Vitamin A by Anni Dahms

Vitamin A by Anni Dahms

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I have had some problems with my eyes for a while now, they are dry and itchy. Even though they are dry, they easily get watery. I also think it is difficult to see things clearly and my eyes are quickly fatigued when I am in front of the computer.
Everything to do with eye make-up has been stoved away after trying many different natural mascaras and eyeshadows. I am usually very enthusiastic about using mascara as I think it gives the face a bit more life and because my eyebrows are completely colorless.
One morning it really irritated me, because I could not seem to leave the house without bringing tissues. I started to think about the problem and what I might be able to do about it.
Suddenly it hit me “Anni, you are starting to be a part of the older generation, and you know that older people are especially prone to vitamin A deficiency.” It has also been shown that people who work with computers or artificial light need extra vitamin A. I do both of those things all year round. So now I have started including A vitamins in my daily supplement routine, which inspired me to write this month’s article.

Do you lack vitamin A?

Vitamin A is necessary for the production of photopigment in the eye, which is necessary to see at night. Therefore, night blindness is a deficiency symptom. The vitamin does not only have the responsibility for the mucous membranes in the eyes, but all mucous membranes throughout our body, also in the kidneys and airways. It aids with preventing infections, protect the skin and keep it healthy, as well as manage damage from sun burns. If you have dry and scaly skin, then it might be vitamin A deficiency, where it is also seen that nails and hair easily breaks. Other deficiency symptoms can be a reduced sense of smell and taste. Vitamin A protects the cell membranes and strengthens the immune system. Vitamin A is also used to produce sperm cells in men and therefore the vitamin also has an impact on the reproductive ability. The vitamin is also involved in taste and appetite.

What is vitamin A and beta carotene?

Vitamin A is fat soluble, meaning that the vitamin is only absorbed in the body together with fat. In the old days, around 1915, vitamin A was known as “A substance”, later, around 1931, more things were discovered about the composition of the A vitamin.
Vitamin A is stored in the liver and fatty tissue.
The simple A vitamin is called retinol. Then there are carotene and carotenoids, which are precursors to vitamin A. The carotenoids are converted to retinol in the body, which is the real vitamin A. It is called retinol because it is especially present in the eye’s retina. Biologically speaking, beta carotene is six times weaker than pure vitamin A.
Beta carotene is very safe to use, because it cannot lead to poisoning, which can happen with mega dosing vitamin A.
Although a Finish study from 1994, indicated that longtime smokers, who took 20mg of beta carotene daily, had a slightly increased possibility of developing lung cancer. So, if you are a smoker, then it is probably better to stay on the safe side and keep to a maximum of 15mg beta carotene daily. The study came as a shock to the scientific community. However, many researchers now believe that the study might not be founded on unreliable sources. I personally believe that it is healthier to chew a carrot, than it is to smoke a cigarette. The number of carrots will probably become self-evident. As a counterpoint, some Chinese studies have shown that the consumption of beta carotene combined with selenium and vitamin E can reduce probability of lung cancer.
Carotenoids is orange colored, and there is logically a lot of carotenes in carrots. If you eat enough carrots, then you can almost get to look like a person with jaundice disease. Luckily it is completely safe and will go away once the overdosing of carrots stops.
If you are pregnant, then vitamin A is necessary for normal fetus development, but it has also been shown that large doses of synthetic pure vitamin A (retinol) can be dangerous and cause fetus damage. This does not apply to beta carotene. If you are pregnant then you should, in my opinion, consult with your doctor about what dietary supplements you should take and how high the doses should be.

