Benefits of Vitamin A

The benefits of Vitamin A are often over looked.

Vitamin A was the first fat soluble vitamin recognized as a necessary growth factor in 1913 but was not characterized until 1930.

Researchers found that young animals fed a diet deficient in natural fats became very unhealthy, as evidenced by their inability to grow and their poor immune function. These researchers also noted that the animals eyes became severely inflamed and infected on the restricted diet-conditions quickly relieved by the addition of butterfat or cod liver oil to the diet.

Once known as the anti-infective vitamin, Benefits of Vitamin A recently regained recognition as a major determinant of immune status.

There are 2 forms of Vitamin A:

Carotenes or Pre-Vitamin A

Carotenes are the most widespread group of naturally occurring pigments in nature. When Beta Carotene is mentioned, the first food that generally comes to mind is carrots.  Carotenes actually come in many colorful vegetables but even our dark greens are filled with carotenes.

They are an intensely colored group of fat-soluble compounds derived from plant compounds. These compounds not only play a role in the process of photosynthesis, but play a crucial role in protecting the organism or plant against the tremendous amount of free radicals produced during photosynthesis.

Did you just get that? Did it make you think about our own free radical activity and the important role of the nutrients in the human body? We are all living organisms and have more in common than not.

Of 600 carotenoids characterized, only 30 to 50 seem to have Vitamin A activity. Researchers have described beta-carotene as the most active of the carotenoids because of its higher conversion to pro-vitamin A activity, but several other carotenes exert greater antioxidant effects. This is why we promote "All colors of the rainbow" when choosing vegetables and the benefits of vitamin A.

Absorption and conversion of carotenes to the active Vitamin A are more difficult than that of retinols and a variety of factors come into play including:

  • Body Fat
  • Protein Status
  • Thyroid Health
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C

Carotene Sources:

  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables(Collard Greens, Spinach, Kale)
  • Yellow and Orange Vegetables(Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Yams and Squash)

Retinols or Pro-Vitamin A

Vitamin A is termed Retinol, based on the function of the retina of the eye. Retinol is primarily involved with vision and reproduction, and retinoic acid being important in other body functions, such as growth and cell differentiation.

Synthetic versions of retinoic acid have been developed to treat many skin conditions and more recently, certain forms of cancers. Another form of synthetic Vitamin A, Isotretinoin or Accutane is used in treating severe cystic acne and disorders of the skin like psoriasis.

Unfortunately, these compounds have their side effects which include:

  • Liver Damage
  • Nausea
  • Vomitting
  • Muscle Pain
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Aggression
  • Birth Defects

With all of the above information, are you convinced that eating whole, real food can provide you benefits of Vitamin A?

Foods High in Pro-Vitamin A

Your food sources of Vitamin A include:

Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms

  • Immune System Abnormalities
  • Ineffective Antibody Response
  • Decreased Levels of Helper T-Cells
  • Alterations in Mucousal Linings of Respiraratory System
  • Alterations in Gastro Intestinal Tract
  • Measles
  • Chicken Pox and Shingles
  • Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV)
  • AIDS
  • Pneumonia
  • Follicular Hyper Keratosis=(Look for small red bumps on back of upper arm)
  • Night Blindness
  • Genitourinary Tract Complications

(The system of organs comprising those concerned with the production and excretion of urine)

Even a mild Vitamin A deficiency is associated with a significant increase in mortality.

The RDA for Vitamin A is:

Infants Under 1 Year 1875 IU


  • 1-3 Years 2000 IU
  • 4-6 Years 2500 IU
  • 7-10 Years 3500 IU

Young Adults and Adults

  • Males 11+ Years 5000 IU
  • Females 11+ Years 4000 IU
  • Pregnant Females 4000 IU
  • Lactating Females 4000 IU
  • Benefits of Vitamin A have been utilized therapeutically up to 200,000IU so don't fear toxicity unless you are consuming excessive amounts of synthetic Vitamin A or you are lacking Vitamin D and K2. Remember, fat soluble vitamins are synergistic with one another and toxicity is generally only seen in absence of one of these co-factors. 

    Far too many pregnant women have a false fear of Vitamin A toxicity and consequently, most Pre-Natal Vitamins contain the synthetic form of Vitamin A. Synthetic Vitamin A is linked to birth defects.

"If you want to prevent learning disabilities in your children, feed them cod liver oil." ~  David Horrobin, distinguished medical and biochemical Researcher

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The preferred supplementation of Vitamin A is Cod Liver Oil and liver from pastured animal sources. Don't turn your nose up just yet! I am rarely sick, have clear skin and have refused liver my entire life. Most recently in order to elevate my nutrient intake through food I have been freezing liver for 2 weeks, chopping it into small pieces and blending it in a small nutrient dense smoothie. I know this sounds rather unconventional but the energy explosion is phenomenal when I do this! The B vitamins are amazing for energy!
Many believe Cod Liver Oil to be a superior source of nutrition but more particularly, great benefits of Vitamin A based on some compelling studies. Ask your parents and grandparents if they were raised on Cod Liver Oil, most will wrinkle their noses and exclaim YES! Our ancestors did know best.....


Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, Murray 1996

Weston A Price Foundation

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