Vitamin A - Why Is Vitamin A Important For Kids?
Posted on June 04 2021,
Vitamin A is a group of fat-soluble compounds. There are two forms of vitamin A: retinoids (preformed vitamin A) and carotenoids (provitamin A). Retinoids are the most active form of this vitamin, and your body can use this form as it is. This group includes retinol, good for skin and anti-aging products. Retinoids are abundant in animal products like fish, dairy, and liver. The other form of vitamin A, carotenoids, is found mostly in plant products such as oils, vegetables, and fruits. Carotenoids must be converted by the body into usable retinoids. The most common type of carotenoid is beta-carotene, which gives yellow and orange vegetables, like carrots, their rich color. (1)
Vitamin A for eyes is crucial, and it can also boost the immune system with supplements or through food. This is also a great vitamin for skin, commonly used for dry skin lotion, dry skin home remedies, and reducing eczema (dry skin with bumps). Vital organs, such as the heart, kidney, and lungs all greatly benefit from vitamin A. Research has shown it is effective in treating dry eyes syndrome and measles in babies and kids. On the other hand, a deficiency of vitamin A increases the risks of infections and blurry vision in children. It is important to follow the daily intake amount of vitamin A recommended by health experts because an excess of vitamin A in the body can lead to toxicity. (2)
How Does Vitamin A Function in Your Child's Body?
What does vitamin A do in the human body? Vitamin A performs several crucial functions. It maintains your child's overall wellbeing, promotes cell growth, enhances immune functions, contributes to proper fetal development, and supports vision.
Your body uses vitamin A in two of its active forms, retinoic acid and retinol. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so it is also stored in your body tissues for later use. A significant amount of vitamin A is present in your liver in the form of retinyl esters. The retinyl esters are then broken down into trans-retinol before being bound to retinol-binding proteins (RBP) and entering your bloodstream for use. (2)
Perhaps the most significant role of vitamin A is in eye health and vision. Retinal, an active form of vitamin A, combines with opsin to make rhodopsin. Rhodopsin is an important molecule for low-light vision and color vision. One study has revealed that vitamin A is vital in protecting your eye's cornea (the outer layer of the eye) and the conjunctiva (a thin membrane that covers the inside of your eyelids).
Additionally, vitamin A protects your tissue surfaces, including the inner ear, lungs, skin, and bladder. One study has concluded that vitamin A supports your immune functions by enhancing the growth and distribution of your T-cells (a type of white blood cell that protects from infections).
Why do Children need Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is essential for your child's health. It provides benefits that they might otherwise not get, so ensuring your child gets an adequate amount of this vitamin through diet or supplements is critical to their wellbeing.
Some essential health benefits of vitamin A are:
- Eye protection
- Supports a healthy immune system
- Maintains bone health
- Supports healthy fetal growth and development
- Lowers risk for certain types of cancers
Eye protection: Vitamin A preserves your vision. It converts light that hits your eyes into electrical signals and sends it to your brain. Studies reveal that the first symptom of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness. Individuals deficient in vitamin A are not able to properly produce pigment rhodopsin, which is found in your eye's retina. In this condition, people see normal during the day but feel difficulty seeing during the night. Several studies have depicted that adequate intake of beta-carotene can prevent night blindness and also slows age-related decline in eyesight by 25%. (3)
Supports a healthy immune system: Vitamin A gives strength to your immune system and, in fact, it is one of many ways to boost immune system with supplements. It maintains the mucous membrane of your gut, eyes, genitals, and lungs that helps to trap infectious agents, such as bacteria. It also encourages the production of white blood cells, and one study has concluded that vitamin A enhances the growth and distribution of your T-cells (a type of white blood cells that protects from infections). White blood cells help trap and clear pathogens and harmful bacteria from your bloodstream, fighting against infections.
Research has suggested that vitamin A deficiency in kids enhances their exposure to infections and slows recovery when they get ill. One study found that kids with sufficient vitamin A levels are less prone to infectious diseases, including malaria and measles. Ensuring that your child gets enough vitamin A is critical for their body’s defenses, and it can be especially helpful to boost immune system for toddlers who attend daycares and preschools. (4)
Maintains bone health: Vitamin D, calcium, and protein are typically referred to as the major nutrients for bone health. However, vitamin A should not be overlooked as a key player in bone strength because it plays a significant role in the proper development and growth of bones.
