Vitamin A Benefits, Deficiency and Toxicity

Getting enough vitamin A is absolutely essential for maintaining overall health, as vitamin A is both an important fat-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant. In addition to its antioxidant properties, it also plays a critical role in eye health and vision functions, healthy skin formation, neurological functions, hormonal and reproductive health. A lack of vitamin A can cause some frightening consequences, from night blindness to scaly and unhealthy skin to growth deficiencies. However, it is equally important to strike the right balance, as overusing supplements can cause serious problems such as birth defects and liver damage.

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A was the first to be found and was defined as a “growth factor” in 1913. It is a fat-soluble vitamin with immune-boosting, antioxidant properties. Although vitamin A is often considered a single nutrient, it is actually the name of a group of fat-soluble compounds, including retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters. [one*]

vitamin A; It is available in 2 main forms, retinol and beta-carotene. Retinol is a ‘preformed’ active form of vitamin A, meaning it can be used directly by the body. Beta carotenes are a vitamin precursor and are not active. After being taken into the body, it is converted into the active vitamin form, retinol.

What’s In Vitamin A? Foods Containing Vitamin A

There are many dietary sources of both Retinol and Beta-carotene.

 Foods high in retinol include:

  • Egg yolk
  • beef liver
  • Butter
  • cod liver oil
  • Chicken livers
  • Salmon
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Uskumru
  • Trout

Foods high in provitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene include:[2*]

  • sweet potatoes
  • Courgette
  • carrots
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Dandelion
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Red pepper
  • black cabbage
  • Parsley
  • pumpkin

Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms, Diseases Seen in Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency occurs when you do not consume enough vitamin A in your diet, when the vitamin you consume is not properly absorbed or converted in your body.

Health problems that may interfere with the absorption of vitamin A include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Being gluten sensitive
  • leaky gut syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis)
  • Pancreatic disorders or impaired bile secretion (bile helps break down fat and absorb fat-soluble vitamins)
  • Liver damage or disease
  • Low stomach acid, heartburn or Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Severe calorie restriction due to eating disorder

Vitamin A deficiency can cause serious health complications. Therefore, it is necessary to correct the deficiency in the early period.

Vitamin A deficiency symptoms: [3*]

  • Night blindness or potential blindness if left untreated (vision changes are one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency)
  • thickening of the cornea
  • Xerophthalmia (dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea)
  • Bitot spots (keratin deposition in the conjunctiva)
  • Dry eyes, dry hair and dry mouth
  • Susceptibility to infections due to impaired immune system
  •  Various skin problems such as cystic acne , flaking or spot formation on the skin, dry scalp and dandruff
  • The baby has a higher chance of having congenital problems during pregnancy
  • Defects in fetal growth and development in infants and children
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Amount of Vitamin A Required Daily

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recommended daily intakes for vitamin A are: [4*]

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0 to 6 months 400 micrograms (mcg)
7 ila 12 ay 500 mcg
1 to 3 years 300 micrograms
4 to 8 years 400 mcg
9 to 13 years 600 micrograms
14 to 18 years 900 mcg for men, 700 mcg for women
14 to 18 years old/pregnant women 750 micrograms
14 to 18 years old/lactating females 1,200 micrograms
19+ years 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women
19+ years/pregnant woman 770 micrograms
19+/breastfeeding females 1300 micrograms


Taking more than the recommended daily amount for several months can cause vitamin A toxicity. This can occur more quickly in infants and children because their bodies are smaller and their immunity is weak.

Vitamin A toxicity can cause symptoms such as liver damage, visual disturbances, nausea, and even death. Vitamin A supplements should be avoided unless prescribed by your doctor.

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Vitamin A Benefits

Vitamin A is essential for our health. It supports cell growth, immune function, fetal development and vision. It has many benefits, such as protecting surface tissues such as the skin, intestines, lungs, bladder and inner ear.

Here are the benefits of vitamin A:

Supports Eye Health

One of the most well-known benefits of vitamin A is its ability to improve vision and keep eyes healthy. This is because it is a critical component of the rhodopsin molecule, which is activated when light shines on the retina and sends a signal to the brain that results in vision.

