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Breaking Science News:
Fixing C15:0 Deficiencies Helps Slow Aging

Vitamin A Deficiency: 5 Common Symptoms

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Vitamin A deficiency is not common in the United States but can occur if certain underlying medical conditions are not actively treated.

    Medical intervention for vitamin A deficiency usually involves the use of dietary changes and/or vitamin supplements.

    A newly-discovered nutrient deficiency in C15:0 may affect one out of every three people in the US. 

We don’t hear a lot about vitamin deficiency in the United States. In developed countries, access to affordable food has virtually eradicated nutrient deficiencies that once led to life-threatening illnesses like rickets or scurvy. 

However, nutrient deficiencies are still prevalent in certain populations where underlying illnesses make it more difficult for the body to readily absorb the essential vitamins and minerals it needs.

One essential vitamin, vitamin A, is responsible for numerous functions in the body and directly connected with vision. Having a deficiency of vitamin A can impact your immunity, heart and lung function, and even lead to serious vision issues including vision loss. 

Together, we’ll talk about the signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, as well as what you can do to make sure you are getting enough of this (and all) of your essential nutrients. We’ll also cover a nutrient deficiency that affects the majority of the population and how addressing it is best done with a supplement.

What Is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is an essential vitamin, which means our bodies need it to thrive but cannot readily make it on their own. That means we have to get it from the foods we eat, or through supplementation. 

Functions of Vitamin A

The body uses vitamin A for numerous processes. Immunity, reproductive health, proper growth and development during infancy, childhood, and adolescence, organ health, and vision all require vitamin A. 

Vitamin A found in animal products is also called retinol. Vitamin A found in plant-based foods is also referred to as carotenoids. 

There are two types of vitamin A that your body can use. 

  1. Preformed vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is found in foods like organ meats, dairy, and eggs. This form of vitamin A is readily absorbed by the body and needs no conversion to be used.
  1. Provitamin A carotenoids. This form, found in plant-based sources of vitamins like fruits and vegetables, is called carotenoids. These are absorbed in the small intestine and then converted into vitamin A by the body. The most common type of carotenoid is beta-carotene. 

While both forms of vitamin A are usable, provitamin A takes additional steps and isn’t as easy for the body to absorb as preformed vitamin A. How much vitamin A one person will get from consuming provitamin A carotenoids is variable, and depends on their own biology.

How Much Vitamin A Do You Need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A is measured in micrograms of retinol activity equivalents, or RAE. This measure explains how much vitamin A can be derived from a particular food or supplement once it has been converted to usable retinol by the body. 

For adults, the RDA is 700 mcg for women and 900 mcg for men. For breastfeeding or pregnant adults, this number increases due to the vitamin A intake needs of a developing fetus or breastfeeding child. 

What Causes Vitamin A Deficiency

There can be numerous reasons why a person may develop a vitamin A deficiency. Even in developed nations, people living in food deserts (places where access to healthy foods is limited) may develop a deficiency. 

Other reasons why you might develop a vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Having liver problems
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Celiac disease
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Having had intestinal surgeries or pancreatic surgery
  • Weight loss surgery 
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pancreatic disease

If these underlying issues are not well managed or addressed, vitamin A deficiency can occur. 

Vitamin A Deficiency: 5 Common Symptoms

If you’re concerned you may be vitamin A deficient, you can check for symptoms. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) considers vitamin A deficiency a moderate problem globally, and a cause of preventable blindness in under-developed nations. 

Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency can include but are not limited to the following.

1. Night blindness (Nyctalopia)

One of the first symptoms of vitamin A deficiency is trouble seeing at nighttime. Night blindness is a form of xerophthalmia or vision-related changes caused by the eye failing to produce the proper pigments for the retina.

Night blindness may begin with trouble seeing in low light, which can be common without a vitamin A deficiency. If left untreated, xeropthalmia can develop into keratomalacia, a common symptom of which is Bilot’s spots.

2. Bitot’s Spots

Another change to a person’s vision that is related to vitamin A deficiency is the development of bitot’s spots. As vitamin A deficiency worsens, the cornea and whites of the eyes become drier, which can result in abrasions. 

Dry eyes can result in abrasions that happen as a result of the inability to produce adequate tears to keep the eye properly lubricated. These spots look foamy or soapy in appearance and are visible on the white portion of the eye. 

3. Corneal Ulcers

The progression of not getting enough vitamin A begins to negatively impact both the cornea and the retina. Corneal ulcers (open sores on the cornea) may form, and eventually, the retina becomes damaged as a result. Eventually, the dryness of the eyes and corneal ulcers impact retinal health to the point of blindness.

4. Stunted Growth

In infants and young children who do not receive enough vitamin A, problems with growth and development may occur. These issues can result in childhood blindness but may also cause a child to develop and grow more slowly than their peers. 

Low vitamin A during pregnancy may result in birth defects, including problems with vision. Most pregnant women taking prenatal vitamins will get high doses of vitamin A in their supplement, which will support growing babies.

5. Skin Issues

The presence of skin irritations like acne or dry skin doesn’t necessarily point to a lack of vitamin A, but increasing vitamin A consumption with dietary supplements or topical products can help. In fact, one of the leading products used to treat severe acne is actually a highly potent form of vitamin A. 

What To Do if You Are Vitamin A Deficient

The amount of vitamin A you get per day usually varies, and it takes months of low levels of vitamin A to create a deficiency. Increasing your daily dose of this fat-soluble vitamin involves eating a more balanced diet and considering vitamin A supplements. Your healthcare provider can help you understand why you may be deficient and help you determine the best course of action for getting better. 

