What is vitamin A?
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient which the body cannot make and which is needed to sustain daily life. Vitamin A refers to a number of compounds which are fat-soluble and structurally related to retinol.
Where is vitamin A found?
Vitamin A is found mostly in animal foods such as liver, fish (such as tuna, herring, and sardines), and also dairy products. Related molecules which can be converted into vitamin A are some of the carotenoids, which consist of over 600 compounds. Carotenoids are found in association with red, orange, green and yellow pigments of plants, with betacarotene having the greatest vitamin A activity. Kale, broccoli, spinach and carrots are good sources of betacarotene
What is vitamin A good for?
Vitamin A plays a number of roles in the body, including:
- Maintaining healthy eyes and vision
- Maintaining a healthy immune system
- Maintaining healthy skin and helping with acne, psoriasis, and UV skin damage
- Being essential for normal oestrogen production
- Maintaining healthy mucous membranes
Vitamin A is necessary for reproduction, growth and cell development, as well as healthy bone formation and foetal development.
What’s the story for women?
Vitamin A plays an important role in normal oestrogen levels, and also in adolescent growth and development, and has a particular role in helping to maintain a healthy endometrium. Vitamin A has been shown to help women who suffer from heavy menstrual periods.
Also, as vitamin A also helps maintain a normal immune system and has a role in wound healing and skin integrity, it may help women who suffer from problem skin.
I’m thinking of getting pregnant. Should I avoid vitamin A?
Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant, or who are pregnant, should avoid vitamin A supplements unless recommended by their health care practitioners. However, it is important to note that vitamin A is essential for healthy foetal development, and a lack of vitamin A can cause abnormalities. Therefore, a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is important. You may wish to supplement with a multivitamin that contains betacarotene instead of vitamin A, as the body converts this to vitamin A as needed, therefore avoiding any safety issues.
Why do my supplements have a warning on the label?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has obligatory warnings for particular nutrients including vitamin A. The specific vitamin A warning applies to the upper safe limit of vitamin A, which should not exceeded 8000 IU from all sources for pregnant women, or those who are considering becoming pregnant.
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin A for women us 700 μg or 2333 IU. This is the amount needed daily to maintain health and prevent illness.
References available on request