Should I Take Vitamin A Supplements

Vitamins and minerals help your body to function effectively and most of us will receive the necessary dose through our diet. However, some individuals need extra assistance and this is where supplements come in. 

Most people do not need to take Vitamin A supplements as they can obtain most of their vitamin intake through a healthy and balanced diet. However, in some cases, individuals may be deficient in vitamin A and are advised to take supplements to prevent any future health complications. It is important to note, however, that taking too much of a supplement and/or too frequently can also cause harm. 

Certain factors are outlined in this article that you need to consider before taking vitamin A supplements such as spotting deficiencies, foods you can obtain vitamin A from before taking supplements and being mindful of certain negative side effects that may occur. 

The role of vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found in food or dietary supplements. Vitamin A is vital in the body as it assists with various processes and helps to prevent certain health problems which include the following:

  • Poor vision: helps with vision in dim light
  • The Immune System: Vitamin A contributes to the proper function of the immune system and ensures that the body is protected against infections in the throat, chest and abdomen
  • Hyperkeratosis: helps to prevent dry and scaly skin
  • Reproduction: aids with male and female reproductive processes1
  • Organ function: helps the heart, lungs and other vital organs to function effectively

Where can you get vitamin A

Vitamin A is an umbrella term for a group of compounds called retinoids. Dietary vitamin A includes:2

  • Preformed Vitamin A (Retinol): found in animal products such as dairy products, liver, eggs, and butter) or in fortified foods (margarine)
  • Provitamin A (carotenoids): found in plant foods and are retinol precursors, meaning that in the body they are converted to retinol. The common carotenoids found in food are b-carotene, a-carotene and b-cryptoxanthin. Provitamin A carotenoids are contained within the orange-yellow pigments of vegetables (carrots, red peppers and sweet potatoes), fruits (papaya and apricots) and dark green leafy vegetables (spinach)3

For individuals with a limited diet, Vitamin A can also be obtained from over-the-counter supplements. 

What happens when I am deficient in vitamin A?

The most common sign of Vitamin A deficiency is xerophthalmia which is an eye disease. There are different stages of xerophthalmia, one being night blindness where it is not possible to see in dim light, this is quite common in pregnancy in low-income countries.4

A Long-term deficiency of vitamin A has been associated with a higher risk of respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. Vitamin A is required for the formation of lung alveoli where the process of gas exchange occurs. There has been evidence to show that vitamin A supplementation can reduce the risk of chronic lung disease and aid in pulmonary tissue formation.5

Measles infections have also been associated with a deficiency in vitamin A, studies show that Vitamin A therapy can be conducted to improve measles complications and outcomes.

In some cases, individuals are required to increase the intake of vitamin A if they have an eye disease, measles or pancreatic disease.

What are vitamin A supplements

Vitamin A supplements are available in the form of retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate (Preformed Vitamin A) or beta-carotene (Provitamin A) you will also tend to find vitamin A in most multivitamin-mineral supplements.

Healthy benefits you can get from vitamin A supplements

As discussed above, the role of vitamin A is to help with growth, repair, immunity and reproduction. In low socioeconomic areas where diets may be poor or limited, supplementation is ideal to ensure a sufficient intake of vitamin A. 

There is ongoing research to determine the effects of Vitamin A supplementation on health, there is current research to show various benefits that Vitamin A possesses. 

  • Vitamin A and beta carotene have been shown to have a reduced risk of developing certain cancers. 
  • An adequate amount of Vitamin A in the body may reduce the risk of developing vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration
  • In poorer countries, the right amount of Vitamin A supplementation reduces the risk of individuals dying from measles and may even prevent the development of measles
  • Vitamin A contains antioxidant properties and evidence shows that this can inhibit or reduce the risk of heart disease8

Side effects of vitamin A supplement

Despite the many benefits of vitamin A supplementation, a high intake of some forms of Vitamin A can be harmful to us.

Excessive intake of preformed vitamin A in medicines or supplements can cause blurred vision, nausea, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, and inability to coordinate. It is also advised not to consume a high dose of preformed vitamin A whilst pregnant or breastfeeding as this can lead to birth defects in the baby’s lungs, heart, skull and eyes. High consumption of beta-cerotene does not have such a harmful impact. It does turn the skin yellow-orange, however, it is reversible if we consume less of it.9

What to expect when taking too many vitamin A supplements? 

A single large dose of vitamin A has been shown to cause nausea, vomiting, and blurry vision. Taking a large dose over a long period has also been shown to cause liver damage, bone thinning, skin irritation and diarrhoea. 

It is important to adhere to government guidelines when it comes to vitamin A supplementation. The current guidelines outline to not exceed the following daily amounts.10,3 

Children 9-13 years old: 600 mcg RAE

Adult males (over 19 years old): 900 mcg RAE

Adult females (over 19 years old): 700mcg RAE

When taking vitamin A supplements, ensure that your food intake and supplementation do not exceed 1.5mg of vitamin A daily to avoid any possible side effects. 


Vitamin A has many beneficial properties including promoting healthy eyesight, maintaining a healthy pregnancy, proper function of the immune system and overall effective body function. 

Our recommended daily allowance of vitamin A can be obtained through our diet, specifically in foods such as leafy green vegetables, dairy products, liver and mostly in orange and yellow vegetables. In settings where Vitamin A is a health concern, supplementation of vitamin A is recommended to avoid the side effects of vitamin A deficiency. Also, individuals with certain diseases may be prescribed a higher dose of vitamin A. However, it is important to not exceed the recommended doses stated above to avoid any side effects such as nausea, vomiting and in severe cases liver damage. 


  1. Clagett-Dame M, Knutson D. Vitamin A in reproduction and development. Nutrients [Internet]. 2011 Mar 29 [cited 2022 Sep 23];3(4):385–428. Available from:
  2. Review of Dietary Advice on Vitamin A [Internet]. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition; 2005. Available from:
  3. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Vitamin a [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2012 [cited 2022 Sep 23]. Available from:
  4. Vitamin A deficiency [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 23]. Available from:
  5. Timoneda J, Rodríguez-Fernández L, Zaragozá R, Marín MP, Cabezuelo MT, Torres L, et al. Vitamin a deficiency and the lung. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Aug 21 [cited 2022 Sep 23];10(9):1132. Available from:
  6. Stinchfield PA, Orenstein WA. Vitamin a for the management of measles in the united states. Infect Dis Clin Pract [Internet]. 2020 Jul [cited 2022 Sep 23];28(4):181–7. Available from:
  7. Vitamin a [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2022 Sep 23]. Available from:
  8. Palace VP, Khaper N, Qin Q, Singal PK. Antioxidant potentials of vitamin A and carotenoids and their relevance to heart disease. Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Mar;26(5–6):746–61.
  9. Vitamins and minerals - vitamin a [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Sep 23]. Available from:
  10. Office of dietary supplements - vitamin a and carotenoids [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 23]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Darija Golubovic

Bachelor's degree, Nutrition Sciences, The Manchester Metropolitan University, England

I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a First Class in Nutritional Science BSc.
I aim to continue promoting health, wellbeing and fitness and influencing healthy food choices and sustainability.
Registered Associate Nutritionist delivering the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

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