Food & Nutrition

What Does Vitamin A Do

What Does Vitamin A Do

The vitamin A is an important vitamin for our health, which plays a crucial role in correct many systems functioning is essential for the view and the growth of bones and teeth, strengthens our immune system, healthy, keeps skin, the hair, mucous membranes, and also has the ability to protect us from cancer. Discover the properties and benefits of this vitamin, what you risk in case of a deficiency, and which foods to bring to the table always to ensure the right amount.

What Does Vitamin A Do: What’s this

Vitamin A, or retinol, is a fat-soluble vitamin. Unlike other vitamins, such as C, it is unnecessary to take it regularly through food because it can be stored in our body and used as needed for various, important functions. Among these, the immune response, vision, development of the skeletal system, ovarian function,

Vitamin A and carotenoids

The term vitamin A identifies both retinol and its analogs, compounds chemically linked to vitamin A, called retinoids (retinol, tretinoin, isotretinoin, and alitretinoin): it is, in all cases, preformed vitamin A present in food. Through nutrition, our body can also take on the precursors of vitamin A, that is, carotenoids, yellow-red pigments, widely diffused in nature, which the body transforms into vitamins after intake.

Properties and benefits

Here, in detail, are the main functions and benefits deriving from the action of vitamin A.

Growth of the organism

This vitamin is essential for the normal growth of our body. It regulates, for example, the remodeling of bones, which is important for their linear growth and ensures the correct development of the embryo and fetus in pregnancy.

Cell differentiation

This vitamin determines the differentiation of epithelial cells; therefore, an adequate supply ensures many organs and systems’ integrity and functionality. These include the trachea and lungs, the conjunctiva of the eye, the digestive system’s lining, the urethra, and the bladder.

Correct visual function

This vitamin intervenes in the synthesis of rhodopsin, the pigment present on the retina gives the eye sensitivity to light. Therefore it is essential for correct visual function, especially in low light conditions, for example, at night.

What does vitamin a do for the body: Immune response

Among the vitamins, A plays an important role in ensuring the body’s immune response against external aggressions, both the innate one (for example, that deriving from the epithelial barrier, i.e., from skin and tissues that come into contact with the environment external, such as intestinal epithelium and respiratory tissue) and the acquired one, i.e., mediated by lymphocytes.

Prevention of the risk of anemia

This vitamin makes the iron present in food more available because it counteracts phytates’ action, compounds that bind it and hinder its absorption by the body. This makes it an important antianemic factor.

Cancer protection

Vitamin A and its analogs play a fundamental role in cancer prevention and anticancer therapy, modulating the consequences of the disease and chemotherapy treatments.


On the other hand, foods of plant origin contain the precursor of vitamin A: beta-carotene, thanks to which, if necessary, the body can produce vitamin A in the form of retinol.

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Generally Indicates

The term “vitamin A” generally indicates both retinol and its analogs, ie, chemically similar molecules identified under the name of retinoids (of which at least 1500 different types are known, including natural and synthetic). Carotenoids also possess A’s biological activity, as they can act as a chemical precursor of the vitamin itself (provitamin).

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble (i.e., that dissolves in fatty solvents such as oil and not in water) available in many foods; its presence is necessary for a large number of biological processes such as sight, cell growth, the immune system,… It also supports the function of the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

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At the chemical level (and also of food sources), we mainly distinguish two forms of vitamin A:

  • Retinoids, such as retinol, are found in animal sources (meat, poultry, fish, and dairy).
  • Carotenoids such as beta-carotene (which offers the greatest biological activity of vitamin A) are found in plant-based sources (fruit and vegetables).

Food and foods: where is it?

Dairy products (cheese, eggs, milk, and yogurt) are excellent sources of vitamin A. Still, above all, the liver is particularly rich in it, so much so that pregnant women should avoid its consumption out of scruple (excessive doses of vitamin A during gestation are dangerous ). Meat, offal, and some fish also contain significant amounts.

