Vitamin A: Health Benefits and Side Effects

| Modified on Mar 21, 2014
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A variety of organic compounds fit within the blanket term “vitamin A.” Among those compounds are retinol, retinal, and beta carotene. In any form, however, vitamin A is crucial to health and can be used as an effective treatment supplement to prevent and treat a variety of conditions.

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is one of many fat-soluble vitamins. The nutrient is naturally present in a variety of foods but can also be found as a supplement.

Essentially, vitamin A is present in two different forms. Preformed vitamin A is the nutrient typically found in meat, fish, poultry, and dairy that the body readily uses. The second type of vitamin A is known as provitamin. This form is actually present in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products and is typically manifested as beta carotene. The body uses this substance to create the vitamin A that it needs.

As with most vitamins, natural food products are the best source of the vitamin. Vitamin A can be found in beef liver and other organ meats, fish such as salmon, green leafy vegetables and other colorful vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and fortified breakfast cereals. The vitamin can also be found as an individual supplement or as a component of many multivitamins.

Health Benefits of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an important nutritional supplement that offers a variety of health benefits. While typically used to treat vitamin A deficiency, the nutrient is also beneficial in treating several other conditions.

The supplement is beneficial for reducing the complications of some common diseases including measles, HIV, malaria, and diarrhea. The vitamin can also treat heavy menstrual periods, premenstrual syndrome, vaginal infections, yeast infections, and fibrocystic breast disease. The nutrient can also prevent breast cancer and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to a child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. It is also a particularly important nutrient for supporting eye health, skin condition, and immune function.

Possible Side Effects of Vitamin A

As with any nutritional supplement, vitamin A presents some limited side effects. Overuse of the nutrient can lead to dizziness, nausea, headaches, coma, and in severe cases, death.

Appropriate doses and regulated use, however, present limited risks and offer extensive health benefits.


1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Frances A (Jacksonville, Florida) on 11/29/2009

Recurring boils and similar large, painful pimples

After age 21 I had terrible huge pimples. When my pharmacist told me that some derms prescribed Vitamin A, I started on it immediately.. It was like a miracle, a moderate miracle. The huge deep pimples stopped and my skin improved in other ways.

I used to take 50,000 units a day but now I would limit myself to 25,000 units per day. Just be patient and don't stop the treatment.

Replied by Citygirl27
(Richardson, Tx, Usa)

Cod liver oil is a great way to quickly up your Vitamin A intake. I like to use it in the winter time because it gives me extra vitamin D also. You'll know if you have reached your own Vitamin A limit when you get real dry lips. Food wise, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are high in Vit A as well as liver. Prescription Vitamin A is used for Acne, that is what Accutane is, a megadose of Vitamin A. Yes it is *blech* but it is effective.


1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Joyce (Joelton, Tn) on 12/28/2009 509 posts

Been browsing some old newsletters of Jonathan Wright's and came across this and started wondering if calloused heels and cracked heels might not have the same basic problem. Some of EC'ers might like to try this & see if it could get rid of them.

Subject: callouses on heels (wonder what this would do with the cracked heels?)


Get rid of calluses for good

Q: I've had very thick heel calluses for most of my adult life. I've tried everything from lotions to scraping to soaking and nothing seems to work. Is there anything that will help?

Dr. Wright: In the 1970s, I read a book about nutrition and general medicine written by a Yale professor. In that book, he observed that heavy heel calluses were a sign of long- term vitamin A deficiency. He recommended vitamin A supplementation for individuals with this problem.

Since that time, I have recommended the same treatment for my patients and have found it quite reliable, although in many cases it takes three to four months to begin to see results, and complete disappearance of the calluses can take eight months or more.

For adults, the dose is 75,000 units of vitamin A per day until the calluses are gone. Then you can decrease your dose to a "maintenance amount" of 15,000 to 25,000 units per day. (If the calluses return, the quantity can be increased once more.) In over 20 years, I've never observed any adverse effects with this treatment.


1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by John H (Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, Uk)

For years I had a cough without apparent reason (no infection). I then noticed if I ate liver the cough completely disappeared within 24 hours. Further investigation showed that I just has a Vitamin A deficiency and the problem was resolved eating liver once a week or taking a Vitamin A supplement. I have found that Vitamin A retinol works much better the carrots (carotin) but be aware not to have too much retinol. I have tested this by stopping the Vitamin A and the cough returns. This is worth a try for anyone having a chronic cough or any mucus membrane problems.


1 User Review
4 star (1) 

Posted by June (KC, KS) on 06/09/2008

Hi EarthClinic! I read somewhere that tinnitis is a symptom of premenopause. I cannot find where I read that but I began taking vitamin a to combat the problem because the same literature suggested it. It helped a lot. Recently, though, I forgot about taking vitamin a... and that it was a remedy for tinnitis... and the ringing is back in my ears! It's really an awful and annoying problem.

I started taking vitamin a again and am really hoping it relieves me of this problem again. It seemed to work before so I thought I would share it here as there is little information on EC about tinnitis. I did look up herbal remedies on a site where I sometimes buy supplements and it did say vitamin a is one possible treatment.

BTW, EarthClinic, the new website looks great! Very professional!