Vitamin A is essential for optimal health. It improves skin conditions and night vision; it also boosts the immune system, which helps the body to fight cancer and other diseases. Signs of vitamin A deficiency may include dry, irritated eyes that tire easily, frequent colds, sinus, ear or respiratory problems, skin irritations such as acne or boils, insomnia and fatigue. If you are taking a vitamin A supplement, take steps to increase your body’s absorption to get the maximum benefit.
- Follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) when taking Vitamin A Supplements.
- In 2002, in response to studies that indicated that too much Vitamin A may weaken bones and increase the risk of fractures, the Institute of Medicine lowered vitamin A’s RDA to 3,000 IU daily for men, and 2,333 IU for women. Some vitamin supplement packaging may still list the earlier RDA, which was 5,000 IU for vitamin A.
- The Institute of Medicine has currently set the safe upper limit for vitamin A at 10,000 IU.
- Multivitamins often contain 100 percent of the Daily Value stated on the package for vitamin A. But in some vitamins, however, 20 to 50 percent of the vitamin A is in the form of beta carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A found in some foods and is not toxic even in large quantity.
- Take a multivitamin to get all the vitamin A your body needs. Choose a vitamin that states on the label that its vitamin A is at least 20 percent beta carotene.
- Do not take an additional aitamin A supplement unless you are directed by a doctor to do so. Vitamin A toxicity can occur if you consume very high levels. The amount found in a daily multi-vitamin combined with the vitamin A most people consume in a healthy diet is enough for most people.
- Take your Vitamin A supplement with a meal that contains fat.
- Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best absorbed by your body when you eat it with foods containing fat.
- If taken on an empty stomach or without any foods that contain fats, vitamin A supplements may cause stomach upset, indigestion or heartburn. This also increases the chance that the vitamin could pass through your system without being fully absorbed by your body.
- Choose a multivitamin that contains the RDA of both vitamins A and E. If you are not taking a multivitamin, be sure to take an E supplement with your A, because E is required for your body to absorb the A. If your multivitamin does not contain zinc, take a zinc supplement as well to help your body absorb vitamin A.
- Reduce or eliminate your consumption of the following things, which interfere with your body’s ability to absorb Vitamin A:
- Mineral oil laxatives
- Certain prescription medications, such as several cholesterol-lowering medications and Colchicine, prescribed for gout, among others.
- There is no need to worry about the vitamin A or retinol levels consumed in a balanced diet. However, eating too much of the following foods that are high in vitamin A could lead to health problems: beef and chicken liver, fish oil made from fish liver, and fortified foods such dairy products and breakfast cereals. Vitamin A is found only in animal-based foods unless it is added during the fortification process.
- Beta carotene and other carotenoids found in some fruits and vegetables can be eaten in high quantity without concern for toxicity. These are a precursor to Vitamin A and your body will convert them as needed or pass them through your system. Carotenoids are yellow, orange and red pigments in a plant, visible in the color of fruits and vegetables. Some good sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, tomatoes, peaches, apples and lemons, among others.
- See your doctor if you suspect you have a vitamin A deficiency or if the symptoms you experience are severe, as they could be signs of other medical conditions.
- You should always consult your doctor before making any changes to your vitamins, especially if you are taking prescription medications.
- Vitamin A helps the body to absorb iron, so a prolonged deficiency of A may lead to anemia. Excess vitamin A may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting.
Sources and Citations
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