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Has anyone here done any testing (blood or hair) during their low VA journey?

I am working with Dr. Smith and have had a number of hair and blood tests done over the past 17 or so months of my VA detox. I was curious to see if there are any noticeable patterns that occur in people's test data as they go through this low VA diet. Most people on here talk about symptoms, and while I think we should all be aware of our bodies and its symptoms, I am looking for something more objective.

Here are some data points with additional comments below my "summaries". Note that I was on a VA supplement from Jan 2018 until Aug 2108. In Aug 2018, I stopped VA supplementation and lowered my overall VA intake. However, I took the diet more seriously starting in Feb 2019, so I only count 17 months as true "low VA". 

  • My serum VA level has stayed more or less consistent over the past ~1.5 years (with the exception of one test) despite consuming roughly an average of 81.9 IU of VA daily according to Cronometer. The values of four serum VA tests, each spread roughly 6 months apart, in ug/dL are 59.4, 57.7, 43.0 and 57.0. The dates of blood tests are 1/2019, 8/2019, 1/2020 and 7/2020.
  • The VA detox seemed to disrupt my zinc and copper, which I expected*. The values of four serum/plasma zinc tests, each spread roughly 6 months apart, in ug/dL are 101, 104, 74 and 85. The values of four serum copper tests, each spread roughly 6 months apart, in ug/dL are 92, 76, 83 and 75.  Dr. Smith's optimal ranges for zinc and copper are 100 - 135 ug/dL and 70 - 110 ug/dL, respectively. The dates of blood tests are 1/2019, 8/2019, 1/2020 and 7/2020.
  • My hair calcium is dropping without increased VA intake**. Hair calcium levels since Jan 2018, in units unknown to me (whatever is used by Trace Elements), are 98, 51, 74, 73, 65, 34 and 38. The dates of hair tests are 1/2018, 4/2018, 8/2018, 1/2019, 8/2019, 1/2020 and 7/2020.
  • I began to detox other things through my hair once I stopped VA supplementation circa Aug 2018***.  From Aug 2018 to Jan 2019, Cobalt jumped from 0.001 to 0.011 and remained at 0.004 for the next two hair tests. In Aug 2018, Aluminum was 0.3, jumped to 0.6 in Jan 2019 and then increased to 1.8 and then to 6.0 (super high) on the next two hair tests. Both have come down on my last hair test, which I tested earlier this month (Cobalt came down to 0.002 and Aluminum to 0.8).

* I tend to run on the lower side of optimal serum copper ranges already, but keeping the same level of zinc supplementation suddenly tanked my copper when I started the VA detox. Copper began to come out in my hair (indicated by high hair levels) and reflected as low copper on my blood test. I since reduced my zinc supplementation to avoid dropping my copper too low, but now my zinc is running below optimal levels in the blood.  

** Dr. Smith was taught that VA supplementation will lower hair calcium levels, so when I first began working with Dr. Smith in Jan 2018, he had me taking 20,000 IU of VA daily to bring my hair calcium levels down. After 6 months of 20,000 IUs of VA daily, he had me drop to 10,000 IU daily. Around Aug 2018, Dr. Smith was introduced to Grant's ideas and stopped using VA on his treatment plan. Despite removing virtually all VA in my diet, hair calcium continues to fall. I have not tested my vitamin D levels despite that, in retrospect, it would be very nice data to have due to the antagonistic VA/VD relationship. Prior to working with Dr. Smith, I was taking VD supplements orally (~5,000 IU daily), but stopped in Jan 2018. 

*** Notable detox patterns in my hair test began to show up in the months following the removal of VA supplements in Aug 2018 (my next hair test was Jan 2019). Cobalt immediately shot up and Aluminum levels increased. By Jan 2020, Aluminum jumped significantly higher despite no dietary or lifestyle changes that would cause a huge dump of Aluminum in the hair. I cannot say with certainty what this indicates although I do have a theory.

My plan moving forward is to continue the tests I have been doing (full iron panel, serum copper and zinc, serum VA and a hair test) every six months, but also add blood tests for vitamin D levels, liver health and cholesterol. I might also do a blood test for kidney health just to get more data. 



puddleduck and Ourania have reacted to this post.

I've been low vA since Feb 2019. My only serum retinol test was in Feb 2020 which showed 50 mcg/dL. Blood work has shown that my cholesterol and liver enzymes have normalized since going low vA.

When you had your serum retinol test this month were you experiencing more vA detox symptoms than when you had the previous tests? When you had the test back in Jan where serum retinol was low were you feeling better than normal?

Hair testing has scientific backing for detection of drugs and heavy metals. It's considered to be unreliable pseudoscience when it comes to measuring mineral levels though.


I can't say I have had any noticeable detox symptoms that I can clearly link back to VA detox aside from the first month or two that I really lowered my VA intake (Feb 2019). That first month, I got sick for the first time in years, had brain fog, cold sores, low energy, decreased appetite, peeling skin on fingers, increased cold sensitivity, consistent forehead acne, random muscle/body aches, joint pain and poor sleep. During the first month, raised moles on my skin became itchy and seemed to just fall off after scratching them. This happened to roughly four moles. It was weird and I had no explanation for it. It hasn't happened since.

After the first couple months, some symptoms improved and I have not had any major detox cycles. If there were cycles, they were not noticeable. I more or less have felt the same since April 2019, even in January of this year when my blood levels of VA came back lower than all other tests. The only notable thing that happened since January is that I had a QL spasm. The tightness in my back and hip has persisted for months now and I am hesitant to pin that on VA detox. It was just over training and general stress at work that I am still recovering from.