The diet

The body cannot function without vitamin A. As mentioned above, vitamin A is fat soluble. If you are scared of fats or on a diet where you only eat lean meat, salads, potatoes, no butter, and no oil, then you can easily become deficient in vitamin A.
Even on a fairly normal diet plan you can also get into a vitamin A deficiency, especially as we get older and often get lower calorie intake. So, if you feel that you are often struck by sore throat, otitis media, then consider whether or not you get sufficient vitamin A.
Vitamin A is present in many animal’s livers and in fish livers, as well as in shellfish, meat, egg yolks, butter, cheese, and fatty diary products. There are also A vitamins in nuts.
If you are vegetarian, then you have to be especially mindful about eating enough foods that contain beta carotene.
You can find beta carotene in for instance, dandelion, green and yellow vegetables, corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, tomatoes, and red pepper. It is also present in fruits, such as melons, bananas, apricots, etc.
Both vitamin A and beta carotene is absorbed in the small intestines together with fat. Therefore, there has to be fluid from both pancreas and bile. If there are any disturbances in the fat absorption, for instance with liver disease, celiac disease, or diarrhea, then the vitamin absorption rate is diminished. This is because vitamin A is stored in the liver and fatty tissue as mentioned above.

Dietary supplements

Vitamin A is measured in mcg. 1mcg of retinol (pure vitamin A) is the equivalent to 6mcg of beta carotene. It is the same as 5 IU (international units, which was the unit of measure back in the day).
It can, if needed, be good to supplement with extra vitamin A, where there are different doses, for instance 900mcg or the stronger 1500mcg.

People with diabetes have to be especially aware of the fact that they will have a harder time converting beta carotene, than healthy people.

  • As a daily supplement I recommend a high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement.
  • Many people appreciate a quality cod liver oil, which contains both vitamin A and D together with omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Beta carotene can be taken as a separate dietary supplement and is made of fruits and greens. The content itself is vegetarian, but if you are vegan, you have to ensure that the capsules are also vegan, as some of the beta carotene capsules are made from animal products. It is important to be aware of the increased need when you are vegetarian or vegan. Some brands of beta carotene also contain vitamin C and A.
  • A supplement of zinc can be a good idea, as zinc is needed for the release of vitamin A from the liver. If you drink quite a bit of alcohol, then you usually have an increased need for vitamin A and here it is especially important that you supplement with zinc.
    The most of us older people do not get enough zinc. Even though we theoretically get sufficient zinc through our diet we often cannot absorb it, because our pancreas does not function optimally. When you buy zinc, make sure that it is easily absorbable.
  • A supplement of vitamin E can be good as vitamin A is protected by the E vitamin. The amount of vitamin A in the tissue depends on the amount of vitamin E because vitamin A tends to get oxidated if there is not enough vitamin E to protect it.
  • An extra supplement of selenium can be useful, as a Chinese study showed that beta carotene combined with selenium and vitamin E reduces the probability of lung cancer.



It can often be a great help to use vitamin A creams if you are dealing with skin issues, such as impure skin, acne, or psoriasis. A treatment you may want to try for dry and scaly skin is a good vitamin A cream. Some young people use A-acid cream against impure skin. They should not use a supplement of vitamin A. Some psoriasis patients can also be treated with vitamin A, but it important that the dosage is determined by a dermatologist.
You can overdose on vitamin A, but it is very rare and is only seen with consumptions of 100.000 to 500.000 mcg intake over a longer time period.
There are accounts of poisonings among polar researchers more than a 100 years ago, who ate very vitamin A rich liver from polar bears and seals. Some of the symptoms of poisoning are fatigue, unease, nausea, vomiting, joint pains, dry scaly skin, and headaches.
Beta carotene is also used in self-tanner creams.
Beta carotene is very popular for protection against powerful sunlight.
Beta carotene can help with a beautiful golden tan, and it helps you with sunbathing and aids against sunburns whilst ensuring that your color does not rub off as easily.
If you are going on vacation and want the ideal use of beta carotene, so you can quickly get a beautiful tan, it is recommended to start taking beta carotene about four weeks before your vacation. I have terribly delicate skin and I easily burn. It is a great help for me personally if I start taking the supplement roughly four weeks before a vacation and combine my supplementation of beta carotene with magnesium/calcium and vitamin C, which works as collagen together with great omega 3/6/9 oils. The above aids your skin against the rays of the sun, but you should still use a protective cream if you sunbathe a lot.

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