In a vegan diet, it is not difficult to achieve the requirements, for example, through the consumption of fruit and vegetables, often rich in beta-carotene, which will then be converted directly by the body. They are excellent sources


  • spinach,
  • broccoli,
  • carrots,
  • pumpkins,
  • sweet potatoes
  • and peppers;

yellow fruit:

  • mango,
  • papaya
  • and apricots.

What is it for?: Acne

Both topical (creams and gels) and oral medications are available for treatment under medical prescription, such as tretinoin (Airol®, Retin-A …) and Isotretinoin (Roaccutan®, Aisoskin®, …). Isotretinoin can cause serious side effects and should only be used to treat the most severe forms of resistant acne; it must not be used in women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or have the possibility of being pregnant, because the drug is linked to the risk of serious complications.

A doctor must always prescribe these drugs, and any supplements must not be used simultaneously. In order not to increase the risk of toxicity. Acute promyelocytic leukemia (treatment, all-trans retinoic acid) Prescription All-Trans Retinoic Acid (Vesanoid®) is a derivative of vitamin A treat acute promyelocytic leukemia, improving median survival. Otherwise, it could increase the risk of toxicity.

What Does Vitamin A Do: Eye disorders

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to Bitot’s spots or the accumulation of keratin debris in the conjunctiva, which appears to slow down macular degeneration. A major cause of the age-related reduction in vision.


Vitamin A is given to children diagnosed with measles in areas where a deficiency condition is common. Measles is a viral disease that can lead to serious complications such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and encephalitis.

Vitamin A supplements in children with measles may help decrease the disease’s duration and impact.

Xerophthalmia (dry eye)

Xerophthalmia requires oral treatment due to a prolonged vitamin A deficiency.


The recommended daily dose taken orally has been established by the Italian Society of Human Nutrition (SINU) through the LARN. An acronym that designates the “Recommended Daily Intake Levels of energy and Nutrients for the Italian population. ”  Excessive dosage can lead to acute or chronic toxicity.


For children and adolescents, the average daily requirement includes the intake of:

  • 1-3 years, 200 μg
  • 4-6 years, 250 μg
  • 7-10 years, 350 μg
  • 11-14 years, 400 μg

Then they are recommended

  • for humans, 500 μg
  • for women, 400 μg
  • which rise to 500 μg in pregnancy
  • and 800 μg in lactation.

The recommended intake instead provides:

  • 1-3 years, 300 μg
  • 4-6 years, 350 μg
  • 7-10 years, 500 μg
  • 11-14 years, 600 μg

Then they are recommended

  • for humans, 700 μg
  • for women, 600 μg
  • which rise to 700 μg in pregnancy
  • and 1000 μg in lactation.

However, vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy must only take place upon the express opinion of the gynecologist.

What Does Vitamin A Do Shortage

Vitamin A deficiencies are quite rare in industrialized countries. In comparison, some concern remains in developing countries and particularly in areas where malnutrition is common. Prolonged deficiency can lead to the development of xerophthalmia ( dry eye ) and, ultimately, to night blindness or total blindness and skin disorders and complications in measles. A deficiency can also be a risk factor for ‘ anemia iron deficiency (by iron deficiency ).

Also Read: What is the Mediterranean diet

Side effects and excess

Since vitamin A is fat-soluble, the body stores excess amounts mainly in the liver, easily accumulating.

Excessive intake of this can have serious consequences. Simultaneously, the intake of large quantities of beta-carotene and other carotenoids (the form found in foods of plant origin) does not seem to be associated with significant dangers (for example, a color may appear. yellow-orange skin. Not associated with health risks).

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The symptoms related to an excessive intake depend on the quantity and timing of administration, apart from anomalous and occasional situations that cause acute poisoning (such as the consumption of polar bear meat by the Arctic populations). Generally, these are accumulation phenomena due to an incorrect intake of supplements that can cause

  • headache,
  • dizziness,
  • tiredness,
  • malaise,
  • blurred vision,
  • bone pain,
  • swelling,
  • nausea and/or vomiting.

