by Calvagna M

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.


Here are some of vitamin A's functions:

  • Plays an essential role in vision
  • Plays an important role in cell differentiation and cell division
  • Helps in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin and hair
  • Helps with proper bone growth and tooth development
  • Helps the body regulate the immune system
  • Plays an essential role in the reproduction process for both men and women

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
Females Males
1 – 3 300 mcg of RAE 300 mcg of RAE
4 – 8 400 mcg of RAE 400 mcg of RAE
9 – 13 600 mcg of RAE 600 mcg of RAE
14 – 18 700 mcg of RAE 900 mcg of RAE
14 – 18 Pregnancy 750 mcg of RAE n/a
14 – 18 Lactation 1,200 mcg of RAE n/a
19+ 700 mcg of RAE 900 mcg of RAE
19+ Pregnancy 770 mcg of RAE n/a
19+ Lactation 1,300 mcg of RAE n/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:

  • Night blindness
  • Decreased resistance to infections
  • Decreased growth rate
  • Problems with the cornea of the eye, including ulceration and scarring
  • Diarrhea

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:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness
  • Poor coordination

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

Food Serving size Vitamin A content
(mcg of RAE)
Beef liver, cooked 3 ounces 6,582
Milk, fat-free 8 ounces 149
Whole egg, boiled 1 large 75
Sockeye salmon, cooked 3 ounces 59

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

Food Serving size Vitamin A content
(mcg of RAE)
Sweet potato, baked in skin 1 whole 1,403
Carrots, raw ½ cup 459
Mango, raw 1 whole 112
Red bell pepper, raw ½ cup 117
Cantaloupe, raw ½ cup 135
Apricots, dried, sulfured 10 halves 63
Spinach, cooked ½ cup 573
Tomato juice, canned 12 ounces 42

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:

  • People with a reduced ability to absorb dietary fat. Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, fat is required for its absorption. Some conditions that can cause fat malabsorption include Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, pancreatic enzyme deficiency, and liver disease.
  • Children living in developing countries.

Tips for Increasing Your Vitamin A Intake:

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

  • Pack cut carrots in your lunch for an afternoon snack.
  • Slice a peach, mango, or apricot on to your breakfast cereal or oatmeal.
  • Substitute a sweet potato for your baked potato.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible. Vitamin A can be lost during preparation and cooking.
  • Steam vegetables, and braise, bake, or broil meat instead of frying. This will help retain some of the vitamin content.


American Society for Nutrition 

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 


Dietitians of Canada 

Health Canada 


Vitamin A. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at: 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: Updated August 31, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.

Vitamin A deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated February 16, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2017.

Vitamin A Toxicology. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2017.

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