When discussing the scourge of tuberculosis that plagued mankind during the 1930s, Price speculated that the same factors that resulted in underdevelopment of the face also caused the underdevelopment of the lungs. New research suggests the validity of Price’s theory. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have found evidence that prenatal vitamin A deficiency results in postnatal airway hyper-responsiveness, a hallmark of asthma. The study, conducted in mice, shows that short term deficit of vitamin A while the lung is forming can cause profound changes in the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways, causing the adult lungs to respond to environmental or pharmacological stimuli with excessive narrowing of the airways (Journal of Clinical Investigation 2014;124(2):801–81). “Researchers have long wondered what makes some people more susceptible than others to developing asthma symptoms when exposed to the same stimulus,” said Dr. Cardoso, senior author. “Our study suggests that the presence of structural and functional abnormalities in the lungs due to vitamin A deficiency during development is an important and underappreciated factor in this susceptibility. More generally, our findings highlight a point often overlooked in adult medicine, which is that adverse fetal exposures that cause subtle changes in developing organs can have lifelong consequences.” Previous studies had shown that retinoic acid (RA)—the active metabolite of vitamin A—is essential for normal lung development. We also know that vitamin A is essential for normal development of the kidneys and the heart—and probably every other organ as well. All the more reason to prepare for pregnancy by consuming foods rich in vitamin A like cod liver oil, liver and grass-fed butter—and continuing these foods during the entire pregnancy and lactation.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2014.