People who suffer from liver disease or consume high amounts of alcohol may be at increased risk of vitamin A liver toxicity.

Smokers who consume alcohol and beta-carotene may be at increased risk of lung cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin A toxicity can ultimately lead to intrahepatic cholestasis. A condition in which bile is no longer able to flow freely from the liver into the intestine.



According to some literature works, excessive consumption over time could cause the appearance of osteoporosis, especially in women and/or the elderly.

Vitamin A plays an important role in bone growth. The explanation probably lies in the stimulation of osteoclasts’ production, the cells that destroy bone; Excessive amounts of vitamin A could also interfere with the action of vitamin D, which in turn plays an important role in bone preservation.

Retinol is the form of vitamin A that causes the most concern in terms of osteoporosis; In addition to dietary intake, synthetic retinoids used to treat acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions could also be affected. These drugs have been shown to have the same negative impact on bone health as dietary retinol, so much. So, the use of these drugs in children and adolescents has also been linked to growth retardation.

On the other hand, beta-carotene is considered safe and has not been linked to adverse effects in the bone or other parts of the body.



A vitamin deficiency in mothers is common in developing countries and. In these cases, beta-carotene can reduce pregnancy-related complications and mortality in such individuals.

Excessive intake, however, increases the risk of possible malformations (especially in the nervous system) of the fetus. Therefore, unless otherwise advised by the gynecologist.

  • Avoid taking vitamin A supplements,
  • avoid the consumption of the liver (food that is very rich in it).

Also Read: How To Get Vitamin D

Interactions with Drugs and supplements

Vitamin A supplements should not be taken simultaneously as acitretin (Neotigason), anticoagulants (blood thinners). Such as warfarin (Coumadin), All-Trans-Retinoic Acid (Vesanoid ), isotretinoin (Roaccutane, Aisoskin), or tretinoin (Retin-A, Airol) due to an increased risk of vitamin A toxicity.

Cholesterol therapy with cholestyramine (Questran®) or colestipol may decrease vitamin A’s effectiveness by reducing this fat-soluble vitamin’s absorption. Neomycin may interfere with the absorption of vitamin A. Oral contraceptives ( birth control pills ) increase plasma levels of vitamin A.

Vitamin A can reduce seroconversion rates to the measles virus, making the vaccine less effective.  Including the one for Haemophilus influenzae type B disease and the diphtheria vaccine. Other vaccines have also been affected by taking vitamin A supplements, including oral polio (OPV), tetanus vaccine, pertussis, and hepatitis B vaccines.

L ‘ orlistat (an obesity treatment, Alli®, Xenical®) reduces fat-soluble vitamins’ absorption. However, some studies suggest that vitamin A is not particularly influenced by all’ orlistat like other fat-soluble vitamins. However, manufacturers recommend that all patients take a multivitamin supplement containing all fat-soluble vitamins (including vitamins A, D, E, and K unless otherwise contraindicated), spacing the administration time by at least two hours from orlistat.

Patients taking tetracyclines such as minocycline (Minocin®) plus are at risk of developing benign intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri).

Carob may increase the risk of toxicity. Vitamin A may improve the condition of anemia in people with iron and vitamin A deficiency. Simultaneously, there is probably no benefit in people who do not have vitamin A deficiency. A zinc deficiency can change status, although the mechanism by which this can occur is unclear.

Vitamin A Supplements

Following a healthy and balanced diet, it is unlikely to suffer from vitamin A deficiency. However, if you do not get enough, there are several preparations to prevent it. Additionally, it is usually an integral part of multivitamin supplements.


Vitamins of group A are present exclusively in products of animal origin. Some foods of plant origin contain beta-carotene, a provitamin. Since the daily requirement is low and many foods are rich in it. It is rare for a deficiency to occur. However, if you think you suffer from it, contact your doctor. Too high an intake of this vitamin can have serious side effects. Do you want to take your health to the next level? Discover the full range of our best quality fitness products, without chemical additives.

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