The acute and chronic toxic effects of vitamin A

Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):191-201. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.2.191.


The acute and chronic effects of vitamin A toxicity are well documented in the literature. Emerging evidence suggests that subtoxicity without clinical signs of toxicity may be a growing concern, because intake from preformed sources of vitamin A often exceeds the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for adults, especially in developed countries. Osteoporosis and hip fracture are associated with preformed vitamin A intakes that are only twice the current RDA. Assessing vitamin A status in persons with subtoxicity or toxicity is complicated because serum retinol concentrations are nonsensitive indicators in this range of liver vitamin A reserves. The metabolism in well-nourished persons of preformed vitamin A, provided by either liver or supplements, has been studied by several research groups. To control vitamin A deficiency, large therapeutic doses are administered in developing countries to women and children, who often are undernourished. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to the short-term kinetics (ie, after absorption but before storage) of a large dose of vitamin A or to the short- and long-term effects of such a dose given to lactating women on serum and breast-milk concentrations of retinol and its metabolites. Moreover, appropriate dosing regimens have not been systematically evaluated to ascertain the quantitative improvement in vitamin A status of the women and children who receive these supplements. The known acute and chronic effects of vitamin A toxicity have been reported previously. However, further research is needed to ascertain the areas of the world in which subclinical toxicity exists and to evaluate its effects on overall health and well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Developed Countries
  • Developing Countries
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Hypervitaminosis A / physiopathology*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Public Health*
  • Vitamin A / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin A / metabolism
  • Vitamin A / pharmacokinetics


  • Vitamin A