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The known history and evidence of food-based Vitamin A toxicity goes back MUCH further than its "discovery"!

These are the scientific-journal-documented incidences of Poison/"Vitamin A" toxicity that go long into humanity's past.  These were before the discovery of this non-nutrient non-vitamin, so anyone who still argues that food sources would NEVER cause toxicity are simply WRONG.

Also, one cannot take the stance that "Vitamin A from foods is not toxic" and also say "well, except for polar bear liver".  It can't be "absolutely not toxic" and "toxic if you get way too much".  I hope that makes sense, and anyone presenting that argument should be ignored.  The term for what they are doing is an "untenable argument". We will start as far back in human history as we can go, and come all the way up to the year of the so-called "Vitamin A" discovery.

A possible case of hypervitaminosis A in Homo erectus (full PDF attached below)

In the above paper, they discuss this skeleton as being estimated at 1.5 - 1.75 MILLION YEARS OLD (Myr is the abbreviation in the paper).

Following an initial discovery by Bw. K. Kimeu in 1973, sieving operations have recovered the most complete Homo erectus skeleton so far known (Fig. 1) from the Upper Member of the Koobi Fora Formation in Area 103, Koobi Fora, East Lake Turkana in Kenya1,2. The partial skeleton shows pathological changes consistent with chronic hypervitaminosis A. We attribute this disorder to the high dietary intake of animal liver, most probably that of carnivores, during a period when the dietary habits of Homo erectus were changing.

A million-and-a-half years old is a lot older than 1912, right?  The known toxicity of Poison/"Vitamin A" shows up in other places as well.

The paleopathology of the liver.

The mere existence of the word "PALEOpathology" (the branch of science concerned with the pathological aka disease conditions found in ancient human and animal remains) should start to wake up people to the idea that maybe everything "Paleo" isn't automatically healthy by definition!

The first part of the below quote is a re-statement of the paper above, in a way that is easier to understand.

Surfeit of Liver and Hypervitaminosis A [surfeit means an excessive amount of something]

Our oldest evidence relating the liver to disease is indirect, a probable case of hypervitaminosis A in an early human fossil owing to the ingestion of excessive amounts of animal liver.6 The skeleton of a Homo erectus, recovered from a site in Kenya, East Africa and dated to 1.5 million years B.P., showed periosteal bone deposition involving the long bones and skull. Thin sections prepared from the fossilized bone revealed the periosteal new bone to be coarse-woven with enlarged, randomly placed lacunae. The same gross and histologic pattern is seen in modern patients with chronic hypervitaminosis A, invariably owing to misguided self medication.

Just to clarify, they are saying they see the EXACT same bone changes in a FOSSIL from eating too much LIVER, as is seen in MODERN HUMANS who excessively SUPPLEMENT Vitamin A!  THE EXACT SAME GROSS CHANGES (visible without the aid of a microscope) and HISTOLOGICAL CHANGES (only visible under a microscope).

The argument that "food Vitamin A" effects are different in the body than "synthetic Vitamin A" was just shattered, if you didn't catch it.

At this early stage of human evolution, meat eating had been a part of human behavior for only some 200,000 years. Early humans were in competition with carnivores, and some of these interactions might have resulted in carnivores being killed and eaten. As fire had not yet been put to use, the soft liver would have been the only easily eaten part of animal kills. Carnivore liver contains toxic levels of vitamin A, and it may well have taken some period of time before early humans learned to avoid carnivore liver.

(inserting joke here, with sad truth to it) "Hey bro, I heard that before fire, the ONLY legit-Paleo part of animals that could be eaten was the liver.  We should only eat raw liver, bro!  Totally legit.  I heard from some YouTube guy that it is impossible to get too much of anything from liver, ESPECIALLY Vitamin A.  Can't get enough of that stuff if it comes from real liver!  We'll be the healthiest bros around, bro!!!" (/endsadbuttruejoke)

If you sounded like the above "joke" at one time, and your health deteriorated instead of becoming superhuman, I have the answer for you.  I was under the spell of "Paleo logic" for a while too.  At one point I was even making raw-liver-and-frozen-blueberries smoothies!  Not only was it NASTY, but I got more TIRED the longer I did it!  Glad I cured myself of that recipe and the fatigue!  Now I'm here to help others out of the same mess.

