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Vitamin A

Supplement Forms/Alternate Names

Retinol

Introduction

Vitamin A is found in apples, dairy, and greens. Vitamin A helps the body fight off illness and improve vision. It has been used to help fight off infections in infants and to help the body fight off viruses like HIV and measles. It is used in people who lack vitamin A. Vitamin A can be taken as a pill. It can also be applied to the skin and injected into muscle by a healthcare provider.

Dosages

No more than 10,000 international units (IU) per day.

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Age-related cataracts —likely to lower the risk B1
  • HIV infection in children —likely to lower mortality and improve short-term growth F1, F2
  • Oral leukoplakia —likely to heal oral sores L1

May Be Effective

  • Glaucoma —may provide benefit E1 Measles—may prevent measles mortality in children J1, J2

May Not Be Effective

  • Infant support —may not provide benefit I1-I6
  • Miscarriage —may not prevent K1

Unlikely to Be Effective

  • Fracture risk —unlikely to lower the risk of fracture D1, D2
  • Pregnancy support —unlikely to provide benefit N1-N3
  • Retinopathy of prematurity —unlikely to provide benefit P1

Not Enough Data to Assess

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to take vitamin A in small doses for a short time. It may not be safe to take large doses for a long period.

  • People who are sensitive to vitamin A products should talk to their doctors first.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their doctors before taking Vitamin A. It is not safe to take large amounts during pregnancy.

Interactions

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as:

 

References

A. Acute Diarrhea and Gastroenteritis in Children

A1. Florez ID, Veroniki AA, et al. Comparative effectiveness and safety of interventions for acute diarrhea and gastroenteritis in children: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2018 Dec 5;13(12):e0207701.

B. Age-Related Cataract

B1. Wang A, Han J, et al. Association of vitamin A and β-carotene with risk for age-related cataract: a meta-analysis. Nutrition. 2014 Oct;30(10):1113-1121.

C. All-Cause Mortality

C1. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, et al. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;(3):CD007176.

C2. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, et al. Meta-regression analyses, meta-analyses, and trial sequential analyses of the effects of supplementation with beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E singly or in different combinations on all-cause mortality: do we have evidence for lack of harm? PLoS One. 2013 Sep 6;8(9):e74558.

D. Fracture Risk

D1. Wu AM, Huang CQ, et al. The relationship between vitamin A and risk of fracture: meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Bone Miner Res. 2014 Sep;29(9):2032-2039.

D2. Zhang X, Zhang R, et al. The Effect of Vitamin A on Fracture Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Sep 10;14(9). pii: E1043.

E. Glaucoma

E1. Ramdas WD, Schouten JSAG, et al. The Effect of Vitamins on Glaucoma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 16;10(3). pii: E359.

F. HIV Infection in Children

F1. Humphreys EH, Smith NA, et al. Prevention of diarrhoea in children with HIV infection or exposure to maternal HIV infection. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jun 16;(6):CD008563.

F2. Irlam JH, Siegfried N, et al. Micronutrient supplementation for children with HIV infection. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Oct 11;(10):CD010666.

G. HIV Support

G1. Wiysonge CS, Ndze VN, et al. Vitamin A supplements for reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;9:CD003648.

H. Pregnancy Support in Women with HIV Infection

H1. Siegfried N, Irlam JH, et al. Micronutrient supplementation in pregnant women with HIV infection. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;(3):CD009755.

Infant Support

I1. Imdad A, Yakoob MY, et al. Impact of vitamin A supplementation on infant and childhood mortality. BMC Public Health. 2011 Apr 13;11 Suppl 3:S20.

I2. Mayo-Wilson E, Imdad A, et al. Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011 Aug 25;343:d5094.

I3. Gogia S, Sachdev HS. Vitamin A supplementation for the prevention of morbidity and mortality in infants six months of age or less. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Oct 5;(10):CD007480.

I4. Darlow BA, Graham PJ, et al. Vitamin A supplementation to prevent mortality and short-and long-term morbidity in very low birth weight infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;(8):CD0000501

I5. Imdad A, Mayo-Wilson E, et al. Vitamin A supplementation for preventing morbidity and mortality in children from six months to five years of age. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;3:CD008524.

I6. Haider BA, Sharma R, et al. Neonatal vitamin A supplementation for the prevention of mortality and morbidity in term neonates in low and middle income countries. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;2:CD006980.

J. Measles

J1. Sudfeld CR, Navar AM, et al. Effectiveness of measles vaccination and vitamin A treatment. Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Apr;39 Suppl 1:i48-55.

J2. D’souza RM, D’souza R. Vitamin A for treating measles in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD001479.

K. Miscarriage

K1. Balogun OO, da Silva Lopes K, et al. Vitamin supplementation for preventing miscarriage. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 May 6;(5):CD004073.

L. Oral Leukoplakia

L1. Lodi G, Franchini R, et al. Interventions for treating oral leukoplakia to prevent oral cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jul 29;7:CD001829.

M. Postpartum Support

M1. Oliveira JM, Allert R, et al. Vitamin A supplementation for postpartum women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Mar 25;3:CD005944.

N. Pregnancy Support

N1. Thorne-Lyman AL, Fawzi WW. Vitamin A and carotenoids during pregnancy and maternal, neonatal and infant health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2012 Jul;26 Suppl 1:36-54.

N2. McCauley ME, van den Broek N, et al. Vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy for maternal and newborn outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Oct 27;(10):CD008666.

N3. Cruz S, da Cruz SP, et al. Impact of Vitamin A Supplementation on Pregnant Women and on Women Who Have Just Given Birth: A Systematic Review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2018 Mar-Apr;37(3):243-250.

O. Retinitis Pigmentosa

O1. Rayapudi S, Schwartz SG, et al. Vitamin A and fish oil for retinitis pigmentosa. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(12):CD008428.

P. Retinopathy of Prematurity

P1. Fang JL, Sorita A, et al. Interventions To Prevent Retinopathy of Prematurity: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2016 Apr;137(4). pii: e20153387.

Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC  Last Updated: 3/26/2020