabbit hole in the realm of health, potentially relevant to those with gut issues, eye and skin problems, autoimmunity, eating disorders, excessive inflammation, or elevated triglycerides, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar.
This rabbit hole was discovered by an engineer named Grant Genereux https://ggenereux.blog/ , and his discovery has to do with a vitamin we’ve all heard about, so normal and everyday that you will be tempted to yawn and not-read this e-mail because how can it possibly be interesting to read 2800 words on the topic of Vitamin A?
All I can say is, if Grant Genereux is even partially correct, he has discovered some pretty earth-shaking stuff in the field of human nutrition. I will paraphrase and quote from one of his books https://ggenereux.blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/PoisoningForProfits.p… below, adding a few of my own thoughts, and remember: this is only the tip of a potentially enormous iceberg. I am attempting a summary but no empirical data yet exists, and the research is being done only by people like you and me. So do some experimentation, read some more, check out some of the bazillion studies referenced by Genereux, and please let me know what you think. I am dying to geek out with my fellow kitchen table scientists!
To begin, we have to start with the very concept of “Vitamin” A. The discovery of vitamins was pretty haphazard, and the entire theory (which every medical text today calls a "fact") of Vitamin A's importance was based on studies of rodents, that "proved" the dangers of Vitamin A deficiency. Researchers were very excited about the new science of isolating single nutrients, and they wanted to discover a single cause of night blindness and xeropthalmia.
"Basically, and a bit simplified, it was decided that both animals and humans have the same almost razor thin tolerance for vitamin-A deficiency. Get too little of it, and you’ll go blind, or you’ll first go blind and then you’ll die; or get too much of it and you’ll die with your skin painfully burning off. Either way, it’s a dicey balancing act."
How did we come upon this (our current, modern) theory of Vitamin A?
"Somehow these early researchers, and even researchers today, have completely ignored the fact that animal and human history is full of prolonged periods of complete starvation with no 'deficiency' lesions developing in the eye, and no blindness either."
For now, let's call it "Compound A," because assuming that A has been completely misclassified as an essential vitamin is Genereux's primary hypothesis.
Paraphrased: "Compound A is a fat-soluble molecule. Therefore, it will naturally be absorbed (emulsified) by fats. This includes both dietary fats, and the body’s storage fats. For us, most of the storage of Compound A is in the fats within the liver, and to a lesser extent in the fats of the adipose tissues (the skin, etc.)
"This storage ratio is not constant over time. As the liver becomes more and more saturated, more Compound A will remain in serum longer and slowly seep into and accumulate within the lipids of the adipose tissues. Even with that, the Compound A stored within these fats is not yet toxic.
"At first, Compound A is safely wrapped up, and therefore does not get rapidly exposed to cell membranes. Somewhat similarly, Compound A can be safely transported in serum within wrapper proteins, called retinol binding proteins, the RBPs. When encased within the RBPs, no part of the Compound A molecule is exposed to the outside world (inside the body). In this packaging, it is once again safe, harmless, and maybe even useful.
"So, Compound A in reasonable amounts, given adequate amounts of dietary fats and proteins, is by itself not too terrible. However, there is a tipping point to where Compound A can, and does, easily convert into an extremely nasty, and highly toxic molecule (and the thought to be active form of the vitamin). This converted Compound A molecule is called retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is so incredibly toxic it is used as a chemotherapy drug. The reported functioning mechanism of the “drug” is that it quickly kills replicating cells. "
When the liver is full up with stored Compound A, Genereux continues, it essentially overflows - and any additional Compound A that is consumed, whether as pre-formed A in animal foods, pro-formed A in plant foods (caratenoids etc.), or in drugs like accutane etc., causes elevated and toxic levels of retinoic acid to circulate throughout the body, wreaking havoc, and - Genereux thinks - triggering autoimmunity.
It is important to note that foods containing A are not toxic on principle! It's merely a problem if one lives in this modern world and has a liver (and potentially excess fat tissue) that has become fully full-up of A. At that point, no matter how healthy a food is, Genereux and others argues that the disadvantages of its A outweigh any good fats or wonderful nutrition it offers otherwise, and contribute to poisoning the body.
Okay, so backing up a bit to the first studies that determined the existence of "Vitamin A Deficiency," in the 1920s. Researchers repeatedly noted that high doses of Compound A caused rats to very quickly develop hemorrhages, skin lesions, inflammatory changes in the eye, and exceptionally brittle bones. (“rats were fed on massive doses of vitamin-A for periods varying from 10 to 18 days.” ...[researchers] define "massive doses" as “one drop of halibut-liver oil per rat per week.”)
