Vitamin A for Men: A Dietitian Breaks It Down

Our dietitian breaks down Vitamin A for men, the benefits of Vitamin A, how much a man needs, ways to get it in your diet and if they should take a supplement.

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Vitamin A is an important nutrient that has many functions in the body. Vitamin A is one vitamin that falls into the fat-soluble vitamin group, meaning that it’s metabolized along with fats in the diet. This important nutrient plays a vital role in keeping the body healthy. Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, growth, immunity, and reproductive health. In the body, vitamin A is active in the form of retinol.

Although vitamin A deficiency is rare, when the body is deficient, it can cause a cascade of issues. Read on to learn more about how vitamin A helps maintain a healthy body.

Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin A and Male Health

How can men benefit from adequate vitamin A? Let’s explore how this important nutrient can specifically benefit many health factors unique to the male body.

What Is Vitamin A?

Examples of vitamin A in different foods

As an essential nutrient to health, vitamin A plays many different roles in promoting and maintaining vital processes necessary for optimal health.

Vitamin A is found naturally in many foods and is added to others for a boost of nutrition. This important nutrient can be divided into two subgroups: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. In general, the form of vitamin A that comes from animal foods is preformed vitamin A, while provitamin A comes from plant based sources.

Benefits of Vitamin A For Males

Vitamin A plays many different and important roles in the body. It functions alongside other essential nutrients as a key player in reproductive health, cellular functioning, normal vision, and heart, lung, and kidney health. Extensive research has highlighted the benefits of adequate vitamin A for overall health, as well as many important functions uniquely important to men.  

Supports a healthy reproductive system

Vitamin A is essential to keep the male reproductive system working properly. This vitamin is critical for the overall healthy maintenance of the male genital tract and the generation of healthy, viable sperm, specifically. Recent investigational studies have shown that a vitamin A deficiency causes inadequate development of healthy sperm cells, potentially leading to infertility.

Promotes healthy growth and development

Vitamin A assists the body with regulating cellular growth and division, which are essential reproductive functions. In the body, vitamin A influences cell development. Specifically, it is involved in the development of a special tissue called epithelial tissue. Body structures that are comprised of epithelial tissue include mucus membranes, the lining of the GI tract, lungs, bladder, urinary tract, eyes, and the skin. Therefore, if the body doesn’t have enough vitamin A, then any of these important tissues can be impacted.

Could help strengthen immune system

Although it is involved indirectly, vitamin A plays a key role in immune system health. This important nutrient is involved in the development of the immune system in early life, as well as the continued health and maintenance of immunity as we age. How does it play a role in immune function? Vitamin A plays a vital role in the immune response of cells, helping these important cells to function properly in response to foreign invaders. Without adequate vitamin A, cellular signaling cannot happen as it should and the immune system can become compromised. Further, vitamin A supports the development of T cells, which are a type of cell found in the immune system that protect against infection.

Important for vision and eye health

Perhaps one of the most well known functions of vitamin A is for the role it plays in healthy vision. While vitamin A is essential for vision in general, it is particularly vital for healthy night vision. Vitamin A is used to develop pigments that allow eyes to adjust to changes to environmental light.

It’s also important for maintaining eye health as we age. Research has shown that adequate levels of vitamin A can help slow the decline of age related vision loss. Deficiencies in vitamin A have been implicated in vision loss, which is thought to be related to cellular damage, related to oxidative stress.

How Much Vitamin A Do Men Need?

Because vitamin A is stored by the body, it is possible to experience side effects from excessive intake. With extremely high intakes, the body can experience devastating consequences.

What Foods Are High In Vitamin A

Egg, cheese variations and milk

Preformed vitamin A is found in high levels in liver, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Food sources of the plant-based provitamin A include leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, tomatoes, and some vegetable oils. Vegetables and fruits that are particularly high in vitamin A sources include sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and carrots. 

What Are The Signs That a Man Has Vitamin A Deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiency is relatively rare in the United States, where adequate sources are abundant. However, those with diets low in many of the above sources, may benefit from supplementation. Conditions that interfere with normal metabolism such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, cirrhosis, frequent alcohol use and cystic fibrosis can cause a vitamin A deficiency.

Signs and symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency include eye problems such as dry eyes, night blindness, and inflammation. Mild vitamin A deficiency may also cause fatigue and infertility. Chronic and serious vitamin A deficiency can lead to increased risk of mortality, abnormal lung function, dry skin, and increased risk for infection.

Should Men Supplement Vitamin A?

Man supplementing after a workout

It is very easy to get enough vitamin A through a properly planned and thoughtful diet. Diets that include regular consumption of foods high in vitamin A can easily meet the recommended amount daily. Due to the possibility of toxic levels, some men shouldn’t take vitamin A as a supplement.

Which Men Should NOT Take Vitamin A?

It is recommended that men who smoke avoid supplementing with vitamin A. Investigational studies have shown that smokers who supplement with certain vitamins, and vitamin A in particular, are more likely to develop lung cancer. Additionally, vitamin A may interact with certain medications, so always check with a doctor before supplementing.

How Much Is Too Much?

It is possible to get too much vitamin A, especially when supplementing. Side effects of high intakes of vitamin A include headache, nausea, and dizziness, and usually stem from supplements containing the retinol form. High intakes of the form provitamin A can cause the skin to turn a yellow-orange color, which is a harmless condition. Toxicities usually occur when supplementing with vitamin A and obtaining the vitamin through food sources alone carries a much lower risk for overconsumption.

Side effects of high vitamin A intake include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and pain. Chronically high intakes can lead to yellowing skin and hair changes.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in many important processes in men, from supporting a healthy immune system to providing nutrients for adequate reproductive health. Consuming foods high in vitamin A is unlikely to cause a toxicity. However, overconsumption from supplementation is possible and can be toxic.

Tips for Success from the Dietitian

Vitamin A is critical for overall health and it’s important to ensure adequate daily intake of this important nutrient. We can thank vitamin A for playing a critical role in immune health, cellular functioning and growth. Because there are risks associated with overconsumption, I recommend ensuring a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods that are high in vitamin A prior to supplementing. Unless a true deficiency is suspected, most people can obtain adequate vitamin A with a properly planned and well balanced intake of a variety of foods high in vitamin A.

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Morgyn Clair, MS, RDN

Morgyn Clair is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RDN) specializing in weight management. She currently works as a Course Instructor at South University and Dietitian at AdventHealth West Florida. She received her Master of Science - MS. Dietetics/Dietitian at the University of North Florida and her Bachelors degree in Dietetics/Dietitian at Western Michigan University.

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