UK warns against too much vitamin A

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin, Vitamin a, Osteoporosis

The UK's Food Standards Agency said yesterday that people at risk
of osteoporosis should avoid taking supplements containing vitamin
A, including fish liver oils.

The advice is based on a review of evidence on vitamin A carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), prompted by the findings of an expert panel on vitamins reported in May 2003 that said there was evidence to link high intakes of the vitamin over many years with increased risk of osteoporosis.

SACN's report out yesterday concluded that there was insufficient evidence of a link between bone health and vitamin A intakes to justify a change in dietary advice to all consumers but people who eat liver more than once a week should not increase this amount and should avoid taking vitamin A supplements.

Liver is much richer in the vitamin than most other foods.

Of more concern to the supplements industry, the agency said it may also be advisable for people at risk of osteoporosis to not consume more than 1.5mg of vitamin A a day.

These include women who have been through the menopause and men over 65 years. Many supplements including fish liver oils contain vitamin A.

The UK trade body Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA) said in a statement that it responded to the SACN consultation in April by proposing "carefully thought-through proposals for advisory statements"​ based on a detailed analysis of the review.

"Some of the FSA's new advice seems to go beyond the evidence and conclusions presented in the SACN review. The HFMA will now consider the detail of the FSA advice and discuss this with both HFMA members and the FSA itself,"​ it said.

Women who are pregnant or thinking of having a baby are already advised to avoid taking supplements containing vitamin A and avoid eating liver or liver products due to the fact that large amounts of vitamin A can harm an unborn baby.

But in July, UK trade officers and a charity issued calls for industry to include labelling about the risks of vitamin A to pregnant women on all multivitamin supplements, saying that many were unaware of the risks.

David Adams, director of the HFMA, said at the time that industry had agreed to review vitamin A labelling when the SACN study on the vitamin was completed.

"The HFMA itself, in its submission to SACN, has suggested significant extension of the advice given on vitamin A labels,"​ he said.

A full copy of the SACN report can be found on its website​.

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