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Vitamin A: That’s why it’s so important

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 256 views

Like vitamins D, E and K, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is found in animal foods and in plant foods in the form of the precursor beta-carotene. Vitamin A is important for the eyes and skin as well as for the bones and teeth. Find out how much vitamin A you need and which foods contain it.

What is vitamin A?

Vitamin A is a group of compounds that have similar effects in the body. These include, for example, retinol (the transport form of the vitamin within the body), retinal and retinoic acid. In addition, there is beta-carotene, a precursor of the vitamin (provitamin): it is converted into active vitamin A in the body.

Vitamin A is absorbed from food into the blood in the small intestine . As a fat-soluble vitamin, it can be stored in the body. This happens mainly in the liver .

What is the role of vitamin A in the body?

Vitamin A is involved in vision (especially at night) because it is part of the visual purple (rhodopsin) in the retina in the form of retinal . There it is installed in the rods and thus helps to distinguish between light and dark.

In addition, vitamin A is involved in reproduction: it plays a role in the production of testosterone , in the development of sperm cells, in the formation of the placenta (placenta) and in the maturation of the fetus.

We also need vitamin A for healthy bones, cartilage and teeth .

Skin structure and regeneration are also supported by the vitamin, more precisely by retinol. This is converted in the skin to vitamin A acid (retinoic acid), which is intended to maintain the skin’s elasticity. That is why retinol is often found as an ingredient in skin creams and serums.

Beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, helps against free radicals: These are aggressive oxygen compounds that are constantly produced in the body (during metabolic processes, from UV radiation , nicotine, medication, etc.). They are dangerous because they can damage cells and the genetic material DNA. Beta-carotene has an antioxidant effect, so it can help to “defuse” free radicals.

What is the daily requirement of vitamin A?

The recommended intake for vitamin A depends, among other things, on age and gender. In addition, the daily vitamin A requirement during pregnancy and breastfeeding can be slightly increased.

According to the recommendation of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), this is how much vitamin A you should take in every day:

age Retinol mg/day
male Female
0 to under 4 months 0.5 0.5
4 to under 12 months 0.6 0.6
1 to under 4 years 0.6 0.6
4 to under 7 years 0.7 0.7
7 to under 10 years 0.8 0.8
10 to under 13 years 0.9 0.9
13 to under 15 years 1.1 1.0
15 to under 19 years 1.1 0.9
19 to under 25 years 1.0 0.8
25 to under 51 years 1.0 0.8
51 to under 65 years 1.0 0.8
65 years and older 1.0 0.8
Pregnant women from the 4th month 1.1
breastfeeding 1.5

Vitamin A: High content foods

There is plenty of vitamin A in liver, kale and carrots, for example. You can read more about this topic in the article Foods with a high vitamin A content

How does a vitamin A deficiency manifest itself?

You can read everything you need to know about how a vitamin A deficiency develops, how it manifests itself and what the consequences are in the article Vitamin A deficiency .

How does a vitamin A excess manifest itself?

A vitamin A overdose can occur if someone takes vitamin A for a long time – for example on their own or as part of a therapy, for example against acne or psoriasis (psoriasis) . A vitamin A excess can also develop in the body in the case of chronic kidney weakness (chronic renal insufficiency ).

An acute overdose manifests itself in headaches , nausea and vomiting .

If the vitamin A excess develops over a long period of time (chronic overdose), this can lead to sleep disorders , irritability, loss of appetite , dry skin, dry mucous membranes and hair loss . The bones become more brittle and the liver is damaged. In pregnant women, an excess of vitamin A can harm the unborn child. Expectant mothers should therefore seek advice from their gynaecologist regarding their vitamin A intake.

Excessive intake of beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A) can result in harmless yellowing of the skin, especially on the palms of hands and feet. In smokers, excess beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer .

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