The above joke is a caricature of what comes from the epidemic of historical and scientific ignorance being floated around today about this poison.  It is also why the groups who advocate eating lots of liver and organ meats are slowly dwindling (while those who still push it are "doubling down" on more organ meats and will soon see everything fall apart health-wise, no one survives Poison/"Vitamin A" excess forever).

More from the same paper:

Early evidence of pathologic change in the liver comes from the frozen body of an elderly Eskimo woman who died in a landslide on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, some 1,600 years ago.14 Examination of her body revealed the organs to be extremely well preserved, including the liver, and established the cause of death as skull fracture and accidental inhumation, as the trachea and bronchi were packed with aspirated moss. Other findings included coronary atherosclerosis and scoliosis. Histologic examination of the liver showed preservation not only of the portal areas but also of hepatocytes, many of which contained lipofuscin pigment, consistent with her age (as determined by dental and skeletal studies) of 53 years.

Let's just go through some of the medical signs that this woman (~1600 years ago, that's around the year 400 A.D., so she definitely did not have any of the modern "soft living, non-Paleo" problems) had that the "Paleo" crew blames on our modern lifestyles...when it is likely all connected to the Poison/"Vitamin A" toxicity she had from her all-natural-sourced diet that was poisoning her slowly.  The Eskimos/Inuit even had a term for schizophrenia-like state that came about when people ate too much liver, they called it "piblokto".

Social and transcultural aspects of psychiatry

Piblokto or Arctic hysteria appears in Eskimo societies. Seen mostly in Eskimo women, symptoms include screaming, uncontrolled wild behaviour, depression, coprophagia, insensitivity to extreme cold (such as running around in the snow naked) and echolalia. It has been suggested that it may be linked to vitamin A toxicity as the Eskimo diet provides rich sources of vitamin A such as liver of arctic fish.

They knew about the connection, they just didn't know the "vitamin" that caused it!  The Eskimo/Inuit diet is known to be high in MANY Poison/"Vitamin A" sources.

Back to the paleopathology paper.  First, recall the lipofuscin (a pigment) mentioned.  What is lipofuscin?  Does it connect to Poison/"Vitamin A"?

"Lipofuscin is the name given to fine yellow-brown pigment granules composed of lipid-containing residues of lysosomal digestion. It is considered to be one of the aging or "wear-and-tear" pigments, found in the liver, kidney, heart muscle, retina, adrenals, nerve cells, and ganglion cells."

That doesn't sound good to have around.  Pigment, huh?  What "pigments" are necessary to make lipofuscin?  Carotenoids, aka Poison/"Vitamin A", maybe?

Accumulation of carotenoids in brain and heart of animals on aging; the role of carotenoids in lipofuscin formation.

This is not a coincidence, folks.

She had coronary artery atherosclerosis.  First, let us establish the connection between calcification and atherosclerosis.

Calcification in atherosclerosis.

Coronary calcification has long been known to occur as a part of the atherosclerotic process, although whether it is a marker of plaque stability or instability is still a topic of considerable debate. Coronary calcification is an active process resembling bone formation within the vessel wall and, with the advances in CT technology of the past decade, can be easily quantified and expressed as a coronary artery calcium (CAC) score.

OK, got the connection.  Is there research linking calcification of the cardiovascular system (which includes the coronary arteries, of course) to hypervitaminosis A? Yes. Cardiovascular calcification in rats with hypervitaminosis A.

So shocking to hear that even as "Paleo" a woman as this must have been, that she was still getting heart disease, right? Mind. Blown. (sarcasm)

What about that scoliosis that was mentioned?  She probably wasn't sitting all day, and was likely extremely active every day doing quite "Paleo-ish" activities.  How could her spine have been twisting if her lifestyle and diet were so great?  Is there any connection in the literature between hypervitaminosis A and scoliosis?  Yes.