A lack of vitamin A in your child's diet can make their bones weak. In fact, children with insufficient vitamin A levels are more prone to bone fractures than those with sufficient levels. Extensive research has confirmed that vitamin A helps maintain healthy soft tissues, teeth, and bones in kids. One observational study has found that people who consume an adequate amount of vitamin A through healthy diets have a 6% less risk of bone problems. (5)
Supports healthy fetal growth and development: Vitamin A is vital for the normal growth and development of a fetus during pregnancy. Studies reveal that it contributes to the development of major organs of unborn babies, such as the nervous system, lungs, skeleton, eyes, pancreas and kidneys. However, excessive consumption of vitamin A during pregnancy can also be dangerous to a growing baby and lead to congenital disabilities. This is why it is wise to check in with your doctor or a healthcare professional to make sure you're maintaining a balanced diet with supplements. (6)
Lowers risk for certain types of cancers: Cancer occurs due to uncontrolled cell division, and vitamin A plays a promising role in the healthy development and growth of your body's cells. Several observational studies have concluded that high doses of beta-carotene (which the body turns into vitamin A) effectively reduce the risk of certain cancers such as lung, cervical, and bladder cancer. While plant sources that contain high amounts of vitamin A are known to reduce cancer risks, it should be noted that animal by-products with vitamin A are not effective in the same way. Similarly, supplements of this vitamin have not shown convincing evidence that they prevent cancer. (7)(14)
What is Vitamin A Deficiency?
Children are at higher risk of vitamin A deficiency than adults. The major reasons for deficiency of this vitamin include inadequate dietary intake, liver disorders, and fat malabsorption.
Vitamin A deficiency impacts the production of blood cells (hematopoiesis) and immune functions. It commonly leads to night blindness (ocular effects) in kids. Studies show that night blindness is one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency.
Other typical signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are:
- Dry skin
- Dry eyes
- Delayed growth
- Chest and throat infections
Dry skin: You might be asking, does vitamin A help skin? Vitamin A is crucial for the repair and creation of skin cells. Ensuring that you get enough vitamin A in your diet can help reduce inflammation caused by skin problems, such as eczema, dry skin spots, dry skin on hands, and dry skin overall. Likewise, a lack of vitamin A in your child's diet can lead to irritating dry skin.
Various clinical trials have revealed that the use of prescribed medication alongside vitamin A supplements helps treat eczema, a skin condition that causes inflammation, itching, and dry skin. In a 12-week study, people with eczema consumed 10 to 40 mg of vitamin A daily and experienced a 53% decline in their symptoms. Ensuring your family maintains a healthy diet with adequate intake of vitamins and minerals can be considered dry skin home remedies, or dry skin natural remedies; however, it is always recommended you consult with a medical professional when taking over-the-counter supplements. (8)
Dry eyes: Eye problems are strongly associated with vitamin A deficiency. In extreme conditions, lack of this vitamin can cause drying of the cornea and even complete blindness, characterized by marks known as Bitot's spots. If your child suffers from dry eyes syndrome, it might be due in part to nutrient deficiency, and your primary care physician might determine through simple testing whether there are underlying nutritional causes for dry eyes.
Research has shown that children in Southeast Asia, Africa, and India who do not consume enough vitamin A through their diet are more prone to developing dry eyes. Another study has found that high vitamin A doses can reduce the risk of dry eyes in infants by 63%. This was also shown to be true for children who consumed vitamin A supplements consistently for four months. (9)
Delayed growth: Vitamin A is vital for healthy growth and development in children and adolescents. A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to stunted growth. In one study, 1000 children with vitamin A shortage were given high doses of vitamin A for 16 weeks, and they grew 0.15 cm more than the control group.
However, another study revealed that supplementation of vitamin A in combination with other nutrients has more impact on growth than vitamin A supplements alone. For example, kids with stunted growth in Africa who took multivitamins and mineral supplements had better 'length-for-age' scores than those who took only vitamin A supplements. (10)
Chest and throat infections: Frequent infections of the chest and throat can be signs of vitamin A deficiency. A study in Ecuador administered 10,000 IU of vitamin A per week to underweight children and indicated that those children were less prone to respiratory infection than those who did not receive vitamin A.
On the other hand, one study revealed that high doses of vitamin A in healthy children can increase the risk of chest and throat infections by 8%. Thus, health experts suggest that higher doses of vitamin A supplements only be given in cases of true deficiency and as prescribed by a healthcare professional. It is critical that when a child has chest pain, like tightness in chest and throat pain or chest and throat pain in coughing, you make a visit to your pediatrician to ensure something more serious isn’t going on. (11)
How Much Vitamin A Do Your Kids Need per Day?
