Vitamin A, also called retinol, is a fat-soluble vitamin. Our bodies store fat-soluble vitamins in the liver and fatty tissues. The active form of vitamin A is found in animal tissue. Red, orange, and dark green vegetables and fruits contain precursor forms of vitamin A called carotenoids. Our bodies can convert some of these carotenoids into vitamin A.
Here are some of vitamin A's functions:
Plays an essential role in vision
Plays an important role in cell differentiation and cell division
Helps in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin and hair
Helps with proper bone growth and tooth development
Helps the body regulate the immune system
Plays an essential role in the reproduction process for both men and women
The recommended daily dietary allowance for vitamin A is measured in Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE).
Age Group (in years)
Recommended Dietary Allowance
1 – 3
4 – 8
9 – 13
14 – 18
14 – 18 Pregnancy
14 – 18 Lactation
Vitamin A Deficiency
Here are symptoms of vitamin A deficiency (rare in the US):
Dry hair, broken fingernails
Follicular keratinosis–hardened, pigmented goose bumps on the arms, legs, and hair follicles
Decreased resistance to infections
Loss of appetite
Decreased growth rate
Vitamin A Toxicity
As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin A is stored in the body and not excreted in the urine like most water-soluble vitamins. Therefore, it is possible for vitamin A to accumulate in the body and reach toxic levels. For adults, the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for vitamin A from dietary sources and supplements combined is 2,800 RAE daily. Symptoms of toxicity include the following:
Dry, itchy skin
Loss of appetite
Bone and muscle pain
Vitamin A toxicity can cause severe birth defects. . Pregnant women, and those who may become pregnant, should limit their intake of vitamin A from dietary sources and supplements.
Major Food Sources
Vitamin A content
Beef liver, cooked
Whole egg, boiled
The following foods contain carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A.
Vitamin A content
Sweet potato, mashed
Collards, frozen, boiled
Red bell pepper, raw
Populations at risk for vitamin A deficiency
The following populations may be at risk for vitamin A deficiency and may require a supplement:
People with a reduced ability to absorb dietary fat. Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, fat is required for its absorption. Some conditions that can cause fat malabsorption include
, pancreatic enzyme deficiency, and liver disease.
Children living in developing countries.
Tips for Increasing Your Vitamin A Intake:
Here are some tips to help increase your intake of vitamin A:
Pack cut carrots in your lunch for an afternoon snack.
Slice a peach, mango, or apricot on to your breakfast cereal or oatmeal.
Substitute a sweet potato for your baked potato. Just poke holes in the sweet potato and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes to an hour (or microwave for 6 to 8 minutes).
Eat fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible. Vitamin A can be lost during preparation and cooking.
Steam vegetables, and braise, bake, or broil meat instead of frying. This will help retain some of the vitamin content.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a