Scoliosis means an "abnormal lateral curvature of the spine".  Scoliosis from excess Poison/"Vitamin A" in fish:


Nutritional vitamin A imbalance implied the appearance of vertebral deformities. Vitamin A overdose might induce vertebral deformities in gilthead sea bream juveniles through an advanced bone mineralization, their consequent higher mechanical load at vertebral end-plates and its down-stream bone remodelling process (Fernández et al., 2012). Hypervitaminosis A accelerates the development of the vertebral column through precocious mineralization (Vasan and Lash, 1975) and may cause skeletal deformities like vertebral curvatures (Hilton, 1983; Dedi et al., 1997), vertebral compression (Dedi et al., 1997; Takeuchi et al., 1998), vertebral fusion (Dedi et al., 1997; Takeuchi et al., 1995) and jaw deformities (Haga et al., 2003). According to Fernández et al (2008) gilthead sea bream larvae are very sensitive to dietary levels of vitamin A. Higher levels of dietary vitamin A than those included in a commercial emulsion for rotifer enrichment led to different levels and typologies of skeletal deformities.

Make sure to pay close attention to the next one.  It discusses hypervitaminosis A and scoliosis, and specifically says what will RESOLVE upon correcting the DIETARY problem!  Scoliosis from excess Poison/"Vitamin A" in dogs and cats:

Handbook of Small Animal Practice (Fifth Edition) - this book is aimed towards dogs and cats

Definition and Causes

I. Hypervitaminosis A is a metabolic disease caused by prolonged excessive intake of vitamin A through supplements or diet (e.g., raw liver, milk).
Hey, there's those "real, whole food sources of Vitamin A" being mentioned as a PROBLEM again!
II. Hypervitaminosis A causes metaphyseal flaring, retards longitudinal growth of bone, and depresses periosteal osteoblastic activity (Herron, 1993).

"Retards longitudinal [lengthwise] growth of bone."  Let me translate that.  If you're a woman who got on the "high Vitamin A foods and/or supplements including cod liver oil" train before and/or during your pregnancy...and your kids seem to be shorter than they should've been poisoned, and they have been poisoned ALL need to get this garbage out of your systems.

III. Osteophytes and exostoses [these are both problems of bones growing bigger where they are NOT supposed to, as in ALL types of arthritis] occur on the occipital bone and cervical and thoracic vertebrae, and they have been associated with sternebrae, ribs, and periarticular regions of long bones.
Clinical Signs
I. Depression and reluctance to groom

Know any depressed people?

II. Neck pain, ventriflexion

I'm just going to throw this out there.  "Forward head posture" is railed on by everyone these days, and it's not a good thing.  Ventriflexion mentioned above means "ventral flexion of the neck so that the head is carried near the knees".  This would be the dog/cat equivalent of "forward head posture".  What if this postural epidemic of the modern world was actually caused by Poison/"Vitamin A"???  Science shows it CHANGES YOUR BONES, folks!

III. Lameness [unable to walk correctly] or paresis [muscle weakness, partial paralysis] of one or both thoracic limbs.

Ever hear of "frozen shoulder"?


I. Diagnosis is based on dietary history [#1 thing!], clinical signs, laboratory findings, and radiography.

Diet, diet, diet.  Did I mention that this problem happens from foods ALL THE TIME?

II. Serum vitamin A is usually [usually means NOT ALWAYS!] elevated (normal range, 50 to 200 μg/dL) (Polizopoulou, 2005).

Serum retinol, the standard blood test for Poison/"Vitamin A", is not good at finding the problem at all, for multiple reasons.  The first one is mainly that the "normal" ranges are set way too high.

III. Radiographs [x-rays] reveal exostoses, cervical scoliosis, and ankylosis.

Scoliosis, you say?  Interesting!  So if it happens in fish, dogs, and you think it could happen in humans too?  Only makes sense!

