Vitamin A FAQ
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What is Vitamin A and Where Does it Come From?
Vitamin A is the collective term used to describe a group of fat-soluble compounds such as retinol and retinol, as well as the fairly well-known beta-carotene.
This vitamin plays a number of roles within the human body that we will explore a little further down, but suffice to say it is essential for long-term health and wellbeing. It is worth noting that consuming too much Vitamin A can be harmful, so we will also look at what constitutes a reasonable dose as well as how you can avoid overdosing.
Vitamin A is a common constituent in most commercially available multivitamin supplements, and it is also found in a variety of food sources that we will explore below.
How does Vitamin A Work and What are the Benefits?
Some of the responsibilities of Vitamin A in the human body include:
- Visual health
- Antioxidant protection
- Skin health
- Immune function
- Genetic and cellular function
Retinol and retinal, both of which are forms of Vitmain A, are well known for the benefits they offer to our vision, particularly the health of the retina as their names suggest.
Retinal binds with proteins in the eye to form rhodopsin and iodopsin which are instrumental proteins in the formation of rods and cones, respectively.
Skin health is another common association made with Vitamin A, and rightly so. Retinoic acid, another form of Vitamin A, aids in the formation of epidermal, that is to say, skin cells. What’s more, Vitamin A can also help in reducing the amount of bacterial accumulation within the skin tissues.
Now, all of this is very relevant to general health but are there any benefits that are specific to sports and bodybuilding?
Who Can Benefit from Taking Vitamin A?
The most obvious candidates for Vitamin A supplementation are those suffering from dermatitis and other skin conditions, and immunodeficiency conditions such as HIV or diseases such as cancer.
As for bodybuilders and other types of athletes, it appears as if Vitamin A supplementation is more applicable to the maintenance of general health. Having said this, it is worth noting that many of us suffer from dampened immunity during the colder winter months, making us far more susceptible to airborne illnesses and ailments such as flu and the common cold.
With this in mind, it certainly can’t hurt to add some Vitamin D to your diet as a form of insurance, whether this means as a standalone supplement, part of a multivitamin, or simply the addition of more foods rich in Vitamin A.
Do Any Foods Contain Vitamin A? Which Ones are the best?
In no particular order, foods rich in Vitamin A include:
- Liver (including chicken and beef)
- Sweet Potato
It is important to note that Vitamin A is typically found as a fat-soluble compound, so we recommend that you consume some fat along with any dietary sources.
How Much Vitamin A Should I Take?
The RDA of Vitamin A is 770μg for women and 900μg for men; these figures can differ depending on age, pregnancy, lactation, and other medical factors.
The upper daily limit of Vitamin A is 3000μg for both men and women; however, this does not mean that accumulation will not occur if you consistently take this much for a prolonged period.
The beta carotene forms of Vitamin A found in foods such as sweet potato are considered non-toxic, so the limits applied to retinoic forms of Vitamin A are not relevant here.
Related: Best Supplements for Women’s Health
Does Taking Vitamin A Have any Side Effects?
Excessive consumption of Vitamin A can lead to toxicity and a condition known as Hypervitaminosis A.
It takes longer for the body to rid itself of excess Vitamin A because it is a fat-soluble compound rather than being water-soluble like Vitamin C, and this can make it far easier for Vitamin A to accumulate in the body and reach toxic levels.
Hypervitaminosis A from dietary consumption of Vitamin A is less likely than if you are supplementing with a product such as Cod Liver Oil but it is still entirely possible if you eat liver on a regular basis.
For this reason it is generally recommended that you eat liver no more than once or twice a week; however, this can vary from one individual to another so please use your own discretion.
As with any dietary supplement, we recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consult their doctor or physician prior to use. This also applies to people under the age of 18 and individuals who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions or who are taking any kind of prescription medication.
Are Vitamin A Supplements Dangerous?
Vitamin A is no more dangerous than any other supplement provided you follow the recommendations for usage and treat it with the same respect you would any substance you put into your body.
If you abuse Vitamin A you will likely be harming yourself, but this does not make it dangerous per se, so be act responsibly and remember that a higher dose isn’t always going to be good for you.
Note: We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
Choosing the Right Vitamin A Supplement
The most common supplemental form of Vitamin A tends to be Cod Liver Oil as it is a relatively inexpensive form aside from a multivitamin.
If you are currently using a multivitamin then it may be worth checking the label to see how much Vitamin A it contains because if you are considering adding some Cod Liver Oil to your diet then you should take your current intake into consideration to prevent excessive consumption.
Please note: This FAQ has not been written or reviewed by a doctor or medical professional and is therefore not to be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or illness. Nor should it be used as medical reference.