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Vitamin A: What Does Vitamin A Do?

The Complete Herbal Guide / Vitamins & Minerals  / Vitamin A: What Does Vitamin A Do?
Vitamin A

Vitamin A: What Does Vitamin A Do?

 Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is broken down into two categories:

  • Preformed vitamin A comes from animal foods
  • Provitamin A carotenoid comes from plant foods

The functions:

  • Helps regulate the immune system to prevent and fight infections
  • Helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skin, and tissues
  • Produces the pigments in the retina of the eye
  • Promotes good vision

How much do I need to consume?

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for vitamin A is listed as International Units (IU) of Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE). This is done to account for the different actions of both forms.

RDA for A:

Age
Males
Females
Pregnancy
Lactation
1 to 3 yrs
1,000 IU
1,000 IU
N/A
N/A
4 to 8 yrs
1,320 IU
1,320 IU
N/A
N/A
9 to 13 yrs
2,000 IU
2,000 IU
N/A
N/A
14 to 18 yrs
3,000 IU
2,310 IU
2,500 IU
4,000 IU
19+
3,000 IU
2,310 IU
2,565 IU
4,300 IU

There is insufficient information to establish an RDA for vitamin A for infants. In this case, an Adequate Intake (AI) has been established:

Age
Males and Females
0 to 6 months
1,320 IU
7 to 12 months
1,650 IU

Where are its sources?

It can be found in animal and plant foods. The animal food sources are better absorbed and used by the body than the plant sources. There are also many foods that are fortified and enriched with vitamin A.

The content of A in animal and plant foods (from beta-carotene):

Food
Amount
Vitamin A
Apricot nectar, canned
½ cup
1,651 IU
Cantaloupe
1 cup cube
5,411 IU
Carrot juice, canned
½ cup
22,567 IU
Carrots, boiled
½ cup slices
13,418 IU
Carrots, raw
1 – 7 ½ inches
8,666 IU
Cheese, cheddar
1 oz
249 IU
Kale, frozen, boiled
½ cup
9,558 IU
Liver, beef, cooked
3 oz
27,185 IU
Liver, chicken, cooked
3 oz
12,325 IU
Milk, fortified skim
1 cup
500 IU
Oatmeal, instant, fortified
1 cup
1,252 IU
Papaya
1 cup cubed
1,532 IU
Peach
1 medium
319 IU
Peas, frozen, boiled
½ cup
1,050 IU
Pepper, red, raw
1 ring
313 IU
Spinach, frozen, boiled
½ cup
11,458 IU
Spinach, raw
1 cup
2,813 IU
Vegetable soup, canned
1 cup
5,820 IU

Do I need to take a vitamin A supplement?

It is stored in the liver, so there is a supply that can be used during short-term periods when intake is not adequate to meet your needs. People with medical conditions that interfere with the absorption of this vitamin may need to take a supplement. These conditions include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and pancreatic disorders. Because this vitamin can be toxic at high levels, it’s best to discuss supplements with your physician.

What happens if I don’t have enough?

Early vitamin A deficiency leads to impaired night vision, and advanced vitamin A deficiency can lead to corneal ulcers, xerophthalmia (dry eye), scarring, night blindness or total blindness. In developing countries, vitamin A deficiency is an important cause of blindness among children. Children with vitamin A deficiency are also more likely to develop diarrhea and respiratory infections than children who are not vitamin A deficient. This deficiency is rare among healthy adults in the United States.  Vitamin A deficiency can also be a problem for people with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, pancreatic disorders, and people who do not consume animal foods.

Is there such a thing as too much?

Hypervitaminosis A is when excess amounts are being stored in your body. The harmful effects of hypervitaminosis A are birth defects, the reduced bone density that may result in osteoporosis, central nervous system disorders, and liver abnormalities. Acute toxicity may result from consuming very large quantities of vitamin A over a short period of time. The symptoms are nausea, vomiting, irritability, drowsiness, altered mental status, anorexia, abdominal pain, blurred vision, muscle pain with weakness, and/or a headache. Elderly people and people who drink alcohol heavily are more susceptible to vitamin A toxicity.

The Institute of Medicine states that “beta-carotene supplements are not advisable for the general population,” although they also state that this advice “does not pertain to the possible use of supplemental beta-carotene as a provitamin A source for the prevention of vitamin A deficiency in populations with inadequate vitamin A.”

The Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) of vitamin A is:

Age
Males and Females
Pregnancy
Lactation
0 to 1 year
2,000 IU
N/A
N/A
1 to 3 years
2,000 IU
N/A
N/A
4 to 8 years
3,000 IU
N/A
N/A
9 to 13 years
5,610 IU
N/A
N/A
14 to 18 years
9,240 IU
use 9,240 IU
9,240 IU
19+ years
10,000 IU
use 10,000 IU
10,000 IU

In the ATBC trial, subjects given beta-carotene had a higher incidence of lung cancer than subjects not given beta-carotene. The Institute of Medicine did not set ULs for carotene or carotenoids. However, the recommendation is that beta-carotene supplements are not advisable for the general population.

 

Herbal Guide Staff

schillemi@thecompleteherbalguide.com

The Complete Guide to Natural Healing believes that food, vitamins, supplements, and alternative medicine can be your best medicine. Our staff will show you the truth about health and wellness, so you can help your family and closest friends get even healthier. You’ll learn exactly what you should do and how to eat to get healthy, exercise to get your leanest, healthiest body and how to take control of your family’s health, using natural remedies as medicine.