Vitamin A - information and sources

Vitamin A is also known as retinol, and this form can be obtained preformed from our diet from foods of animal origin. Vitamin A can also be obtained from plant foods after conversion from some carotenoids which can be converted to retinol in the body.

Carotenoids are a large group of pigments found in plants, all of which act as antioxidants and may have some cancer-preventing and heart disease risk-reducing qualities. However, just three carotenoids have vitamin A activity; β-carotene is the most readily converted, and α-carotene and γ-carotene also have some activity.

Vitamin A is required for growth and normal development of tissues; long term deficiency results in death. Retinol is required for light gathering in visual pigments for night vision. Deficiency is not uncommon in humans in regions prone to malnutrition, and initial signs are night-blindness and dry eyes. Even prolonged mild deficiency can lead to permanent eye damage.

Vitamin A intake is measured in retinol equivalents (RE) where 6µg of β-carotene is roughly equivalent to 1µg of retinol. Requirements for adults are 700µg RE per day.

Animal Sources
Preformed vitamin A, i.e. retinol, is obtained from animal foods:

Milk, full-cream (100ml) – 55µg
(Milk, skimmed (100ml) – 1µg)
Cheddar Cheese (40g) – 145µg
Cheese, Edam (40g) – 80µg
Cheese, Feta (40g) – 90µg
Cheese, Red Leicester (40g) – 146µg
Cream (50g) – 168µg
Ice-cream (75g) – 111µg
Yoghurt (150g) – 60µg
Butter (8g) – 71µg
Margarine (8g) – 72µg
Egg, boiled – 114µg
Red salmon (115g) – 104µg
Kidney (75g) – 120µg
Liver (90g) – 18,549µg

Plant Sources
Plant sources contribute over a quarter of vitamin A intake in the West.

Apricot – 85µg
Banana – 27µg
Mango – 370µg
Melon, cantaloupe (½) – 709µg
Nectarine – 85µg
Peach – 91µg
Prunes (40g) – 55µg
Carrots (65g) – 1,300µg
Tomatoes (75g) – 75µg
Tomato juice (200ml) – 166µg
Watercress (15g) – 75µg
Brussel sprouts (115g) – 77µg
Runner beans (105g) – 70µg
Broccoli (95g) – 396µg
Peas (85g) – 38µg
Spinach (130g) – 1,300µg
Sweetcorn (70g) – 25µg
Sweet potatoes (150g) – 1,000µg