Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for many bodily functions, including vision, immunity, reproduction, and cell growth. There are two types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal foods, such as liver, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Provitamin A is found in plant foods, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cantaloupe.
The body converts provitamin A into preformed vitamin A. The recommended daily intake of vitamin A for adults is 700 micrograms (mcg) for women and 900 mcg for men. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more vitamin A, 770 mcg and 1300 mcg respectively.
Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem, especially in developing countries. It is estimated that 250,000 to 500,000 children worldwide become blind each year due to vitamin A deficiency.
The symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include:
- Night blindness
- Dry eyes
- Xerophthalmia (a condition that causes the eyes to become dry and crusty)
- Bitot spots (white patches in the corners of the eyes)
- Keratomalacia (a condition that causes the cornea to become cloudy or ulcerated)
- Increased risk of infections
- Slowed growth and development
If you are concerned that you or your child may have a vitamin A deficiency, talk to your doctor. They can recommend a blood test to check your vitamin A levels.
You can get enough vitamin A from your diet by eating a variety of healthy foods, including:
- Animal foods: liver, fish, eggs, and dairy products
- Plant foods: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, mangoes, apricots, and other orange and yellow fruits and vegetables
If you are unable to get enough vitamin A from your diet, you may need to take a supplement. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as too much vitamin A can be toxic.
Here are some tips for getting enough vitamin A in your diet:
- Eat a variety of healthy foods, including animal and plant sources of vitamin A.
- Cook with vegetables that are high in vitamin A, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
- Add a serving of orange or yellow fruits or vegetables to your meals and snacks.
- If you are unable to get enough vitamin A from your diet, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.