I get the hair test done primarily for heavy metals rather than minerals, aside from calcium levels. I don't think serum calcium tests provide much information, so I thought the hair test could help shed light on calcium. Maybe a serum PTH test would be better? I only care about calcium levels because I used to follow ideas of Ray Peat (lots of calcium and supplemental vitamin D) and want to see how things change since greatly reducing calcium intake and stopping vitamin D supplements. I believe you are on the Ray Peat forum, no?

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@mmb3664 yes you should test your vit D, PTH and serum calcium. IF your serum calcium is high, PTH is high and D is low. It is clear that you need more D and at least like 600mg of calcium a day. For copper is important to know also ceruloplasmin with serum copper. To calculate how much is free unbound to the ceruloplasmin...


That's odd how serum retinol varies so much, I still think that's probably a detox thing though. Yeah I had intense symptoms for the first six weeks too.

You haven't been megadosing on vA or vD recently so I doubt you'll see anything but a normal value for PTH. If you didn't test PTH when you were Peating then it probably won't tell you much about how things have changed?

Yeah I'm on the Ray Peat forum and I've read a lot of his work but I haven't been influenced much by his teachings, I created an account because of the low vA thread.

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@jiri I did not think of adding ceruloplasmin to the test list. The last time I got ceruloplasmin tested, it was low despite that VA supposedly raises ceruloplasmin levels and I was taking 20,000 IUs of VA daily. I am curious to see if ceruloplasmin levels have increased since my last test or if the levels come up as I continue to detox VA.

@tim-2 I did not test PTH while Peating, so I can't really compare how things were. I only have the hair tests for that. :/
However, I still think it would be interesting/valuable to see the role of VA in calcium metabolism as I detox. If anything, I actually expect high PTH if what this study shows about VA and bone resorption is true. Interestingly, this study said retinyl palmitate alone will not affect PTH, but the authors do point out how VA antagonizes vitamin D. They also state that "Vitamin A is stored in the liver and is secreted slowly from the body. Because of accumulation of vitamin A in the body, chronic exposure can produce toxicity at a much lower dose than acute toxicity, which is elicited by a short period of high-dose exposure. The safe dose for less obvious symptoms such as bone loss is not known". It's comforting to see that the scientists at least recognize part of what Grant is emphasizing: that chronic exposure and accumulation of VA can also produce toxicity, even at low doses. 

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@mmb3664 Yes vit A can increase ceruloplasmin in some studies. But we have no idea if it is good thing or if it is just stress response from the body.. Same with all kinds of plant "antioxidants" etc.. When we look at some test results we simply have no idea what that means. If it's good or bad that some blood marker is high or low lol...

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Hi @mmb3664,

Thanks for sharing your lab results. 

There’s no question that serum calcium levels are increased with vitamin A.

A really good study that studied this effect on calcium, and many other issues including twisted bones, hemorrhages, and sudden death, due to vitamin A toxicity is:

Anderson, Marlin Dean, "The effect of hypervitaminosis A and other dietary factors on the young pig " (1964). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 3834.


BTW, if anyone you know is still believing the fairy-tale that vA is somehow a “vitamin”, then reading this paper might clear that up for them.


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lil chickr

@ggenereux2014 Unfortunately, I am not sure the referenced study would convince a "VA believer" that VA is really a poison or toxin. Most people who believe that VA is a vitamin with many benefits would argue that the fat soluble "vitamins" need to be balanced to avoid any potential complications associated with any one of those four "vitamins". This study could be seen in support of that theory.

One study mentioned in the link was the Clark and Bassett (1962) study that "found that vitamin A (30,000 lU) administered with a toxic dose of vitamin D (60,000 lU) in rats prolonged life, reduced the severity of kidney tissue calcification, and prevented calcification of degenerating muscle fibers and of the intima of large blood vessels compared to the effects of this level of vitamin D alone".

One of the experiments performed by the authors also supports the "fat soluble balance" idea. In Experiment 6421 where the animals were given some combination of the fat soluble "vitamins" (A, D, E, K), the pigs were expected to exhibit symptoms of hypervitaminosis A (or die) very quickly due to the whopping 150,000 lU per pound dose. However, "the pigs in this experiment thrived on the high vitamin A feed". This experiment in particular seemed to have some unanswered questions and the authors summarized the results with "no conclusion concerning the effect of these vitamins on hypervitaminosis A can be drawn from this experiment. "

I am very much of the belief that VA toxicity is real, but I am still not ready to believe that 1) VA is necessarily a toxin/poison or that 2) VA cannot have some beneficial effects, even if it is a toxin/poison. I am still open minded to the idea though.

With that said, I am not sure that science (future or past) will ever provide foolproof evidence one way or the other. Unfortunately, science has always been subjected to bias. Two people of differing views can read the same study or look at the same data, but interpret the results completely differently. Data can be skewed or presented in a way to support a number of conflicting conclusions depending on the data is manipulated. All science and experimentation is flawed because the humans performing the studies are flawed. Context also matters and is not consistent between studies. That's not to say there is no value to science or experimentation, we just need to be aware of the flaws and not believe everything we read.

Clearly, you understand this, as you are challenging the concept of VA being a vitamin. I greatly respect your ability to question what others believe to be some fundamental truth. I believe it shows a high level of intelligence and general curiosity of how things work. 

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Hi @mmb3664,

Thanks for the feedback. I know that overturning people's beliefs in "it's a vitamin" is going to be a marathon, and not a sprint.



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