Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient essential to the human body and plays a key role in many bodily functions, including:

Vitamin A is a key component of the pigment rhodopsin, found in the cells of the retina, which is essential for night vision.

Growth and development
Vitamin A is required for the growth and development of the body’s cells and tissues, including bones, teeth, and skin.

Immune system
Vitamin A helps maintain the health of mucous membranes, which act as a first line of defense against infections.

Vitamin A is essential for reproduction and breastfeeding.

There are two types of vitamin A:

Found in animal-derived foods such as liver, fatty fish, and dairy products.

These are precursors of vitamin A and are found in plant foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cabbage.

What is the daily requirement of Vitamin A?
The daily requirement of Vitamin A varies depending on age, sex, and other conditions, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. Amounts are often measured in International Units (IU), but can sometimes also be given in micrograms of Active Retinol Equivalent (RAE):

Here are the reference values for the recommended daily intake (RDA) of Vitamin A for adults:

  • Men (18 years and up) 900 micrograms RAE or 3,000 IU

  • Women (18 years and up) 700 micrograms RAE or 2,300 IU

  • Pregnant women (18-50 years) 770 micrograms RAE or 2,565 IU

  • Breastfeeding women (18-50 years) 1,300 micrograms RAE or 4,330 IU

For children, the recommended daily intake varies by age:

  • Children (1 to 3 years) 300 micrograms RAE or 1,000 IU

  • Children (4 to 8 years) 400 micrograms RAE or 1,333 IU

  • Children (9 to 13 years) 600 micrograms RAE or 2,000 IU

  • Adolescents (14 to 17 years) Adolescents (14 to 17 years) 900 micrograms RAE or 3,000 IU for males and 700 micrograms RAE or 2,333 IU for females

These recommendations may vary slightly depending on the reference organization and individual needs. Consult a health professional for personalized advice on your Vitamin A needs.

Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries but can be more common in developing regions where people may have difficulty accessing a balanced diet. Symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency can include:

  • Difficulty seeing in dim light or darkness, a condition called night blindness.

  • Severe eye dryness, a condition called Xerophthalmia.

  • Dry, scaly skin.

  • Growth delays in children.

  • Increased susceptibility to infections.

  • Fertility issues.

  • Developmental delays in the embryo and fetus in pregnant women.

Vitamin A deficiency can be prevented by ensuring a well-balanced diet that includes sources of Vitamin A. These include animal-derived foods like liver, fatty fish, and dairy products. Some fruits and vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and melons, are rich in Beta-Carotene, which the body can convert to Vitamin A. In some cases, a healthcare professional might recommend the use of Vitamin A supplements. However, because excess Vitamin A can be toxic, it’s important not to take Vitamin A supplements without first consulting a doctor.

Excess of Vitamin A
Excess Vitamin A, also known as hypervitaminosis A, can occur if too much Vitamin A is consumed through diet or dietary supplements. Since Vitamin A is fat-soluble, it can accumulate in the body and potentially reach toxic levels. Symptoms of hypervitaminosis A can include:

  • Dry skin and hair

  • Cracks or sores on the lips

  • Peeling skin

  • Fragile or split nails

  • Swelling or pain in the bones

  • Muscle pains or weakness

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting

  • Blurred vision or other vision problems

  • Headache

  • Dizziness or instability

  • Irritability or mood changes

  • Sleep problems

  • Increased intracranial pressure, especially in children

  • Liver damage

  • Hair loss

In pregnant women, excessive intake of Vitamin A can cause birth defects in the fetus.
If you suspect hypervitaminosis A, it is important to contact a healthcare professional. In many cases, reducing or stopping the intake of Vitamin A will resolve the symptoms. In some cases, however, medical treatment may be necessary. Always remember that while Vitamin A is essential for health, as with all nutrients, it’s important to consume it in moderate amounts. Always consult a doctor or dietitian if you need advice on vitamin or mineral supplementation.