Hidden Signs and Signals of Vitamin A Deficiency, How to Recognize Them?

Vitamins are a group of substances our body needs in small amounts to maintain health.

Vitamin A is one of those vitamins that our body cannot produce naturally. Therefore, you need to get vitamin A from different sources, and the most obvious one is your diet.

If you are not consuming enough vitamin A rich foods, the result will be the deficiency of vitamin A, and you definitely do not want that.

The good news is that mild forms of deficiency in vitamin A can be treated without any long-term problem or damage. In the Western World, vitamin A deficiency is rare, but in the developing countries, it affects more people [1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2786327.

How much vitamin A do you need?

guy holding a sign with vitamin a

According to the FDA, you need 0.7mg of vitamin A for men and 0.6mg for women [2]https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/pdv.html.

A diet rich in foods high in vitamin A will help you keep that optimum value. Otherwise, you might need to take vitamin A supplements.

The good news is that excess vitamin A is stored by the body, and you do not need to consume the recommended daily amount every day.

However, that doesn’t mean you can go and eat 100 carrots one day, and then rest assured for the whole month.

Consuming too much vitamin A can also cause problems like rough skin, dry hair, or enlarged liver [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/.

High levels of vitamin A are extremely dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause birth effects in the unborn baby.

Women who are pregnant, or who are trying to conceive should avoid taking vitamin A supplements and reduce their vitamin A consumption.

Are you at risk?

Deficiency is a lack of certain nutrient, in this case, vitamin A. It happens only because of lack of vitamin A rich foods in your diet.

Over time, that lack of nutrients may develop into serious problems [4]https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/8/6/833/4787304?redirectedFrom=fulltext.

While vitamin A is rare in Western countries, there are certain risk factors that make you more susceptible:

  • People with illnesses affecting the way food is absorbed from the gut, like Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease
  • People following a strict vegan diet
  • Prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Preschool children living in poverty

The main cause of the deficiency is prolonged inadequate intake of vitamin A [5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29553428.

In other words, you are not consuming enough vitamin A, or you are not consuming it adequately. Certain illnesses can also cause deficiency.

Those are:

  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Giardiasis – infection of the gut
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diseases affecting the pancreas
  • Obstruction of the flow of bile from your liver and gallbladder to the gut

What are the symptoms?

girl with dry skin on the face

If you have a mild form of vitamin A deficiency, you might not experience any symptoms at all.

The only thing you might notice is fatigue and tiredness.

However, severe forms of deficiency may increase risk of other conditions like:

  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Infections of the throat
  • Chest infections
  • Delayed growth and bone development

The most notable symptoms and signs of deficiency in vitamin A are related to vision and skin problems [6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1562352.

Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Dry skin
  • Itching skin
  • Dry hair
  • Poor vision in the dark
  • Dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea on the surface of the eye
  • Perforation of the cornea

What can you do?

Vitamin a foods

As mentioned previously, deficiency occurs due to lack of consumption of foods high in vitamin A.

Therefore, the best treatment is to up your consumption. There are two types of vitamin A, one that is absorbed from plant foods, and one from animal foods.

The form of vitamin A found in foods of animal origin is called retinol, or medically known as pre-formed vitamin A. It is the most active form of vitamin A.

The form of vitamin A found in plants is called provitamin A carotenoids, with the most well-known being beta-carotene. Your body converts these carotenoids to retinol.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best sources of vitamin A.

  • Beef liver, 713% of the daily value per serving
  • Lamb liver, 236% of the daily value per serving
  • Liver sausage, 166% of the daily value per serving
  • Cod liver oil, 150% of the daily value per serving (1 teaspoon)
  • Salmon, 25% of the daily value per serving
  • Bluefin tuna, 24% of the daily value per serving
  • Goat cheese, 13% of the daily value per serving
  • Cheddar cheese, 10% of the daily value per serving
  • Hard boiled egg, 8% of the daily value per serving
  • Cooked sweet potato, 204% of the daily value per serving
  • Winter squash, cooked, 127% of the daily value per serving
  • Kale, cooked, 98% of the daily value per serving
  • Cooked collard greens, 80% of the daily value per serving
  • Carrots, 44% of the daily value per serving (just 1 medium carrot)
  • Spinach, 16% of the daily value per serving
  • Raw lettuce, 14% of the daily value per serving
  • Mango, 20% of the daily value per serving
  • Cantaloupe, 19% of the daily value per serving
  • Grapefruit, 16% of the daily value per serving
  • Watermelon, 9% of the daily value per serving
  • Papaya, 8% of the daily value per serving
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