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Vitamin A

What is vitamin A?

What does Vitamin A do?

Major benefits

Additional skin care benefits

How much do you need and daily recommended dosage

Foods that contain and supply vitamin A and beta carotene

Buying Vitamin a supplements

How to take vitamin A supplements

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What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is a fat-soluble nutrient stored in the liver. Your body gets part of its vitamin A from animal fats and makes part in the intestine from beta-carotene and other carotenoids in fruits and vegetables.  Vitamin A is present in your body in various forms called retinoids, which is so named because this vitamin is essential to the health of the retina of the eye.

 

What does Vitamin A do?

  • prevents night blindness and maintains eye health
  • maintains the skin and cells that line the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts
  • treats skin disorders
  • heals wounds, burns and ulcers
  • helps build teeth and bones
  • eases inflammatory bowel disease
  • it is vital for normal reproduction, growth and development 
  • crucial to the immune system 

 

Major benefits of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is best known for its ability to maintain vision, especially night vision.  It helps the eye adjust from bright light to darkness.  It can also alleviate dry eye.

By boosting the immune system, vitamin A greatly strengthens resistance to infections, including sore throat, colds, flu, and bronchitis.  It may also help to combat cold sores and shingles (caused by herpes), warts (viral skin infection), eye infections, and vaginal yeast infections.  It may even control allergies for some people.

Vitamin A may help the immune system battle against breast and lung cancers and improve survival rates in those with leukemia.  In addition, animal studies suggest that vitamin A inhibits melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.  Another benefit for cancer patients is that vitamin A may enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

 

Additional skin care benefits

Vitamin A was first used in the 1940's to treat skin disorders but the doses were high and toxic.  Safer forms of vitamin A derivatives were later developed, notably retinoic acid which includes the acne and antiwrinkle cream Retin-A.

Lower doses of vitamin A (25,000 IU a day) can be used to treat a range of skin conditions, including acne, dry skin, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.  

Vitamin A also promotes healing of skin wounds and can be applied to cuts, scrapes and burns. It may speed up recovery from sprains and strains.

Women with heavy or prolonged menstrual periods are sometimes deficient in Vitamin A, so supplements may be of value in treating this condition as well. 

 

How much do you need and what is the recommended daily dosage for Vitamin A?

The RNI for vitamin A is about 2,600 IU (800 RE - retinol equivalents) a day for women, and 3,300 IU (1,000 RE) a day for men.  Higher doses are typically given for specific conditions for a short time.  

You can't overdose on vitamin A from eating carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables because your body converts only as much as it needs.  Unless you eat a lot of liver or oily fish, it's almost impossible to get too much vitamin A from your diet.  However, vitamin A can build up to toxic levels, so be careful not to get too much.  Before taking vitamin A supplements, make sure you don't get the required daily dosage from your diet first, or talk with your doctor. Never, ever diagnose yourself!

Signs of overdose or toxicity include dry, cracking skin and brittle nails, hair that falls out easily, bleeding gums, weight loss, irritability, fatigue, and nausea.

Foods that supply vitamin A

  • fish
  • egg yolks
  • butter
  • organ meats such as liver (3 ounces of liver = more than 9,000 UI)
  • fortified milk (check the label to be sure)
  • dark green, yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of beta-carotene which the body turns into vitamin A 

 

Buying Vitamin A supplements

 

How to take Vitamin A supplements

Take vitamin A supplements with food;  a little fat in the diet aids absorption.  Vitamin E and zinc help he body use vitamin A which in turn boosts absorption of iron from foods.

Multivitamins supply vitamin A sometimes in the form of beta-carotene.  For specific complaints in adults, up to 10,000 IU per day is generally safe for long-term use.  As a broad guideline, taking 25,000 IU a day can be safe for up to a month.  Pregnant women and those who want to get pregnant should not exceed 5,000 IU a day.

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