Vitamin A - Power for your eyes and skin

vitamin a nutrients for a healthy diet

What is vitamin A?

“Eat carrots, they’re good for your eyes.”

Vitamin A is a micronutrient and belongs to the group of fat-soluble vitamins. This means that it can only be absorbed in combination with fat. You can find out more about the macronutrient “fat” in our Upfit Coach. Vitamin A can be stored in the body for weeks and months. Numerous substances are grouped together under this name, but they all have similar effects on the body. The best known is retinol, which is wrongly equated with vitamin A. There are also precursors, the so-called provitamins, which the human body can convert into vitamin A. One of the best known provitamins is beta carotene. Beta carotene is found in large quantities in carrots. Therefore there is much truth in the saying “carrots are good for the eyes”.

If you would like to find out more about nutrients and vitamins in general, just have a look at our nutrients section.


Why is vitamin A so important?

carrots contain vitamin a nutrients in food

Vitamin A and all its forms — such as retinol and the provitamins — have a similar effect on the body. Above all, however, they are important for:

  • sight
  • cel growth
  • many functions of the immune system
  • reproduction
  • and the mucous membranes

With a personalised Upfit nutrition plan you can cover your nutrient requirements without any problems. Start today.


Daily vitamin A requirement

The daily requirement is given in the following table in mg / day.

Age Male Female
Young people 15 to under 19 years 1,1 0,9
Adults 19 to under 25 1 0,8
Adults 25 to under 51 years 1 0,8
Adults 51 to 65 years 1 0,8
Adults >65 years 1 0,8
Pregnant women 1,1
Breastfeeding 1,5

* D-A-CH reference values for the supply of nutrients, 1st edition 2015


Foods containing a lot of vitamin A

Vitamin A is found in both animal and vegetable foods. Again, a distinction is made between retinol and provitamins. While retinol is found in animal foods, the provitamins like beta carotene are found in plant foods. The following table shows which foods contain which.

Retinol (animal) Beta Carotene (vegetable)
Liver Carrots
Butter Spinach
Cheese Red peppers
Tomatoes
Broccoli
Apricots

How can I improve my vitamin A intake?

Our bodies can absorb retinol directly. Beta carotene, on the other hand, must first be converted into vitamin A. To ensure better absorption, you should consume it together with fat. With, for example, a tablespoon of oil in your salad, or margarine as a flavour carrier to your vegetables, you can convert it directly. Another trick is to put a small amount of oil in your juice. This helps with optimal absorption.


Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency

sick woman sitting on a chair, drinking tea

A vitamin A deficiency, also known as “A-hypovitaminosis”, can be recognized by numerous physical symptoms.

Starting with:

  • Dry skin with cornifications and hair loss
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Less saliva

Up to:

  • Vision problems
  • Lack of smell
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduced performance
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Anemia

These can all be symptoms of a nutrient deficiency. The vision problems can manifest themselves as follows: Clouding of the cornea reduces visual acuity and dry conjunctiva can cause night blindness. But unfortunately, that’s still not everything. An extreme deficiency can also cause corneal ulcers and “bitot spots”. These are white, foam-like formations in the eye. If vitamin A deficiency is not treated, it can even lead to blindness. But don’t worry, it takes time to get that far and such a deficiency can be quickly corrected.

Causes of a vitamin A deficiency

The cause of a vitamin A deficiency in a healthy person is often an unbalanced diet. This may be due to a lack of fruit and vegetables but also fat. Without fat, provitamins in particular cannot be absorbed or metabolised. However, a deficiency can also occur for health reasons. For example, a disease of the liver or a disorder in fat metabolism. If the liver is not functioning properly, any absorbed vitamin A, cannot be further utilised because this process takes place in the liver. This is especially the case if the vitamin A is ingested in the form of beta carotene. In the case of lipid metabolism disorders, the fat cannot be metabolised. Therefore, the vitamin also lacks the fat to be better utilized.

How to remedy the deficiency

A moderate vitamin A deficiency can easily be remedied by diet. Adding just a little bit of fruit and vegetables can help. If the vitamin A deficiency is more pronounced, you may require tablets or a transfusion to supplement your vitamin A intake. If diseases are preceded by hypovitaminosis, it is important to treat them.


Overdose: "Hypervitaminosis"

dietary supplements for a nutrient deficiency

However there is not only a risk of a vitamin A deficiency: If too much vitamin A is taken in through food or supplements, or if liver function is impaired, an overdose of vitamin A may occur. So don’t overdo the supplements.

The following symptoms are signs of hypervitaminosis:

      • Headaches
      • Frequent yawning
      • Dizziness
      • Nausea and vomitting
      • Muscle aches
      • Joint complaints
      • Excessive fatigue
      • Liver dysfunctions
      • Skin disorders such as dry and rough skin, chapped and cracked lips and hair loss of the head and body.

Conclusion

If you eat a balanced and varied diet, you do not need to worry about vitamin A deficiency. When eating vegetable sources, make sure that you take in fat at the same time, as this helps the Vitamin A to be better absorbed and utilised. An overdose of vitamin A is more likely to be caused by a misuse of supplements. If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is best to seek advice from your GP.

Would you like to learn more about the topic of nutrients? Then go to our Nutrients section and find out more about topics such as vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, plant substances etc.


Frequently asked questions and answers

Vitamin A is found in both animal and vegetable foods. A distinction is made between retinol and provitamins. While retinol is found in animal foods, provitamins such as beta carotene are found in plant foods. The following overview shows exactly which foods contain which.

Retinol:

  • Liver
  • Butter
  • Cheese

Beta-Carotene:

  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Red peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Apricots

Yes, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be stored in the body.

It is important for vision, growth, the functioning of the immune system, reproduction and the mucous membranes.


More exciting articles