What are Vitamin a Supplements?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 December 2018
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Vitamin A supplements are pills or liquid medicines containing vitamin A in varying amounts. Many of these are made for adults, and a few types in lower doses are designed for children. Vitamin A supplements are available as a stand-alone supplement, or in a multi-vitamin.

There are two forms of vitamin A, classified by derivation. One type, preformed vitamin A, is available in animal or animal products like milk and liver. Healthy people who eat meat and dairy tend to get plenty of this type of vitamin A, without needing supplementation because the body easily absorbs it. Foods like orange or yellow-fleshed fruits and vegetables are additional vitamin A sources, called provitamin A carotenoids. There are actually several types of provitamin A carotenoids, but most common is beta carotene. Vegetarians looking for good vitamin A supplements can choose those entirely made of beta carotene, though this form of A is not absorbed as easily.


Many benefits may exist to having this compound in the body, whether it comes in the form of vitamin A supplements, or naturally through diet. Vitamin A gets turned into retinol in the body, which is said to have antioxidant properties and might be, though this is not proven, an anti-aging supplement. There is strong evidence that retinol, along with other vitamins, plays a role in supporting immunity, assisting in creating healthy cells, and supporting vision. The old statement that eating carrots is good for vision is somewhat accurate because of their beta carotene content.

In most cases, people get enough of this vitamin in their diet so that vitamin supplements are not necessary. Sometimes when people have conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract, they don’t absorb fat well and might require supplementation. Malnutrition could also be an indication to give vitamin A supplements, but they’re typically not thought necessary. One proviso is that vegetarians who don’t drink milk, which is usually fortified with A, must eat at least five servings of colored vegetables in order to obtain necessary amounts of this compound, and if this is not occurring, supplementation might be greatly supportive.

There are many supplement companies that create vitamin pills that well exceed recommended amounts. More is not always better, and in one particular instance, exceeding recommendations could be very dangerous. In the 1980s, several studies were done on the impact of higher doses of A in pregnancy, and it appears that more than the recommended amounts is linked to higher birth defect risks. Since many women take vitamin A supplements in pregnancy multi-vitamins, they should make certain amounts don’t exceed 8000 International Units (IU) of beta carotene or 2700 IU of preformed vitamin A.

General recommendations for daily intake suggest that children should receive between 300-600 IU per day, adult males need about 3000 IU, and women need about 2700. As previously stated, many people easily meet these requirements simply by eating. Not everybody needs vitamin A supplements, though they are certainly recommended for those with medical conditions or dietary issues that prevent people from reaching minimum recommended levels.



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