It’s also important to remember that having one or some of these symptoms doesn’t always mean you are showing signs of vitamin deficiency. A simple blood test is needed to determine if your vitamin A levels are within range. 

A Nutrient Deficiency You Probably Do Have

While it is unlikely you are vitamin A deficient, it is possible that you aren’t getting enough pentadecanoic acid, or C15:0. Never heard of it? Let us introduce you to this powerhouse nutrient that helps support the health of your entire body from the ground up.

What Is C15:0?

C15:0 is an odd-chain, essential, saturated fatty acid that was discovered by a team of scientists and researchers studying longevity and healthspan in dolphins. These researchers discovered that dolphins with a higher level of C15:0 in their bodies had fewer age-related illnesses and lived longer, healthier lives. 

They took their research further and published their findings (as it pertained to humans) in 2020. As it turns out, we have a lot in common with dolphins, and C15:0 is now considered the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered since the omegas over 90 years ago. 

What It Does

C15:0 works by strengthening your cells, the very foundations of your health. Your cellular health, the ability of your cells to function properly as you age, largely determines how healthy you will be as you age. In fact, if you have a C15:0 deficiency, your cells are prone to fragility, lipid peroxidation, and early breakdown. These can underlie health conditions associated with poor cardiovascular, liver, and metabolic health. 

Increasing your C15:0 levels supports the health of your cells by restoring their strength, revitalizing their energy sources (mitochondria), and effectively reversing the aging process within the cells themselves. Here’s how it works.

  • Strengthening cellular membranes. When cells lose their shape, they begin to lose their function. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes to fortify and strengthen them. Studies have shown that pure C15:0 improves cellular strength by 80%
  • Clearing damaged cells. Some cells lose their function but don’t reach apoptosis (cellular death). Like zombie cells, they lurk around in our bodies, creating inflammatory responses that can keep us sick. C15:0 activates a molecule called AMPK, which helps to clear out damaged cells. AMPK also regulates homeostatic functions in the body, like glucose uptake and immune function. 
  • Restoring mitochondria. Sluggish mitochondria can lead to less cellular function and impaired functions throughout your body. C15:0 repairs mitochondrial function, boosting cellular energy and decreasing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In studies, C15;0 decreased ROS by 45% and increased ATP levels in cells by 350%.
  • Activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors. By activating these receptors, C15:0 has been shown in peer-reviewed studies to support metabolic, immune, heart and liver health in relevant models. These receptors also help to improve mood and deepen sleep.

C15:0 is vital to your cells and to your entire body, but chances are, you aren’t getting enough. 

How To Test for C15:0 Deficiency

Ask your doctor about checking your C15:0 levels. Studies on the effects of C15:0 suggest that C15:0 should be 0.2% of your total fatty acid count to prevent a C15:0 nutritional deficiency syndrome.

Normal levels are from 0.2% to 0.4% and higher levels may be appropriate to optimize our health. For instance, in blue zones (the areas in the world where residents are consistently living to be 100) C15:0 levels are higher, often above 0.6% of total fatty acids. 

Additionally, your physician can order a complete blood count test, a fasting lipid panel, and a liver enzyme test that can help monitor the benefits of increasing your C15:0 levels.

How Can I Increase My C15:0?

C15:0 is found in trace amounts in whole dairy products like whole milk and full-fat butter. Most of us grew up in households that avoided these products, as dietary guidelines have told us for decades that all fat consumption is “bad.” 

While we now know that not all fat is bad, however, increasing our intake of whole dairy products may not be the best solution. Whole-fat dairy products contain a higher percentage of bad even-chain saturated fats, which are consistently associated with poor health outcomes. In addition, whole dairy foods pack a wallop of calories (including sugars) and require the involvement of cows. 

Additionally, the C15:0 found in full-fat dairy, like the beta-carotene found in plants, has to be broken down by the body before it can be used. These extra steps can make the absorption of C15:0 less efficient. 

A solution? Fatty15

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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Fatty15

Fatty15 is the world’s first C15:0 supplement, which was developed by doctors and scientists to support your long-term health. Fatty15 contains only a single ingredient: a pure, bioavailable, sustainable, vegan-friendly C15:0 powder. 

This once-per-day capsule is:

  • Readily absorbable 
  • Contains just one calorie and no sugar
  • Doesn’t involve cows, making it sustainable and vegan-friendly

Just one capsule per day is enough to help you restore your circulating levels of C15:0, prevent C15:0 nutritional deficiencies, and improve your overall health and wellness.

Micronutrient Goals

In addition to a healthy diet and ruling out underlying health issues, taking a vitamin A supplement may help ensure you’re getting plenty of this essential vitamin, but it might not be necessary. 

C15:0 is an essential nutrient that our bodies require for maintaining our health. Increasing your C15:0 levels is the smart choice for people who want to improve their health from the very foundations: the cells. Fatty15 is the easy way to get the C15:0 your body needs and is recommended by 4 out of 4 future you’s.

Sources:

Vitamin A and Carotenoids | ODS.NIH.gov

Vitamin A | Linus Pauling Institute

Vitamin A Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention | My Cleveland Clinic.org

Vitamin A deficiency | World Health Organization

Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports

A review of odd-chain fatty acid metabolism and the role of pentadecanoic Acid (c15:0) and heptadecanoic Acid (c17:0) in health and disease | PMC

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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