Ankylosis, you say?  Like in ankylosing spondylitis?  More interesting!

Differential Diagnosis

I. Mucopolysaccharidosis
II. Cervical disk disease
III. Osteochondromatosis

I'm sure no one reading this knows anyone with spinal disk problems, right? (sarcasm)


I. Provide an appropriate, balanced diet from an elevated position to reduce cervical motion.
II. Meloxicam 0.2 mg/kg SC, PO once or 0.1 mg/kg PO SID for 3 to 4 days may provide temporary analgesia (Mathews, 2000).

Monitoring of Animal

I. Bony changes cease after the diet is corrected.

Nearly all of the bone-related problems correct themselves when the diet is corrected (after they have the time for remodeling, of course).  Human and animal bodies have always been capable of AMAZING things when they are NOT BEING POISONED!

II. Some remodeling may occur over the long term, but epiphyseal damage and ankylosis are irreversible.
III. Periodic physical and radiographic evaluations are performed to monitor disease resolution.

When the dietary problem is removed, the body eventually can correct nearly all the damage. When are you going to get started on this yourself? Nothing happens until the first step is taken!

Let's get into some more recent cases, leading up to the time that Poison/"Vitamin A" was discovered.

Hypervitaminosis A and fractures.

The toxicity of certain foods that contain high amounts of vitamin A has been recognized for centuries.

I just need to stop here.  Toxicity...certain foods...high amounts of Vitamin A...recognized for CENTURIES.  Seriously, how do people still try to say that foods are not a problem!?!?

The 1597 diary of Gerrit de Veer, which he wrote while taking refuge in the winter in Nova Zembla during an attempt to reach Indonesia by the northern passage, states that he and his men became gravely ill after eating polar-bear liver. They feared for their lives but ultimately recovered. De Veer’s diary also notes widespread and striking desquamation during recovery.1

We're still looking at 400+ years ago.  There is nothing in the "nutrient" world that is anywhere near as toxic as Poison/"Vitamin A"...even from "natural" sources.

"They feared for their lives..."  So they actually THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO DIE.  Let's take that to the next level then, shall we?  Has eating large amounts of liver actually ever killed anyone?  Yes.

Xavier Mertz (yes, this is a Wikipedia link, get over're welcome to check the source references, they are all still hyperlinked below)

Xavier Mertz (6 October 1882 – 8 January 1913) was a Swiss explorer, mountaineer and skier, from Basel. He took part in the Far Eastern Party, a 1912–1913 component of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, which claimed his life. The Mertz Glacier is named after him.
On 14 December, the party were more than 311 miles (501 km) from the Cape Denison hut. As Mertz skied ahead, singing songs from his student days, Ninnis, the largest sledge and the strongest dog team were lost when they broke through the snow lid of a crevasse.[27][28] Together with the death of their companion, Mawson and Mertz were now severely compromised; on the remaining sledge they had just ten days' worth of food, and no food for the dogs.[29]They immediately turned back west, gradually using the six remaining dogs to supplement their food supply; they ate all parts of the animals, including their livers.[30]
A 1969 study by Sir John Cleland and R. V. Southcott of the University of Adelaide concluded that the symptoms Mawson described—hair, skin and weight loss, depression, dysentery and persistent skin infections—indicated the men had suffered hypervitaminosis A, an excessive intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A is found in unusually high quantities in the livers of Greenland Dogs, of which both Mertz and Mawson consumed large amounts;[46] indeed, as Mertz's condition deteriorated, Mawson may have given him more of the liver to eat, believing it to be more easily digested.[47]

1912 was the year Poison/"Vitamin A" was discovered, Xavier Mertz was killed by eating sled dog liver in 1913.

Please show this post to any of the interwebz nutrition gurus claiming that one cannot get hypervitaminosis A from liver or whole foods, and that the historical/medical evidence for the real problem is more than a million years old.

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Dr. Garrett Smith, the "Nutrition Detective"
Licensed Naturopathic Physician (NMD) in Arizona, home of the Love Your Liver program
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