Health and Wellness

VITAMIN A, a nutrient, benefits people’s health in many ways.

Written by Banani Chakraborty

Vitamin A, a nutrient, benefits people’s health in many ways.

This fat-soluble nutrient is extremely necessary for a healthy body. The human body cannot produce it. You will get it naturally from your foods. Moreover, you can get it through supplements.

It is essential to maintain healthy immunity. Additionally, you need this for your cell growth and differentiation, good vision, reproduction. It is also essential for normal functions of organs such as hearts, lungs, livers, and kidneys.

Vitamin A, a nutrient, benefits people health in many ways:

Generally, you will get two types of this Vitamin in your diet. They are preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl ester) and provitamin

Carotenoids. The active form of it is preformed vitamin A. People get it from animal products. Another type is provitamin A carotenoids. Generally, people get it from plant sources.

What Is Vitamin A?

Actually, it is a generic term. It indicates a set of fat-soluble compounds, not a single nutrient. The main sources are both animal and plant diets. They include retinol, retinyl ester, and retina.

Generally, humans get preformed vitamin A in the animal products, such as liver, dairy, and fish. On the other hand, people get abundant pro-vitamin A carotenoids in plant foods such as vegetables, oils, and fruits.

At first, the human body should convert both forms of this A vitamin in the active forms, namely retinal and retinoic acid in order to use them.

Because it is fat-soluble, therefore the body store it in tissues for later use. The body mainly stores it in the liver as retinyl esters. Afterward, the body breaks down these esters into all-trans-retinol, which fixes to RBP (retinol-binding protein). Now it mixes in the blood and the body can use it.

Although beta-carotene, a provitamin, is an antioxidant, but the human body can convert it to Vitamin A if necessary.

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Why do people take vitamin A?

Generally, people take oral as well as topical retinoids to treat acne, wrinkles, and other skin conditions. Moreover, people use Oral vitamin A to fix the problem of dry eye and measles. Additionally, it can treat some type of leukemia.

Several studies suggest that it is helpful to treat many health conditions such as cataracts, cancers, and HIV. However, further studies are required.

Vitamin A Benefits:

It contributes to performing several body functions. At the same time, it helps to prevent some problems. Below are a few of them.

  • At first, it not only improves vision but also lowers the risk of night blindness and protects age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Secondly, it improves the immune system.
  • Moreover, it helps in muscle, bones, and soft-tissue growth.
  • Besides, it is good for healthy teeth, skin, hair, mucous membranes.
  • Further, it helps to maintain a healthy reproductive system. Added to this, it aids to form a lung in the fetus.
  • May also lower the risk of certain cancers.
  • Furthermore, it helps to prevent infections mainly in the chest, throat, and abdomen.

What is vitamin A used for?

At first, it is extremely important for eye health.

Moreover, it helps to form and maintain healthy teeth, skin, hair, mucous membranes, bones, and soft tissues along with other vitamins. Besides, it can lower the risk of all types of cancer. It is necessary for the immune system, cellular communication, and reproduction. It also helps many organs such as the lungs, heart, and kidneys to function properly.

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Does vitamin A help skin?

Yes, it helps the skin in many ways. At first, it aids in fast healing. Moreover, it controls skin breakouts. It also maintains the skin’s immune system. Besides, it helps natural and effective moisturizing of the skin. Additionally, it is necessary to maintain a healthy dermis and epidermis (the top two layers of the skin). Therefore, it helps you to have flawless skin.

What does vitamin A do to your face?

It helps in quick healing, natural moisturizing, and breakouts prevention as well as improves your face’s immune system. As a result, it can hydrate your face and produce a radiant glow. Additionally, it promotes and keeps the dermis and epidermis layers of your face healthy.  Therefore, it helps to maintain the beauty of your face.

Vitamin A Functions:

It is extremely vital as it helps to perform many bodily Functions in Your Body. It plays a key role in your vision, eye, skin, bone, teeth, immunity, cell growth, fetal development, and many more.

Further, vitamin A facilitates to the maintenance of surface tissues for instance skin, lungs, intestines, and bladder. Besides, it helps for healthy reproduction and fetal growth.

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Role in vision and eye health:

Retinal is the active form of this vitamin. At first, combining with protein opsin it forms a molecule, rhodopsin. You require this for color vision as well as low-light vision. Moreover, it helps to retain and guard the cornea (the outermost layer of the human eye) and the conjunctiva (a thin, clear membrane that covers the front surface as well as the inside of your eyelids).

Prevents macular degeneration:

Vitamin A can protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It can lower oxidative stress and protect macular tissues. Studies showed that a high amount of beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin along with alpha-carotene is able to lower the risk of AMD.

