Vitamin a toxicity – too much of a good thing

Vitamin A is necessary for a healthy body and everyone knows that. It is a powerful antioxidant which is also responsible for building strong bones, supporting immunity, gene regulation, proper vision and even for healthy and beautiful skin. But there is a point after which the scales tip in the wrong direction and this wondrous nutrient starts harming your body.

Sources of vitamin A

There molecular form of Vitamin A is retinol, which is directly used by the body. Other form of vitamin A which is available through food is beta-carotene, which is then converted by the body into retinol, as and when required. Most animal based sources such as dairy products contain retinol and plant based sources such as carrots contain beta-carotene. The supplement pills also contain Vitamin A in retinol form.
These two sources are different as only a third of beta-carotene is processed by the body, while about 90% of retinol is directly absorbed.

Vitamin A toxicity

Toxicity occurs when you have too mu h Vitamin A in your body. There are two ways in which a toxicity can occur, when a person consumes too much of vitamin A in a short period of time, or chronic toxicity when vitamin A builds up in your body for an extended period of time. It can cause bone degradation and brittle bones. In pregnant women, high doses of vitamin A can cause birth defects and deformities in the child.


Symptoms of acute vitamin A toxicity can show up as irritability, lethargy, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
When your body has been subjected to high doses of vitamin A for a long time, it might show up as pain in bones, poor appetite, nauseas, sensitivity to sunlight, mouth ulcers and/or jaundice.

Steps to prevent toxicity

  • Never take vitamin A supplements unless prescribed by a doctor.
  • Using retinol creams for skin can also cause toxicity if combined with other vitamin A supplements in the diet. The creams have high doses of retinol and it is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.
  • Do not use vitamin A supplements and creams especially if you are pregnant.
  • Smoking and excessive vitamin A intake has been linked to a higher chance of lung cancer, so quit smoking if you are on a high vitamin A diet.

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