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 micrograms (mcg) of Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE).
|Age Group (in years)||Recommended Dietary Allowance|
|1 – 3||300 mcg of RAE||300 mcg of RAE|
|4 – 8||400 mcg of RAE||400 mcg of RAE|
|9 – 13||600 mcg of RAE||600 mcg of RAE|
|14 – 18||700 mcg of RAE||900 mcg of RAE|
|14 – 18 Pregnancy||750 mcg of RAE||n/a|
|14 – 18 Lactation||1,200 mcg of RAE||n/a|
|19+||700 mcg of RAE||900 mcg of RAE|
|19+ Pregnancy||770 mcg of RAE||n/a|
|19+ Lactation||1,300 mcg of RAE||n/a|
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the US, but it is common in developing countries. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Night blindness
- Decreased resistance to infections
- Decreased growth rate
- Problems with the cornea of the eye, including ulceration and scarring
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 3,000 RAE daily. It is less in children. Symptoms of toxicity include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Poor coordination
Too much vitamin A can cause severe birth defects. Pregnant women, and those who may become pregnant, should not take too much vitamin A from dietary sources and supplements.
Major Food Sources
Vitamin A content
(mcg of RAE)
|Beef liver, cooked||3 ounces||6,582|
|Milk, fat-free||8 ounces||149|
|Whole egg, boiled||1 large||75|
|Sockeye salmon, cooked||3 ounces||59|
The following foods contain carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A.
Vitamin A content
(mcg of RAE)
|Sweet potato, baked in skin||1 whole||1,403|
|Carrots, raw||½ cup||459|
|Mango, raw||1 whole||112|
|Red bell pepper, raw||½ cup||117|
|Cantaloupe, raw||½ cup||135|
|Apricots, dried, sulfured||10 halves||63|
|Spinach, cooked||½ cup||573|
|Tomato juice, canned||12 ounces||42|
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 Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, 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.
- 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.
- Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Reviewed: 02/2017
- Updated: 02/24/2017
Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Henry Ford Allegiance Health or performed by Henry Ford Allegiance Health physicians.
All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.