Is Vitamin A Really That Awesome?

What you should know about Vitamin A

Vitamin A is also commonly known as retinol and beta-carotene. This vitamin is imperative for many bodily functions, such as organic cell growth. In fact, you could say it is the most essential vitamin. This is why it got its generic name of Vitamin A. Okay, fine; maybe that’s not the real scientific reason. But, it’s genuinely one of the most essential fat-soluble compounds to the human body. Learn more about Vitamin A and its many benefits. 

The Difference Between Preformed Vitamin A and Provitamin A?

There are two different forms of Vitamin A available. Both types are in the foods you eat. They are also available through supplements. 

Preformed Vitamin A: This is found in chicken, meat, fish, and dairy. It’s also known as retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. Preformed Vitamin A is considered an ‘active’ form because your body uses it exactly how it’s delivered.

Provitamin A: This is found in plants. It’s considered an inactive form of the vitamin. 

What are the Benefits of Vitamin A?

Many of your bodily functions rely on Vitamin A. So, what does Vitamin A do for the human body? 

  • Eyesight: Many conditions affecting the eyes are a result of a Vitamin A deficiency, including night blindness. Eating beta-carotene rich foods can help slow down the deterioration of eyesight typically brought on by age.  
  • Cancer: While the link between Vitamin A and some cancers aren’t yet entirely known, there is thought that eating plant-based foods rich in Vitamin A can reduce the risk.
  • Immunity: Taking enough Vitamin A will keep your immune system functioning optimally.  
  • Acne: Despite much research, it’s still unclear why Vitamin A helps reduce the inflammation caused by acne. However, many successful treatments for moderate to severe acne include suggesting adding the vitamin to the daily routine. 
  • Bones: To lower your risk of bone fractures, it’s important to take enough Vitamin A.
  • Growth and Reproduction: You need to take sufficient amounts of Vitamin A to support a healthy pregnancy and the growth and development of your baby. However, too much isn’t a good thing either. So, you may want to avoid certain foods, as well as a prenatal vitamin that includes high doses of Vitamin A.
  • Measles: It may reduce the risk of death associated with measles for children more at risk.

What Does Vitamin A Do For Skin?

Vitamins A, C, D, and E are notorious for the effect they have on the skin. Individually, they are beneficial to your health and well being. When it comes to Vitamin A, it is a retinoid, and skin naturally responds well to retinoids when applied directly on the surface. 

There are so many retinol and retinoid-based skin care products available in every department store and drug store, offering everything from sunscreens to moisturizes, to even cosmetics. It’s used to treat both acne and fine lines. Some products may also lessen the appearance of age spots and scars.  

Doctors may prescribe prescription-strength retinol-based cream products, depending on how damaged your skin is. 

Foods Filled With Vitamin A

Vitamin A is easy to get through food sources, which is why deficiency isn’t prevalent in the U.S. 

Best food sources for Vitamin A are:

  • Beef and lamb liver
  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Bluefin Tuna
  • Caviar
  • Goose liver pate
  • Goat cheese
  • Butter
  • Limburger cheese
  • Cheddar
  • Roquefort cheese 
  • Camembert
  • Blue cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrots
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet red pepper
  • Mango
  • Canteloupe
  • Dried apricots
  • Pumpkin (pie)
  • Tomato juice
  • Herring
  • Grapefruit (both pink and yellow)
  • Watermelon
  • Tangerine
  • Nectarine

These are just a few pickings of the many different foods abundant in Vitamin A. 

Signs of Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is more common in underdeveloped countries than it is in the United States. However, it’s the leading cause of childhood blindness in Southeast Asia and is the cause for 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind worldwide annually. 

Some signs you may be deficient in Vitamin A are:

  • Your skin is very dry
  • Your eyes are always dry
  • You have a hard time seeing at night (night blindness)
  • You’re having a hard time getting pregnant
  • If it’s a child, signs of stunted growth
  • You get a lot of chest and throat infections
  • Your wounds don’t heal normally
  • Your skin is breaking out abnormally

Add a daily Vision Pod to your vitamin routine.

Who Should NOT Take Vitamin A? 

Although Vitamin A is essential to your body, certain conditions and medications can cause severe adverse reactions. 

If you’re taking:

  • Blood thinners
  • Bexarotene
  • Hepatotoxic drugs
  • Alli or similar weight loss drug
  • Retinoids

This list may be incomplete. Under any of the above conditions, do not take Vitamin A unless you consult your doctor. 

If you drink substantial amounts of alcohol or have any kidney or liver disease, then do not take Vitamin A without talking to your doctor. 

Disclaimer: If your medication is not listed, it is possible that there are unknown interactions that exist. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that you consult with a health care professional before using any dietary supplements. Many supplements contain ingredients that have strong biological effects, and such products may not be safe for all people.

How Much Vitamin A Does A Person Need?

Any type of dosing is dependent on the age and health of the person. It’s crucial to stay within the healthy dose range. Too much Vitamin A can have a significant impact on your health just as easily as too little can.

  • In children up to 3 years old: 600 RAE* per day
  • In children ages 4-8 years old: 600 RAE per day
  • In children ages 9-13 years old: 900 RAE per day
  • In children ages 14-18 years old: 1700 RAE per day 
  • For most adults: 3000 RAE per day

Too much Vitamin A can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and blurred vision, so do not exceed the recommended daily dose. 

*Retinol Activity Equivalent (RAE) is the new unit of measurement for Vitamin A effective in 2020. 

Long term effects of taking more than the recommended Tolerated Upper Intake Level per day, which is 3000 RAE for adults, for an extended amount of time can:

  • Cause thinning of the bones
  • Liver damage
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Skin Irritation
  • Can cause birth defects in unborn babies if you take too much during pregnancy

Is Vitamin A Fat Soluble?

There are two different varieties of vitamins, fat soluble or water soluble. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is not dissolvable in water. So, to get optimum absorption, you should take your Vitamin A, and any of the other fat soluble vitamins which are D, E, and K, with higher fat foods. Most importantly, your body can store fat-soluble vitamins; whereas, it cannot store water-soluble vitamins.

The best ways to absorb vitamins that are fat soluble are:

  • Take your vitamin along with a higher fat meal.
  • Avoid taking your Vitamin A on an empty stomach: Less of it will be absorbed, and it may cause gastrointestinal upset. 
  • If you eat an avocado with your vitamin, you’re more likely to absorb it more efficiently.
  • It is recommended that you take zinc along with any of your fat soluble vitamins for optimal absorption.
  • Alcohol consumption can prevent your body from fully absorbing Vitamin A and any other fat-soluble vitamins.

Beta carotene has been trending over the years. Some companies, particularly Prenatal, are starting to replace some, if not all of their Vitamin A with acetate/palmitate for Beta Carotene. This is to reduce the risk of toxicity. It used to not be as common, because it was linked to lung cancer for smokers in the early AREDs study for eye health, resulting in the ARED2 study.

To learn more about water soluble and fat soluble vitamins, check out this article: 

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


NIH Vitamin A health sheet