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Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. However, the term "vitamin A" does not refer to a single substance, but to a group of chemical compounds with a similar structure that have a biological effectiveness in the body similar to that of vitamin A. The central active form is all-trans-retinol and its esters (retinyl acetate and retinyl palmitate). These are also called "preformed" vitamin A compounds. They are found in animal products, especially liver, meat, but also in milk, dairy products and fish. In contrast, a number of carotenoids are found in plants, some of which can be converted into vitamin A in the body. They are therefore called provitamin A. The most important provitamin A carotenoid for humans is beta-carotene.

Vitamin A is important for the growth and function of the skin and mucous membranes. It is involved in the formation of egg and sperm cells as well as blood and white blood cells. It also plays an important role in embryonic development. The vitamin is particularly known for its importance in the visual process.

The data currently available for Germany indicate that the population is adequately supplied with vitamin A. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have a higher need for vitamin A and thus also an increased risk of an insufficient vitamin A supply. On the other hand, especially for pregnant women in the first months of pregnancy, a high vitamin A intake, particularly via food supplements, is associated with an increased risk of malformations in the unborn child. For this reason, pregnant women are recommended to refrain from consuming liver, especially pork liver, as it contains very high amounts of vitamin A in some cases.

It is also discussed that in post-menopausal women, chronic intake of more than 1.5 milligrams (mg) of vitamin A per day increase the risk of adverse effects on bone density. As a result, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends that women in these age groups limit their intake of preformed vitamin A from all sources to an average of 1.5 mg per day.

Proposed maximum level for the addition of vitamin A to food supplements (per daily dose of an individual product)

Vitamin A Höchstmenge_en


The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) suggests either not adding preformulated vitamin A to food supplements or not adding more than 0.2 mg per daily dose to a product. A note on vitamin A-containing food supplements is also recommended, stating that vitamin A should only be taken during pregnancy after consulting a doctor.




Date Title Size
BfR Opinion No. 009/2021
Updated recommended maximum levels for the addition of vitamins and minerals to food supplements and conventional foods 478.3 KB
Updated BfR opinion No. 005/2014
Vitamin A: Intake via cosmetic products should be restricted 31.0 KB


Press information

Date Title Keywords
Vitamins and minerals are essential but: getting the dose right is crucial! acrylamide , food supplements , vitamins


Eine Initiative des BfR:

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