…Unbound retinol, and retinoic acid cause cells to initiate immune assisted apoptosis. Therefore, both retinol, and retinoic acids are toxins."
The fascinating thing about so-called Vitamin A Deficiency, if you read about it pretty much anywhere, is that the symptoms are exactly the same as the known symptoms of Vitamin A TOXICITY. (This always confused me way back when, concerning whether or not to take prenatal vitamins. On the one hand, Vitamin A causes birth defects, while at the same time you need to consume Vitamin A so your baby won't be blind, but at the same time if you take too much your baby will die... I actually started and stopped those prenatals about four times during one pregnancy! During my last two pregnancies I religiously ate egg yolks and liver and cod liver oil.)
Getting back to the studies:
"One source of the problems is that trying to design a viable, yet vitamin-A deplete, diet to experiment with is surprisingly tricky [especially for researchers back in the early part of the last century who didn't always know how to find a particular form of a nutrient they were looking for (nor did they always know it existed at all!).] The thing is, almost all foods on the planet have at least some vitamin-A in them. In other words, to come up with a completely vitamin-A deplete diet, you need to rule out so many other needed nutrients at the same time. But, that’s only the start of the problems introduced in these experiments..."
Genereux proceeds to describe the terrible fates of early twentieth-century lab rats when they were fed a "vitamin-A-free diet", which involved terrible pain and suffering immediately and death soon after. These studies caused researchers to describe Vitamin A deficiency in the same terrifying way that it is described in today’s nutrition textbooks: a quick-onset, exceptionally unpleasant situation which supposedly leads to early death, and eczema and blindness at the very least, along with dozens of other symptoms.
“….If that long list of disease and tissue destruction did not cause the researchers to pause and think deeply, and very seriously question their deficiency concept, then the speed at which it happened surely should have. Most of the animals in their experiments had become extremely sick by the 8th week of being on a specially designed deficiency diet. By the 8th week, many of the animals were too weak, sick and diseased even to feed themselves. Bizarrely, the researchers resorted to force-feeding the animals for the remaining two weeks of their experiments. The scene in these laboratories must have been something like mini horror torture chambers.
"...This is not what any reasonable, and thinking, person would expect to see in response to a mere deficiency, which should instead be a slow process of wasting and general tissue atrophy. After all, this is the response that’s always been witnessed in nature, and witnessed for over thousands of years too, due to prolonged and even complete starvation. Clearly then, there was something else drastically wrong with the artificial deficiency diet used in these lab experiments.
"This takes us into the heart of the matter. What in the hell were they feeding these animals? It’s almost always the same diet used in these experiments. Basically, with only some slight variations, here’s the list of ingredients of the de-facto Compound A 'deficiency' proving diet:
▪Casein(“deactivated” milk protein)
▪Starch(usually corn starch)
▪Lard(rendered pig fat)
▪Brewer's yeast(or vegemite yeast)
"To understand the rationale behind this diet, the researchers believed that it was deplete only in Vitamin A and that it was complete and sufficient in every other regard. The thinking was that the milk casein would provide adequate protein. The starch provided carbohydrates. The high concentration of salt mixture; well I’m not too sure what the purpose of that was. The lard provided ample fats, and the yeast provided the then known B vitamins. Therefore, even though not ideal, the diet should have been sufficient in sustaining the lab animals in somewhat reasonable health."
"Very tragically, essentially this same diet design is used by most follow-on researchers who repeat the experiments and confirm the vitamin A deficiency results. This is not too surprising, though, because this is kind of what you are supposed to do in repeating and confirming experiments. There is a bit of a flurry of others repeating these experiments in the early 1920’s, some in the 1930’s, 40’s, and even in 1960. They all use the same diet. There are a few tweaks made to it here and there, but it is effectively the same. The same diet yields the same results over and over. Similar experiments are repeated in guinea pigs, rabbits, and even monkeys. Almost all animals fed this diet became seriously diseased, and most died within just ten weeks. So, there you have it. That’s the artificial diet that proved the vitamin-A deficiency theory. Although not ideal, to the casual observer it looks at least somewhat reasonably conclusive. However, we are not casual observers. We are inquisitive and critical thinkers. Some immediate questions show up here..."
(An interesting note is that when the rats’ ”Vitamin-A-free" chow had its fats switched out - for example so that they were eating butter instead of lard - "deficiency" symptoms could immediately began to reverse. “But this is sloppy science for sure, because many variables changed with such a fat-switch (such as form of Vitamins contained in butter, the presence in butter of additional Vitamins K and D, etc), not just one, etc…”)
Another follow-up study showed that, among other things, "even when vitamin-A was added to the rodents’ ‘Vitamin-A-free chow’, the animals still developed xerophthalmia and keratomalacia. THIS result was not just a red flag; it was full-size flashing red lights with sirens. Clearly, there was something hugely wrong with the “deficiency” theory."
