What is vitamin A?
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s absorbed by the body through fatty tissue and then stored in these tissues or in the liver
What does vitamin A do?
Vitamin A contributes to:
- A healthy immune system as it:
- is involved in the production and function of white blood cells
- helps maintain the mucous barriers in the eyes, lungs and gut that help trap infectious pathogens
- Eye and skin health
- Reproductive function
- Gut health
- Bone growth and development
- Assisting the growth and development of babies in the womb
- The proper functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency:
- Eye problems like poor night vision and dry eyes
- Dry skin
- Throat and chest infections
- Poor wound healing
What foods contain vitamin A?
Vitamin A is found mainly in animal products such as:
- Oily fish
- Milk and yoghurt
Beta-carotene found in plants can be converted into vitamin A. The main sources of beta-carotene are:
- Yellow, red and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers
- Yellow fruit such as mango, papaya and apricots
However, levels of absorption and conversion of beta-carotene into Vitamin A by the body can vary from person to person due to a number of factors(1), so those on a vegan or vegetarian diet may need to supplement.
Advice for pregnancy:
Excess vitamin A can harm unborn babies. Pregnant women are advised:
- not to eat liver or liver products as they contain high levels of vitamin A
- to avoid supplements containing vitamin A, including fish liver oil, unless your GP advises it(2).
Please note that Vitamin A can be toxic at high levels so expert advice on supplementation is recommended.
If you want to ensure your vitamins and minerals are at optimal levels, book an appointment at www.privategp.org/book or call 0203 303 0326.
- Haskell, M. J. (2012) ‘The challenge to reach nutritional adequacy for vitamin A: β-carotene bioavailability and conversion—evidence in humans’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(5), pp.1193S–1203S. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19906248
- Vitamin A (2017) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/
- 6 Health Benefits of Vitamin A, Backed by Science. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-a-benefits
- 8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-a-deficiency-symptoms