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), gives dosage guidelines for vitamin A. DRI outlines optimal nutritional needs that a person would ideally strive to get each day through diet and supplementation. The suggested amounts for each nutrient can vary by age and sex.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin A is presented in the form of micrograms (mcg) of Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) for people of different age groups.
|Age||Recommended Dietary Allowance in Micrograms (mcg)*|
|0 to 6 months||400 mcg RAE**|
|4 to 8 years||400 mcg RAE|
|9 to 13 years||600 mcg RAE|
|14 to 18 years*||900 mcg RAE|
|19 to 50 years*||900 mcg RAE|
*RDA may be different from the amounts listed here for individuals who are pregnant and lactating
**RAE = Retinol Activity Equivalents
Should You Give Vitamin A Supplements to Your Kids?
Vitamin A is available in both stand-alone and multivitamin supplements. Dietary supplements contain both forms of this vitamin, preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids. Vitamin A is commonly found in foods, and it is recommended that you try to fulfill your vitamin A requirement through diet. In case of severe deficiency, higher dose supplements might be prescribed by your doctor. It is always recommended that you go to your doctor with questions like, "do I need vitamin A supplements?" (13)
What Foods Are High in Vitamin A?
A survey report has revealed that primary dietary sources of vitamin A in the United States include dairy products, fish, liver, fortified cereals, squash, carrots, broccoli, and cantaloupe. Animal products contain vitamin A in preformed form, and plant products contain provitamin A. It follows that foods made from a mixture of animal and plant-based ingredients contain both forms of vitamin A!
So, how do you get vitamin A in your kid's diet? Below is the table of foods that have a healthy amount of vitamin A. (13)
|Food Name||Serving Size||Micrograms (mcg) per serving|
|Pan-fried beef liver||3 oz||6582|
|Baked sweet potato||1 whole||1403|
|Boiled or frozen spinach||1/2 cup||573|
|Pumpkin pie||1 slice||488|
|Raw carrots||1/2 cup||459|
|French vanilla ice cream||1 cup||278|
|Pickled herring||3 oz||219|
|Fortified skim milk||1 cup||149|
|Raw cantaloupe||1/2 cup||135|
|Raw red peppers||1/2 cup||117|
|Boiled egg||1 large||75|
|Dried apricots||10 halves||63|
|Boiled broccoli||1 cup||60|
|Cooked salmon||3 oz||59|
Risks and Side Effects of Vitamin A
Is it OK to take vitamin A everyday? Yes, in moderation. All things in moderation! Several problems can occur if your child takes excess amounts of vitamin A. Hypervitaminosis (abnormally high levels of vitamins in the body) of vitamin A can cause several health problems. The problems may be acute (quick onset and short-lived) or chronic (slow-building and longer-lasting). Signs of acute vitamin A toxicity are irritability, vomiting, abdominal pain, and drowsiness. On the other hand, chronic toxicity of this vitamin can cause bone pain, rough and dry skin, hair loss, infections of the respiratory tract, blurry vision, softening of skull bone, and bulging of eyeballs. (14)
Children are especially susceptible to health issues as a result of extremely high doses of vitamin A. Research has shown that excess vitamin A levels can increase the risk of bone problems, such as fractures and rickets, in kids. More recent studies have demonstrated that excessive intake of antioxidants supplements (like vitamin A) can do more harm than good. For example, long-term use of a high amount of vitamin A supplements can lead to mental shifts, excessive sweating, stomach problems, irritability, and fatigue. Thus, following expert suggestions for vitamin A dosing and getting most of your nutritional needs through a healthy and well-rounded diet is advisable. If you are using retinol over the counter for skincare needs, it is recommended that you consult with a professional of dermatology to understand retinol side effects and retinol long term effects. (15)
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin found in both animal and plant foods. This vitamin plays a significant role in the healthy growth and development of children and adolescents. One of the essential features of vitamin A is its support of vision and overall eye health. Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to several health complications in children, such as irritability, dry skin, delayed growth in toddlers, delayed growth in child, and dry eyes. An adequate amount of vitamin A should be consumed through a healthy diet to prevent these health issues. Supplements are recommended for those who have had a poor diet and have a case of vitamin A deficiency. It should be noted that abnormally abnormal high-doses of vitamin A can also lead to negative outcomes, so working with a doctor to determine the best dose for your unique features and diet is advisable.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.