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Vitamin A

salad_spinach_eating_pregnancy 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.

Functions

Here are some of vitamin A's functions:

Recommended Intake:

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
FemalesMales
1 – 3300 mcg of RAE300 mcg of RAE
4 – 8400 mcg of RAE400 mcg of RAE
9 – 13600 mcg of RAE600 mcg of RAE
14 – 18700 mcg of RAE900 mcg of RAE
14 – 18 Pregnancy750 mcg of RAEn/a
14 – 18 Lactation1,200 mcg of RAEn/a
19+700 mcg of RAE900 mcg of RAE
19+ Pregnancy770 mcg of RAEn/a
19+ Lactation1,300 mcg of RAEn/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:

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:

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

FoodServing size Vitamin A content
(mcg of RAE)
Beef liver, cooked3 ounces6,582
Milk, fat-free8 ounces149
Whole egg, boiled1 large75
Sockeye salmon, cooked3 ounces59

The following foods contain carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A.

FoodServing size Vitamin A content
(mcg of RAE)
Sweet potato, baked in skin 1 whole1,403
Carrots, raw½ cup459
Mango, raw1 whole112
Red bell pepper, raw½ cup117
Cantaloupe, raw½ cup135
Apricots, dried, sulfured10 halves63
Spinach, cooked½ cup573
Tomato juice, canned12 ounces42

Health Implications

Populations at risk for vitamin A deficiency

The following populations may be at risk for vitamin A deficiency and may require a supplement:

Tips for Increasing Your Vitamin A Intake:

Here are some tips to help increase your intake of vitamin A:

RESOURCES:

American Society for Nutrition
http://www.nutrition.org

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Vitamin A. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A. Updated February 2015. Accessed February 24, 2016.

Fairfield KM, Fletcher RH. Vitamins for chronic disease prevention in adults: Scientific review. JAMA. 2002;287(23):3116-3126.

Vitamin A. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional. Updated August 31, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.

Vitamin A deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115371/Vitamin-A-deficiency. Updated February 16, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2017.

Vitamin A Toxicology. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T526141/Vitamin-A#Toxicology. Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2017.

Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 2/24/2017