You may be surprised but the term ‘vitamin A’ doesn’t refer to a single compound. In fact, there is a group of fat-soluble chemicals known as retinoids. These chemicals are involved in a lot of processes, including cellular communication and reproduction, so they are crucial for our body.
People with a poor diet may experience a depletion of vitamin A, but they can easily balance the intake by consuming supplements.
Below, you will find some of the best vitamin A supplements available on the market today along with answers to all the questions you might have about this nutrient.
- 1 3 Top-Rated Vitamin A Supplements on the Market
- 2 What Is Vitamin A and Why Do You Need It?
- 3 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin A Depletion
- 4 How Can You Boost the Levels of Vitamin A Naturally?
- 5 Proven Health Benefits of Vitamin A
- 6 Dosage, Side Effects, and Warnings
- 7 Conclusion
3 Top-Rated Vitamin A Supplements on the Market
NOW Vitamin A Softgels
These NOW softgels are one of the best vitamin A supplements on the market today. Each serving contains 25,000 IU (a whopping 500% of daily intake) of vitamin A derived from fish liver and retinyl palmitate.
One serving is equal to one softgel. Thus, one 250-count package will last you for more than eight months. There also are a 100-count jar and 2-pack options available.
The only problem with the NOW vitamins is that they aren’t vegan-friendly. First, one of the sources of the vitamin is animal-based. Second, the brand uses bovine gelatine to make a softgel shell.
Bronson Vitamin A Softgels
The second option on this list is the Bronson vitamin A softgels. Each softgel packs 10,000 IU of vitamin A derived from Retinyl palmitate, which is less potent than the option mentioned above.
However, this makes this supplement suitable for people who only start using vitamin A, allowing them to increase the dosage gradually.
The drawbacks of this supplement are typical for softgels: they use gelatine to form the shell and one of the ingredients is soybean oil, so both individuals with allergies and vegans should opt for another product.
Seeking Health Vitamin A Drops
The Zhou Nutrition garlic is the best garlic supplement on the market for several reasons.
And the last brand in this selection of the best vitamin A supplements is Seeking Health. It offers vitamin A supplement in the form of drops, with the serving size being one drop. The whole bottle contains approximately 600 servings, which is excellent for those who are looking for long-term supplementation.
Now, the Seeking Health vitamin A is derived from Vitamin A palmitate and beta-carotene. Both of these are plant-based sources, so this supplement may suit vegans and vegetarians.
The drops have a subtle sweet taste due to glycerin, which can become utterly unnoticeable if you add them to your favorite smoothie or drink.
What Is Vitamin A and Why Do You Need It?
Our bodies need vitamin A basically because it’s a component of cell membranes and a powerful antioxidant that can help you manage oxidative stress.
Along with that, vitamin A acts as a hormone and may even impact gene expression.
Vitamin A can be found in several forms:
- Retinol. This is a predominant form of vitamin A that occurs naturally in animal-based foods. Retinol is used by our bodies right after your gut absorbs it.
- Retinyl palmitate. This is the storage form of retinol. Your body converts vitamin A into retinyl palmitate when its current needs of this nutrient are met and stores the deposits in liver cells.
- Beta-carotene. This is the so-called ‘pro-vitamin A.’ Beta-carotene is naturally found in vegetables and fruits (especially those that are orange and red) and is a powerful antioxidant. Your body converts beta-carotene into retinol as needed, which reduces the risk of getting an overdose.
Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin A Depletion
Ready-made retinol comes only from animal-based sources. Thus, people in developing countries or those who do not have access to diverse foods are at higher risk of developing vitamin A deficiency. Along with these individuals, some groups are also more prone to having a deficiency of this nutrient:
- Premature infants. Premature infants don’t have enough vitamin A stored in their liver. So, they may lack this nutrient for the first year of life before they will be able to get it from food sources.
- Pregnant and nursing women. Pregnant and nursing women need more retinol to maintain their metabolism and promote the healthy development of their babies.
- Individuals with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a condition that affects the pancreas. People with this disease typically have an enzyme deficiency, which makes it more difficult to absorb and metabolize fats.
Typical symptoms of retinol deficiency are the following:
- delayed growth;
- frequent pulmonary and throat infections;
- keratosis pilaris (dry and bumpy skin);
- dry eyes and night blindness (nyctalopia);
- impaired wound healing.
How Can You Boost the Levels of Vitamin A Naturally?
