Vitamin A is important for good vision, healthy skin and for supporting your immune system. Most Australians can get enough from eating a varied, healthy diet. Vitamin A deficiency is rare, but it can easily be treated.
What is vitamin A?
There are 2 types of vitamin A. The first type, known as ‘fully formed’ vitamin A, is found in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. The second type, known as precursor or provitamin A, is found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. The most common type of precursor vitamin A found in foods and dietary supplements is beta-carotene.
Which foods are good sources of vitamin A?
In Australia, most people can get the vitamins they need from a healthy diet containing a wide variety of foods. Some good sources of fully formed and precursor vitamin A include:
- lean meats, liver or liver pate, poultry, oily fish and egg yolks
- leafy green vegetables, as well as orange, yellow and other coloured vegetables
- legumes and beans
- fruit, including tomatoes
- wholegrain and/or high fibre foods, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, polenta, couscous, oats and barley
- tofu, nuts and seeds
- butter, whole milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat
The recommended daily intake of vitamin A for adult men and women is 0.9mg and 0.7mg, respectively.
Should I take vitamin A supplements?
Lots of people take vitamin supplements, but there is no good evidence that they help unless you have a deficiency. Australia’s best guide to how to eat healthily — the Australian Dietary Guidelines — doesn’t recommend them.
Vitamin supplements are expensive. They are best taken only on a doctor’s advice.
Am I at risk of vitamin A deficiency?
Vitamin A deficiency can make it more difficult for you to see properly, especially at night. It can also make it hard for your body to fight infections.
You may be deficient in vitamin A if your body is unable to absorb it properly from your food. This may happen if you:
- drink a lot of alcohol
- have a medical condition such as anorexia nervosa, liver disease, cystic fibrosis or coeliac disease
- have recently had gastrointestinal surgery
Vitamin A deficiency is usually diagnosed by doing a blood test.
If your vitamin A levels are very low, or your doctor suspects you have a vitamin A deficiency, they may prescribe you vitamin A supplements.
Can I have too much vitamin A?
You should not take vitamin A supplements unless your doctor tells you to. Having too much vitamin A in your body can cause serious health problems, including nausea, hair loss, blurred eyesight, orange skin colour and an inability to control body movement.
In pregnant women, too much vitamin A can cause birth defects.
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Last reviewed: March 2019