One study found that people at high risk for the disease had a 25% reduced risk of advanced macular degeneration during pregnancy who took a multivitamin containing vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper daily. [5*]

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Supports Immunity

Vitamin A is involved in the creation of certain cells, including B and T cells, which play a central role in immune responses that protect against disease.

Vitamin A deficiency can weaken immunity and even alter the function of immune cells, according to a review. [6*]

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May Reduce Acne Formation

Acne; It is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease that can have a serious impact on people’s mental health and can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. [7*] It is thought that vitamin A deficiency may increase the risk of developing acne, as it causes excessive production of keratin in hair follicles. [8*] However, its role in acne development and treatment is unclear. [9*]

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Inhibits the Growth of Cancer Cells

According to a published review, retinoids have been shown to inhibit the growth of skin, bladder, breast, prostate and lung cancer cells in intracellular studies. [10*] In observational studies, consuming higher amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene has been associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, including Hodgkin lymphoma as well as cervical, lung and bladder cancer. [11*] [12*] [13*] However, although high vitamin A intake from plant foods has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, the same relationship is not true for animal foods. [14*] Similarly, supplements do not show the same beneficial effects. [15*]

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Supports Bone Health

Vitamin A deficiency is associated with poor bone health. People with low blood levels of vitamin A have been found to have a higher risk of bone fractures than people with adequate levels. [16*] However, when it comes to bone health, high vitamin A levels can be a problem as well as low vitamin A levels. Some studies have found that people who take high amounts of vitamin A also have a higher risk of fractures. [17*]

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Alleviates Inflammation

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant and helps prevent oxidative damage to cells by reducing the formation of harmful free radicals, thereby preventing inflammation.

The anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin A and beta-carotene may have far-reaching effects on health, as inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, from cancer to heart disease to diabetes. [18*]

Contributes to Skin Health

Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of compounds such as retinaldehyde, vitamin A can also be beneficial in the treatment of a wide variety of skin conditions.

A study found that applying retinol to the skin significantly improves fine lines and wrinkles, as well as increases the skin’s ability to withstand injury. [19*]

Research shows that retinoids can be therapeutic for common skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema , and acne. [20*] [21*] [22*]

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Promotes Healthy Growth and Reproduction

Vitamin A is essential for maintaining a healthy reproductive system in both men and women, as well as ensuring the normal growth and development of embryos during pregnancy. Beta-carotene is considered critical in preventing developmental disorders for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. [23*] However, although less common than vitamin A deficiency, too much vitamin A intake during pregnancy can also be harmful to the growing baby and lead to birth defects. Therefore, supplements should not be used during pregnancy without the advice of a doctor. [24*]

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Lowers Cholesterol

Excess cholesterol in the body can build up in the blood vessels, which causes hardening and narrowing of the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease. An animal study in Brazil found that giving rats a beta-carotene supplement for 6 weeks could significantly reduce total cholesterol levels in the blood. [25*]

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Prevents Kidney Stones

Some research shows that vitamin A may help prevent kidney stones. However, more work is needed in this area. It has been determined that those with low vitamin A levels have higher levels of calcium oxalate crystals in their urine, so these children are at a higher risk of kidney stone formation. [26*]

Vitamin A Damages – Vitamin A Side Effects

Having too much vitamin A in the body is called hypervitaminosis A or vitamin A toxicity. The tolerable upper intake limit for adults is 10,000 UI. (3,000 mcg) [27*] Toxicity can also commonly result from excessive supplement intake and long-term use of certain acne treatments containing high-dose vitamins such as Isotretinoin. [28*] [29*]

Acute toxicity occurs after consuming large amounts of vitamin A over a short period of time (typically within hours or days). Chronic toxicity occurs when doses greater than 10 times the RDA are taken over a long period of time. [30*]  Symptoms vary according to whether the toxicity is acute or chronic. Headache and rash are common in both forms of the disease.

Symptoms of acute vitamin A toxicity include:

  • Numbness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • increased pressure in the brain

The most common side effects of chronic vitamin A toxicity, often referred to as hypervitaminosis A, are:

  • visual disturbances
  • joint and bone pain
  • Anorexia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • sunlight sensitivity
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • liver damage
  • Jaundice
  • delayed growth
  • decreased appetite
  • clouding of consciousness
  • itchy skin

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