Vitamin A, Retinol, Beta-Carotene…

and a couple of others.  Even though the roots of Retinol date back 2400 years, today, there are four different compounds that are considered Vitamin A.

 *Links will open new window, taking you off-site.

Compound Name: Retinol, Beta-carotene, retinoic acid, and retinaldehyde


  • Retinol
    • Even though it was officially discovered in 1913, its benefits go back to ancient Greece, 2400 years ago.  It was Hippocrates that noticed his patients failing eyesight would improve after eating beef liver.  He also noted that their night vision would improve as well.  It was officially discovered in 1913.
  • Beta-carotene
    • Organic chemists started studying carotenoids as early as the beginning of the 19th century.  Wackenroder isolated beta-carotene in 1831.  There were several more that were discovered during the mid-1800s, but there structures were unknown.  In 1930-31, Karrer uncovered the structure of the substance therefore gaining him a Nobel prize, as no one else had been able to do so.  In 1919, Steenbock suggested the relationship between the carotene and vitamin A, which wouldn’t be discovered until 1928.  It was found in foods that are orange, red, and yellow.
  • Retinoic acid* and retinaldehyde* both are metabolytes of Retinol. Retinoic Acid is also known as Retin-A (Sound familiar?)

Why do You Need It?

  • It helps your body fend off infections and illness.
    • It nourishes your epithelial tissues, helping them to grow and repair themselves.
      • These tissues make up your skin and line your eyes, mouth, nose throat, lungs, digestive and urinary tracts.
  •  It also corrects many eye disorders, and strengthens weak eyes and improves night vision.
  • Good for building resistance to respiratory infections.
  • Help to shorten the duration of a cold.
  • Help gets rid of age spots and blemishes.
  • Promotes strong bones, healthy skin, hair, teeth and gums.
  • Applied to the skin, it helps treat acne, superficial wrinkles, impetigo*, boils, carbuncles, and open ulcers.
  • Helps in cases of emphysema, and hyperthyroidism*.
  • Fights infection


There are different opinions on this.  I am using the reference from The Office of Dietary Supplements*.

“RDAs for vitamin A are given as mcg of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) to account for the different bioactivities of retinol and provitamin A carotenoids.”

  • 0–6 months
    • Male: 400 mcg RAE
    • Female: 400 mcg RAE
  • 7-12 months
    • Male:   500 mcg RAE
    • Female:  500 mcg RAE
  • 1-3 years
    •  Male: 300 mcg RAE
    • Female: 300 mcg RAE
  • 4–8 years
    • Male: 400 mcg RAE
    • Female: 400 mcg RAE
  • 9–13 years
    • Male: 600 mcg RAE
    • Female: 600 mcg RAE
  • 14–18 years
    • Male: 900 mcg RAE
    • Female: 700 mcg RAE;  Lactation: 750 mcg RAE;  Pregnancy: 1,200 mcg RAE
  • 19–50 years
    • Male: 900 mcg RAE
    • Female: 700 mcg RAE;  Lactation;  770 mcg RAE;  Pregnancy;   1,300 mcg RAE
  • 51+ years
    • Male: 900 mcg RAE
    • Female: 700 mcg RAE

Did you know?

Beta-carotene is the recommended source for vitamin A.  Why?  Your body converts one molecule of beta-carotene into two molecules of vitamin A.  When your body has had its fill, it stores the excess beta-carotene in your liver and small intestine in case it needs to convert to vitamin A later.

Retinol, the vitamin A found in livers, can be toxic if taken in large doses.

Side Effects:

Generally, Vitamin A (Retinol) is safe in recommended doses.  It’s when we overdo it that can cause major side-effects and a condition called hypervitamintosis A*, which is a rare condition.

Symptoms for Children can include appetite loss, bone pain. bulging fontanelle (soft spot), irritability, lethargy, and stunted growth.

Symptoms for adults can include appetite loss, blurred vision, diarrhea, drowsiness, hair loss, headaches, irritability, lethargy, muscle weakness, skin scaling and peeling, and vomiting.  For more symptoms, click on the link for the condition above.  There are a lot of symptoms.

Side effects for taking too much beta-carotene, or carotenodermia, is a temporary skin condition in which the skin turns orange.  This is harmless and fades after a day or two.


Please, if you are considering a vitamin A supplement, consult your health care provider if you are taking the following:

  • Tetracycline antibiotics
    • Demeclocycine (Declomycin)
    • Minocycline (Minocin)
    • Tetracycline (Achromycin)
  • Anticoagulants (Blood thinners)
    • Warfarin (Coumadin)
      • It may increase the chance of bleeding.
  • Cholesterol-reducing medicines
    • Questram (Cholestyramine)
    • Colestid (colestipol)
      • Can keep the body from absorbing all the vitamin A it needs.
  • Neomycin (Mycifradin)
    • Like the cholesterol reducing meds, this one can keep your body from assimilating all the Vitamin A it needs.
  • Omeprazole
    • It could influence the body’s assimilation and effectiveness of beta-carotene supplements.  The jury is still out on if this is also true about the beta-carotene you get from food sources.
  • Retinoids
    • Acitretin (Soriatane)
    • Bexarotene (Targretin)
    • Isotretinoin (Accutane)
    • Tazarotene (Avage)
    • Tretinoin (Retina)
      • These medications are all synthetic forms of vitamin A.  These are usually prescribed in high doses.  These drugs can cause severe birth defects.
  • Orlistat (Alli) and Olestra
    • These two substances, whether in a pill (Alli) or added to foods (Olestra), prevent the body from absorbing fat.  Sound great, right?  Wrong.  It can also prevent the body from absorbing fat-soluble vitamins as well (A, D, E, and K).  If you take these, you may want to add an herbal/veggie based multi-vitamin.

Are You Deficient?  Before you run out and get a supplement, please consult your physician first.  

  • You smoke.
  • You take birth control pills.
    • These raise the amount of vitamin A in your but at the same time reducing the levels in your liver.
    • Doesn’t occur with beta-carotene
  • You’re seriously stressed out.
    • Stress and fatigue increase free radicals which lower your A levels.
  • Bad diet
    • Not getting enough beta-carotene
  • You’re pregnant or breast feeding.
    • You’re giving most of it to the baby.

Where Can I Find It?



Supplement Pricing:

I am biased when recommending supplements of any kind, and I will only endorse all natural supplements that are plant based.

A good vitamin A supplement will start at $11.00.

Sources For Post:


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