Vitamin A Deficiency: Possible Risks

Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant in the body. Therefore, it fights the appearance of free radicals and cell damage. Consequently, a vitamin A deficiency can lead to some problems.
Vitamin A Deficiency: Possible Risks
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to health problems. This nutrient is included in the category of vitamins known as fat-soluble vitamins, that is, it dissolves in fat, and it needs a minimum amount of adipose tissue to be stored in the body.

In the human body, this vitamin performs several essential functions, since it intervenes in the development of sight and ensures healthy vision. On the other hand, it acts as an antioxidant. Its regular intake reduces the risk of developing complex diseases in the medium and long term, as detailed in an article published in the journal Nutrients.

The good news is that it’s a fairly common micronutrient in your diet. In fact, red and orange foods usually contain it. For this reason, regularly consuming vegetables ensures you’ll have enough of this vitamin in your body.

In spite of everything, you might still have vitamin A deficiency. This may occur in very low-fat diets or in people who don’t have a varied diet.

What are the consequences? In this article, we’ll take a look.

Vitamin A deficiency is linked to neurodegenerative diseases

Vitamin A plays a neuroprotective role. For this reason, low levels of it have been associated with a higher prevalence of conditions associated with the elderly, such as Alzheimer’s.

A deficiency of this micronutrient is linked to a higher production of beta-amyloids, compounds related to the development of neurodegenerative diseases, as evidenced in an article published in 2017.

Antioxidants reduce the risk of diseases associated with aging. In this regard, vitamin A is no exception.

Doctor explaining a brain scan to a patient.
Vitamin A plays an important role in the nervous system and brain. Because of this, vitamin A deficiency is associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

Vision problems associated with vitamin A deficiency

One of the first symptoms that warn of a vitamin A deficiency is the appearance of visual problems. The most common is known as night blindness and manifests as a difficulty adapting to the dark.

In the most aggressive cases of vitamin A deficiency, you can develop eye injuries. However, these cases are rare.

It’s more typical to suffer from gastrointestinal disorders caused by the lack of this vitamin. For example, diarrhea is a common symptom in individuals who suffer from this dietary problem.

To know more: Exercises to Fight Eyestrain

It also affects lung health

Smokers or people with obstructive lung diseases are more sensitive to vitamin A deficiency. In this type of people, low levels of this nutrient can lead to an increased risk of cancer.

For this reason, in specific cases, you might want to consider taking supplements. In spite of everything, as a general rule, it’s best to get this vitamin through a varied diet.

Foods that contain vitamin A

Red and orange foods usually provide beta-carotene and vitamin A. For this reason, it’s important to include them regularly in your diet.

In addition, milk, butter, and cheese are also a source of this nutrient. Even some pigmented fruits like apricot or mango contain good amounts of this vitamin.

In fact, if you eat a varied diet, with abundant vegetables, it’s rare to suffer from a deficiency of this micronutrient.

Two people making a salad with ingredients on the counter.
Orange and red foods normally have significant amounts of vitamin A.

Monitor vitamin A levels to prevent disease

Keeping your vitamin A levels in the correct range helps reduce the risk of disease development over the medium and long term. The first manifestations of this deficit are gastrointestinal and visual.

However, over time it can be linked to alterations in neuronal health and an increased risk of cancer or lung disease.

In general, we don’t recommend taking vitamin A supplements. In fact, researchers haven’t shown it to have any benefit in healthy patients with a healthy diet. It’s only an effective treatment in people who smoke or with obstructive diseases in the lungs.

In any case, we recommend you frequently include red foods from the plant world to minimize the risk of deficiency. Dairy products are also a source of this vitamin.

You should also remember that, due to its antioxidant capacity, this vitamin helps fight aging and cell damage. For all these reasons, you should make sure you include enough in your diet.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Timoneda J., Rodríguez Fernández L., Zaragoza R., Marín MP., et al., Vitamin A deficiency and the lung. Nutrients, 2018. 10 (9): 1132.
  • Zeng J., Chen L., Wang Z., Chen Q., et al., Marginal vitamin A deficiency facilitates alzheimer’s pathogenesis. Acta Neuropathol, 2017. 133 (6): 967-982.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.