The RDA for Vitamin A is the minimum amount the body needs in order to function properly. Even though it’s better to get more than the “standard” Vitamin A RDA... it’s a good place to start.
Not only are we going to talk about the RDA for Vitamin A, but also the different forms of Vitamin A (yes, this has an effect on some of the Vitamin A RDA standards) and the proper Vitamin A dosage for age & gender.
Time for the Detective to get out the magnifying glass on this one...
There’s a big flaw in the current Vitamin A RDA and before I give you the numbers there are some things we should go over. You’ll see at the bottom the table for the RDA of Vitamin A that it’s shown in 2 different measurements... IU and RAE. IU stands for International Units and RAE stands for Retinol Activity Equivalent. RAE is the measurement the scientific community prefers but almost all labels read Vitamin A in IU.
Let me explain the relationship between the 2 measurements used and how it relates to Vitamin A. Don’t get bogged down in the numbers. It’s just mostly for your information so you’ll know how much Vitamin A you’re really getting.
We spoke about the different forms of Vitamin A and the difference between preformed (animal source) Vitamin A versus plant source Vitamin A (beta carotene). And when discussing how much to take per day we run into a little challenge. The reason we have a challenge is because preformed Vitamin A and Beta Carotene are not created equal.
It takes more beta carotene to be absorbed by the body compared to preformed Vitamin A. Roughly 80% of the preformed Vitamin A gets absorbed in your body while only 40% of beta carotene gets absorbed.
Does this mean one form is better than another?
This just means you need to get your Vitamin A from both sources... leaning more towards the plant sources and Beta Carotene. The reason I favor plant sources over animal sources is because of Vitamin A toxicity. And also the types of animal source foods we’re talking about. We discuss this in the Vitamin A Foods section but a Detective’s heads up... they aren't the healthiest or most appetizing food sources. For now let’s just discuss how much Vitamin A you need per day and how each form compares to each other.
The chart below gives you the equivalents to understand:
The RDA for Vitamin A does not take into account the antioxidant powers of Beta Carotene. This is because Beta Carotene is not considered an “essential nutrient.” But Vitamin A itself is considered an essential nutrient so it receives an established RDA . I think this will change over time but we’ll see what happens with this (as with all the antioxidants being discovered).
I find this interesting because outside of liver, the highest amounts of Vitamin A are fruits and vegetables. And the main Vitamin A form in found in fruits & veggies is Beta Carotene.
Here are the numbers and keep in mind that you’ll need to eat more plant source Vitamin A since it doesn't get absorbed as much compared to animal source Vitamin A. But this is healthier for you anyways.
Note: The Upper Limit (UL) for Vitamin A is 3,000mcg per day (25,000IU or more per day). This is especially important to note if you’re taking Vitamin A supplements.
You should be more concerned with toxicity/overdose effects with preformed (animal source) Vitamin A. The main side effect of too much beta carotene is your skin will start to turn yellow. Check out the Vitamin A Overdose section for more details on this.
And since most supplements have a combination of beta carotene and preformed Vitamin A... it’s best to take around the recommended 10,000 to 15,000IU per day to get the full Vitamin A benefits.
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