Vitamin A works as a potent Antioxidant:

Provitamin A carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin are predecessors of vitamin A. Most importantly, they contain antioxidant properties. Carotenoids protect against free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules. They generate harmful oxidative stress within the body and help to develop several chronic health issues such as heart problems, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline.

According to several scientific studies, foods rich in carotenoids can fight such health issues and lowers the level of oxidative stress.

May Protect Against Certain Cancers:

Due to antioxidant properties, carotenoid-rich vegetables and fruits may guard against certain types of cancer. Some studies revealed it.

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Vital for Fertility and Fetal Development:

Vitamin A is important for both male and female reproduction as it is necessary for sperm and egg development. It is also vital for Placental health, fetal tissue growth, and care along with fetal development.

Therefore, vitamin A is important for maternal as well as fetal health. It is also essential to those who are trying to conceive.

Boosts Your Immune System:

It also assists the growth and the distribution of certain cells like B-cells and T-cells (a form of white blood cell). These T-cells protect the body from several infections. Therefore, it is helpful for the immune function of your body and protects your body from various diseases and infections.

Foods high in Vitamin A:

Many breakfast bowls of cereal, dairy products, and other foods fortify the preformed vitamin A, retinol. Several fruits and vegetables along with some food supplements contain beta-carotene. The human body can more readily absorb and utilize preformed vitamin A than provitamin A carotenoids.

The human body can effectively alter carotenoids like beta-carotene etc. into active vitamin A. In fact, this process depends on several factors such as food, health, genetics, and medications.

Which foods are high in Vitamin A?

Foods high in this vitamin come from either animal diets or fruits and vegetables. Some of them are

  • Eggs and egg yolks
  • Fortified dairy products and milk (butter, cheese, cream, and yogurt)
  • Liver
  • Many breakfast cereals
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kale
  • Mango.

Vitamin A sources:

Generally, you will get preformed vitamin A in animal foods. The following food sources are rich in retinoid vitamin A.

  • Liver
  • Cod liver oil
  • Beef liver
  • Eggs and egg yolks
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Trout
  • King mackerel
  • Fortified dairy products and milk (butter, cheese, cream, and yogurt)
  • Many breakfast cereals
  • Liverwurst
  • Salmon
  • Liver sausage

Moreover, several fruits and vegetables along with some food supplements contain provitamin A such as beta-carotene, etc. Below are some good sources:

  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kale
  • Red peppers
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkins
  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Swiss chard
  • Pumpkin
  • Dandelion greens
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens

Vitamin A fruits:

Generally, you will get more provitamin A in vegetables than fruits. Nevertheless, the following fruits also provide high levels of this vitamin. They are

  • Mangoes.
  • Apricots.
  • Cantaloupe melon.
  • Papaya.
  • Watermelon.
  • Pink or red grapefruit.
  • Guava.
  • Tangerine.

How much vitamin A per day should you take?

You cannot ingest vitamins at your will. Always try to follow the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) amount. At first, Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) mean the amount of intake of any essential nutrient.  The Food and Nutrition Board judges these levels based on scientific knowledge. This amount is adequate to meet the requirements of a particular nutrient for all healthy persons.

Generally, The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is on daily basis. RDA amount is either in International units (IU) or in micrograms (mcg). If you can ingest it within the limit, then it is good for your overall health.

You can take vitamin A either from your normal diet or from food supplements.

Vitamin A dosage per day:

You will always try to maintain the RDA level. This is good for your overall health.

The RDA amount of Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) is as follows.

Children between 1-3 years need 1000 IU or 300 mcg/day.

Moreover, children in the age group 4-8 years require 1333 IU or 400 mcg/day.

Besides, 9-13 years of children will take 2000IU or 600 mcg/day.

Men above 14 years need 3,000 international unit (IU) or 900 micrograms (mcg)

Females above 14 years will take 2333 IU or 700 mcg/day.

Pregnant women below 19 and above 19 will ingest 2500 IU or 750 mcg/day and 2566IU or 770 mcg/day respectively.

Breastfeeding women of 19 years and above require 4000 IU or 1,200 mcg/day.

The tolerable upper intake levels (UL):

In the first place, it means that you can ingest this amount of a supplement safely. Generally, these doses are much higher than the RDA amount of Vitamin A. In case of deficiency, the doctors may suggest you higher doses to recover vitamin A deficiencies. However, you will strictly follow a doctor’s advice.

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How much vitamin A is too much?

The UL of Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) to 2000 IU or 600 mcg for children between 0-3 years.

The UL for Children between 4-8 years is 3000 IU or 900 mcg. While that is for the age group of 9-13 years is 5666 IU or 1,700 mcg. The UL for Teenagers between 14-18 years is 9333 IU or 2,800 mcg. In addition, the UL for 19 years and above 10000 IU or 3,000 mcg.