As you can see, the best way to maintain healthy levels of retinol is to consume diverse foods high in vitamin A. Here are the best sources:
- fried beef liver — 9,442 mcg per 100 g;
- lamb liver — 7,491 mcg per 100 g;
- cod liver oil — 1,350 mcg per teaspoon;
- mackerel — 252 mcg per 100 g;
- goat cheese — 407 mcg per 100 g.
If you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can supplement yourself with plant-based sources of provitamin A, such as:
- sweet potato — 5,219 mcg per 100 g;
- carrots — 8,332 mcg per 100 g;
- red bell peppers — 1,525 mcg per 100 g;
- cantaloupe — 2,020 mcg per 100 g.
“Beta-carotene is highly sensitive to the temperature, so cooking for long periods of time may significantly reduce its amounts.”
Proven Health Benefits of Vitamin A
Below, you will find the main functions and benefits of vitamin A that are well-researched and supported by studies:
Protects the Vision
Retinol is needed to convert the light that goes on your retinal cells into electrical impulses that your brain can process. When the levels of this vitamin become low, an individual may experience a condition called nyctalopia, or night blindness. Nyctalopia typically manifests as reduced vision during dark hours, as the retinal cells struggle to pick up light at lower levels.
Along with that, retinol deficiency may contribute to the condition called xerophthalmia, or dry eye syndrome. In this case, tear glands fail to produce enough lube, which can lead to irritation and unpleasant sensations.
Supplementation with vitamin A can be used to reverse the symptoms of xerophthalmia and night blindness, especially in older patients.
Improves Skin Quality
A review article published in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences mentions that vitamin A deficiency leads to the overproduction of keratin. Keratin may clog the pores and contribute to acne outbreaks and a condition called keratosis pilaris, or ‘goose skin.’
Thus, supplementing with vitamin A may help you to get rid of these conditions and improve the quality of your skin.
“There are numerous cosmetic products with retinoids that are available for topical treatment of skin problems.”
Immune support is another well-studied benefit of vitamin A. Retinol is an essential component of mucous membranes and gut lining. It also plays an important role in producing white blood cells and building antibodies.
Low levels of vitamin A may weaken your immune system, make you more prone to developing different infections, and slow down your recovery. Thus, supplementation with this nutrient can promote healthy immunity and boost your overall health.
“In developing countries, where people are more prone to infections like measles, malaria, or fewer, correcting the vitamin A intake reduced the number of children deaths ”
Dosage, Side Effects, and Warnings
The recommended vitamin A doses are typically expressed in IU (international units) and have the following measurements for different groups of people:
- men 14 years and older — 900 mcg/day (3,000 IU);
- women 14 years and older — 700 mcg/day (2,300 IU);
- pregnant women 14 to 18 years — 750 mcg/day (2,500 IU);
- pregnant women 19 years and older — 770 mcg/day (2,600 IU);
- lactating women 14 to 18 years, 1200 mcg/day (4,000 IU);
- lactating women 19 years and older, 1300 mcg/day (4,300 IU).
Research also shows that taking up to 10,000 IU per day can be well-tolerated in healthy individuals.
Now, the consumption of vitamin A from food sources is more preferred, because in this case, your body can metabolize it gradually and replenish the deposits in the liver.
When it comes to supplementation, it’s highly recommended to discuss the needed dosage with your doctor. Also, you may want to go through all the blood tests to determine if you actually have the deficiency before taking retinol pills.
The thing is, all fat-soluble vitamins can cause an overdose. But vitamin A is perhaps the most toxic among them all.
There are two types of vitamin A hypervitaminosis:
- acute — which happens when you accidentally consume too much of retinol;
- chronic — which appears when large amounts of vitamin A build up in your body cells.
Both of these conditions can be manifested through the following symptoms:
- vomiting and nausea;
- abdominal pain;
- loss of appetite;
- blurry vision.
The most common complications of vitamin A overdose include liver damage, calcium buildup in the arteries, and kidney problems.
Vitamin A is not a single substance but a group of fat-soluble compounds that have many important functions in your body. It has antioxidant properties, supports your cells replication, and protects you from night blindness.
The predominant form of vitamin A, retinol, is presented mainly in animal products. The provitamin A, or beta-carotene, on the other hand, can be found only in plant-based sources. With that being said, a healthy and diverse diet is the easiest way to maintain your vitamin A intake.
Even though retinol has a lot of health benefits, you don’t want to consume it uncontrollably. High amounts of vitamin A may have a hepatotoxic effect which, in some cases, cannot be reversed.