"What is lard? Basically, it’s pig fat from the adipose tissue of the slaughtered animal (mostly the skin). Lard is produced via a process known as rendering. Rendering is exposing the remnants of the hog’s carcass to high heat or steam and separating off the fat. Although that might not sound too delicious, in the animal processing industry, nothing is wasted.
"Of all the mammals on the planet, there are only about two that are known to collect retinol within the fats of their adipose tissues (the skin). It’s humans and domesticated (farmed) pigs. In most other mammals, there is no detectable retinol in their skin lipids...
“So lard is rendered pig fats, and that fat would normally have significant levels of various forms of Vitamin A contained within it. But, after rendering, lard is reported to have virtually no Vitamin A, or maybe only trace amounts of it. So, what happens to the original quantity of it? Well, it mostly gets separated off into the yellow (yes, retinol is yellow), less market appealing lards. However, the separation process is not 100% perfectly efficient. More importantly, the remaining retinol in the lard is easily converted into retinoic acid via oxidation [especially when "purified" as these researchers were doing to the lard contained in the animals’ A-free chow]. All that’s needed to create the oxidation reaction is heat and oxygen. Ample amounts of both are present in the ‘rendering’ process used to produce lards. Therefore, the lard in those experiments contained retinoic acid."
This was undetectable to the researchers at the time, but I had to read this twice: THE RESEARCHERS WERE FEEDING THE RATS CHOW WITH LOTS OF COMPOUND A IN IT! And the sort contained in the lard was of a most toxic variety, according to Genereux. When that lard was swapped for butter, you remember, the rats quickly recovered from their "deficiency," and that may be due to many factors - but it was not due to their rat chow having been free of Vitamin A to begin with.
So there you go. Based on "science" like this, our entire country's food supply has been fortified, since the 1970s, with "Vitamin" A. It's in all milk, cereal, bread products, etc. - by law. Drugs make use of its interesting effect (at low toxicity symptoms can disappear, only to reappear worse than before (skin issues prime among them) when the dose is increased or accumulates).
Then there is the pesticide Roundup, which, according to Genereux (along with Stephanie Seneff and other researchers), messes with our livers' ability to detoxify Compound A, leading us to....our current perfect storm: a nation that is quite possibly being poisoned with molecules which are not necessarily necessary at all, and might more accurately be termed "byproducts" than vitamins.... In this case, Vitamin A could accurately be called a poison.
Genereux feels that toxic levels of Compound A are a root cause of gut dysbiosis. Sort of like...eczema of the digestive system. He feels that food intolerance and gut dysbiosis can resolve only after continuous poisoning ceases, but that resolve it will - and much more effectively than by maintaining a gut-healing diet which includes all sorts of A (my son is THRILLED - I told him he doesn't have to eat liver for the duration of our experiments!)
This could also be one of the reasons why so many are sick when eating a highly-“vitamin”-fortified diet of any sort. It could also explain why, when some of us adopt traditional dietary practices, go on GAPS, and do everything gut-healthy that we can possibly think of, we feel a bit better at first - but then ten years later, we are still very sick, unable to tolerate new foods after all this time.
A partial list of the "side effects" of the chemotherapy drug that is retinol, includes depression. Along with...
-Headache, fever, dry skin, dry mucous membranes (mouth, nose)
✓Nausea and vomiting
✓Pain in muscles and joints
✓Numbness and tingling of hands and feet
✓Loss of concentration, and sleep problems
✓Hair loss (thinning)
✓Dry eyes, sensitivity to light
✓Decreased night vision, which may persist after treatment is stopped
✓Swelling of the feet or ankles
✓Low blood counts
✓Anemia and/or bleeding
✓Abnormal blood tests: increased triglyceride, cholesterol and/or blood sugar levels.
✓Increases in blood tests measuring liver function.These return to normal once treatment is discontinued (see liver problems)
✓Pulmonary embolus or stroke
✓Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
✓Skin desquamation (peeling and shedding)
✓Problems with kidneys
✓Inflammation of the liver
✓Inflammation of the stomach
✓Hearing loss, and ringing in the ears
✓Problems with lipids
✓Problems with blood sugars
✓Inflamed, and peeling of the lips
✓Dry nose and mouth, nosebleeds
✓Thoughts of hurting oneself, or others
✓Psychosis(seeing or hearing things that are not real)
✓Bone density loss
Curious about experimentation? Check out this handy article full of action steps: https://eatbeautiful.net/2019/06/23/vitamin-a-detox-diet-free-printable…
Lemme know what you think!
I’ll report back in six months :)