However, there is no well-defined tolerable upper intake limit for the other form of vitamin A i.e. beta-carotene.

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International Units and mcg RAE:

In fact, of late, the preferable measurement unit of A Vitamin is mcg RAE instead of International Units (IUs).

1 IU retinol or 1 IU supplement of beta-carotene = 0.3 mcg RAE

1 IU dietary beta-carotene = 0.05 mcg RAE

And, 1 IU dietary alpha-carotene or beta-cryptoxanthin = 0.025 mcg RAE

What are the risks of taking vitamin A?

It is always preferable to maintain the RDA level. However, do not exceed the tolerable upper limit (UL). The high amount of vitamin A may actually bring more harm than good. Even deficiency negatively affects human health.

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Vitamin A Deficiency:

Generally, people get this vitamin from their daily foods. Therefore, its deficiency is very rare in developed countries. However, it happens in developing countries due to poor food habits. If anyone is suffering from its deficiency, then he/she must consult a physician or a dietician. The physician or dietician will suggest the right amount of vitamin A supplements.

W.H.O. recommends deficiency of this vitamin as the main reason of preventable blindness amongst children worldwide.

If anyone has the deficiency, then he may face the following health issues:

  • Night blindness.
  • Keratomalacia, an eye disorder resulting in dry cornea.
  • Xerophthalmia.
  • Infections mainly in the throat, chest, abdomen.
  • Infections like measles and diarrhea.
  • Hamper child growth and development.
  • Anemia and Higher mortality risk for pregnant as well as in the children.
  • Hyperkeratosis, a skin problem, and acne

Groups at Risk of Vitamin A Inadequacy:

The following groups of people are most likely to face inadequate intakes of this vitamin A.

Premature infants.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women in developing countries.

People with digestive disorders or Cystic Fibrosis.

Infants and young children in developing countries.

Vitamin A supplements:

In fact, you get vitamin A from your food as well as from supplements. Multiple studies suggest that a high amount of antioxidants is extremely harmful to the body. This vitamin also acts as a potent antioxidant. Therefore, unnecessary and excessive intake may cause several health problems. Even it may lead to a higher risk of death.

However, consult a doctor before taking any type of vitamin A supplements.

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Toxicity and Dosage Recommendations:

If anyone consumes a single, too high amount of this vitamin over a short time span, then acute vitamin A toxicity may occur. Chronic toxicity or hypervitaminosis A happens when someone ingests extremely high doses (10 times higher than the RDA level) over a longer time period.

At first, the human body, store the excess amount of A vitamin and it reaches an unhealthy state over time. Therefore, a higher intake of it may cause serious side effects.  Even consuming extremely high doses of this vitamin is fatal.

Toxicity due to excess consumption of animal-based preformed vitamin A is treatable with certain medicines such as Isotretinoin. On the other hand, there is no relation between a High amount of dietary carotenoid intake and toxicity. Nevertheless, beta-carotene supplements may increase the risk of lung cancer as well as smoker’s heart disease.

Side effects:

If you ingest too much of any vitamin, then it can negatively affect your health. Therefore, like its deficiency, too much of vitamin A is also risky.

There are a few symptoms of chronic toxicity. The most common side effects are

  • Poor appetite
  • Vision disturbance
  • Joint and bone pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry mucus
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Liver damage
  • Sunlight sensitivity
  • Delayed growth
  • Confusion

Acute vitamin A toxicity is more severe than chronic toxicity. Although very rare, yet the symptoms are more severe such as liver damage and even death (31Trusted Source).


If you are under any medication, then ask your doctor regarding vitamin A supplements. Generally, these supplements interact with some oral acne medicines, some birth control pills, cancer treatments, some blood thinners, and many other drugs.

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Always, try to maintain the RDA amount in normal condition. High doses of this vitamin are also risky. They may cause health issues such as liver problems, lower bone density, birth defects. Regular drinkers as well as people with kidney or liver problems should consult a doctor or a dietician before taking vitamin A supplements.

Bottom Line:

At first, people must be careful about the importance of food in daily life. Generally, people need various nutrients such as Protein, Vitamins, Carbohydrates, Antioxidants, Fats, Minerals, and Cholesterol for good health. If you are following healthy eating habits, then there is no issue.

In the first place, you need to set your food goals. You must add some plant foods, dairy products, three to four fruits, and several green leafy vegetables. Your goal setting for taking these foods will help you to ingest them properly. Always remember not to intake the same food items daily. It is better to take them rotationally.

In fact, you will get Vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble nutrient, naturally in various foodstuffs. It is essential for several important body functions.

Ingest Vitamin A following the above guideline. Before taking its supplement, always consult a doctor.

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Banani Chakraborty

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