Vitamin A is important for many bodily functions including proper vision, a strong immune system, reproduction and good skin health.
There are two types of vitamin A found in foods:preformed vitamin A
and provitamin A
Preformed vitamin A is also known as retinol and commonly found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
For Provitamin A the body converts carotenoids in plant foods, such as red, green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, into vitamin A
Here are signs and symptoms of insufficiency of vitamin A.
Vitamin A is important for the creation and repair of skin cells. It also helps fight inflammation due to certain skin issues
Not getting enough vitamin A may be to blame for the development of eczema and other skin problem
Eczema is a condition that causes dry, itchy and inflamed skin. Several clinical studies have shown alitretinoin, a prescription medication with vitamin A activity, to be effective in treating eczema
In one 12-week study, people with chronic eczema who took 10–40 mg of alitretinoin per day experienced up to a 53% reduction in their symptoms
Keep in mind that dry skin can have many causes, but chronic vitamin A deficiency may be the reason.
Eye problems are some of the most well-known issues related to insufficiency
of vitamin A .
In extreme cases, not getting enough vitamin A can lead to complete blindness or dying corneas, which are characterized by marks called Bitot’s spots
Dry eyes, or the inability to produce tears, is one of the first signs
Supplementing with vitamin A can improve this condition.
One study found that high doses of vitamin A decreased the prevalence of dry eyes by 63% among infants and children who took supplements for 16 months (Source).
Several observational studies have reported a high prevalence of night blindness in developing nation (Source1 , Source2 , Source3 )
Due to the extent of this problem, health professionals have worked to improve vitamin A levels in people at risk of night blindness.
In one study, women with night blindness were given vitamin A in the form of food or supplements. Both forms of vitamin A improved the condition. The women’s ability to adapt to darkness increased by over 50% over six weeks of treatment (Source)
Children who do not get enough vitamin A may experience stunted growth. This is because vitamin A is necessary for the proper development of the human body.
Several studies have shown that vitamin A supplements, alone or with other nutrients, can improve growth. Most of these studies were conducted in children in developing nations (Source , Source2 , Source3 )
In fact, a study in over 1,000 children in Indonesia found that those with vitamin A insufficiency who took high-dose supplements over four months grew 0.15 inches (0.39 cm) more than children who took a placebo (Source)
However, a review of studies found that supplementing with vitamin A in combination with other nutrients may have a greater impact on growth than supplementing with vitamin A alone (Source).
For example, children with stunted growth in South Africa who received multiple vitamins and minerals had length-for-age scores that were half a point better than those who received only vitamin A (Source).
Dangers of Too Much Vitamin A
Vitamin A is valuable to overall health. However, too much of it can be dangerous.
Hypervitaminosis A, or vitamin A toxicity, typically results from taking high-dose supplements over long periods of time. People rarely get too much vitamin A from diet alone (Source).
Excess vitamin A is stored in the liver and can lead to toxicity and problematic symptoms, such as vision changes, swelling of the bones, dry and rough skin, mouth ulcers and confusion.
Pregnant women should be especially careful not to consume too much vitamin A to prevent possible birth defects.
Always check with your healthcare provider before starting vitamin A supplements.
People with certain health conditions may need a higher amount of vitamin A. However, most healthy adults need 700–900 mcg per day. Women who are nursing need more, while children need less (Source).