Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays important roles in our vision, immune system, reproduction and cell communication.
Vitamin A is a group of chemical compounds called retinoids: retinol, retinal and retinoic acid. Retinol needs to always be transformed into retinal or retinoic acid for the body to be able to use them. Most of the body Vitamin A is stored in the liver as retinoic acid.
There are two ways of obtaining your Vitamin A:
From plant food in the form of pro-vitamin A - these are carotenoids that get converted into retinol in the small intestine and liver to its active forms
Plants high in carotenoids: sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin (in general orange looking plants) but also spinach, asparagus, dark leafy greens, broccoli
From animal product as pre-formed Vitamin A where the job has been done for us
Animal products high in Vitamin A: eggs meet, liver, milk
Vitamin A functions
Eyesight - Vitamin A plays a critical role in the protein Rhodopsin, which converts light into the electrical signal needed for vision. Vitamin A also aids the health of the cornea
Immunity - enhances the immune response and supports the first line of defence
Reproduction - Vitamin A contributes to embryonic health, egg development and the formation of sperm
Cell differentiation and gene expression
Skin - vitamin A contributes to healthy regeneration of the skin and collagen integrity
Your Vitamin A needs
The recommended daily dosage for people age 14 - 51+ years old is 900 mcg RAE for man and 700 mcg RAE in women. Please note these increases in pregnancy and during lactation.
One mcg RAE (Retinol Activity Equivalent) is equivalent to:
= 1 mcg retinol,
= 2 mcg supplemental beta-carotene
= 12 mcg dietary beta-carotene
= 24 mcg dietary alpha-carotene or beta-cryptoxanthin (these are carotenoids)
For reference 1 whole sweet potato baked with the skin on should give me the required daily dose of Vitamin A. Liver can contain up to 700% of the recommended daily intake.
Taking vitamin A as a supplement can become toxic so speak to a healthcare professional before supplementing.
Deficiency of Vitamin A is quite rare due to the wide availability in plant and animal foods. Signs of deficiency are the following: night blindness, sensitivity to light, reduced skin integrity such as acne, dry skin or recurrent infections.
Disclaimer: We are all so unique in our own ways so this information is for education purposes only. If you are pregnant or have any conditions please speak to your doctor about your circumstances or check contraindication and medication interactions.