Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for the body and it has many important implications. Healthy levels of Vitamin A are needed to ensure that the body’s immune and reproductive systems are functioning properly, and it is also vital for good vision. Vitamin A also supports the maintenance of healthy skin, teeth, hair, bones and organs such as the lungs, liver and kidneys.
Although Vitamin A is a vital part of a healthy and balanced diet, like anything, it should be consumed in moderation; just because it is a Vitamin does not mean that too much of it won’t do you any harm. It is possible to overdose on Vitamin A and the results can be very serious.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and has many great properties that can improve your health. It’s an important part of a healthy and balanced diet.
However, the World Health Organization lists “alopecia” as a result of chronic Vitamin A toxicity. That is, it can occur if you overdose supplements containing this nutrient.
Furthermore, a study conducted in 2018, which reviews 47 other research papers on this topic, identifies excessive Vitamin A as one of the most important toxic agents involved in the development of alopecia.
This is not to say that Vitamin A is a toxin in itself, but that it can behave as such if taken in excessive doses. When this occurs, the medical community calls it Hypervitaminosis A.
Doesn’t Vitamin A stimulate hair growth?
Vitamin A is essential for healthy hair. It repairs it and helps to keep the scalp moist. Many hair loss treatments contain Vitamin A as it is thought to stimulate hair growth.
Moreover, beta-carotene, one of the two forms of Vitamin A, has been found by research to have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties which are particularly beneficial to patients with Alopecia Areata (an autoimmune condition which produces hair loss in a spotty pattern).
The problem is that too much Vitamin A can have detrimental effects on both the hair and body. If you take too many supplements of the Retinol kind over a prolonged period of time, the hair follicles will go into overdrive. This means that your hair will be reaching the end of the growth phase too quickly and falling out. If your body is unable to make new hair quickly to replace it, you can end up experiencing hair thinning and in severe cases, baldness.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means its stores can build up in the body, in the liver where it is stored. Over time, multiple studies have shown that this can cause an overdose (Almohana, Yu), which will not only affect your hair but also your health. Excessive Vitamin A intake is commonly associated with sickness, dry skin, blurred vision and irritability. If you carry on overdosing it can cause even more serious issues like osteoporosis, internal organ damage and if pregnant, birth defects (Almohana).
How much is too much?
For an adult over 19 years of age, 4300 International Units (IU) of Vitamin A per day is considered sufficient for the proper functioning of the organism. These are normally ensured by a balanced diet, with little need for supplementation in a healthy person.
In order to overdose on Vitamin A, you would have to consume around double your recommended daily intake. According to government guidelines, the upper threshold to which excess intake of Vitamin A is tolerated by your body is 10,000 IU. Exceeding this threshold over a prolonged period of time will lead to overdosing and Vitamin A Toxicity, with severe effects for your health.
If you are planning on taking any Vitamin A supplements, it is advised that you speak to your doctor first. It is relatively difficult to overdose on Vitamin A purely by eating the foods in which it is found.
Vitamin A can be ingested (via diet or supplements) under two forms: retinol (naturally found in liver and dairy) and beta-carotene (naturally found in vegetables such as carrots).
However, as the same study cited above points out, Vitamin A toxicity does not occur from the ingestion of beta-carotene, regardless of the dosage. It is only reported when overdosing on retinol. This can only happen through supplementation, as the doses normally ingested through diet – even in large portions, are far too small to do real harm.
What to do if Vitamin A has caused hair loss
If you believe you have lost some of your hair as a result of taking too much Vitamin A, then you will need to stop or drastically reduce your intake of the vitamin. Vitamin A stores in the liver, so your body will need to use up all of the reserve before you should consider taking any more Vitamin A. if you have been taking a supplement, it may be advisable to simply get your Vitamin A from foods while your body using up its stores and returns to normal. Once your nutrient levels have evened out, your hair should grow back properly.
If there’s another reason for your hair loss, then too much Vitamin A could make the problem worse. In this case you will need to see your doctor to discuss the root cause of your hair loss and find out what the best course of action is.
How to get a healthy intake of Vitamin A
The best way to avoid taking too much Vitamin A is to get it through food, rather than supplements. Red, yellow, orange and dark green vegetables are all great sources of Vitamin A. You can also get it from eggs, liver, fortified milk and cereals. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and you’ll get all the Vitamin A you need, and your body will be able to process it I a normal manner rather than storing excess amounts which could lead to serious health complications.
Being cautious about hair loss treatments
Many hair loss treatments contain Vitamin A, as it helps to produce healthy sebum, which prevents hair from drying out and breaking off. It is also an antioxidant, which helps to fight free radicals that can damage the hair.
It’s important to be cautious though, as you do not want to end up using a hair loss treatment that contains too much Vitamin A. If you are getting enough in your diet, you could risk overdosing by using a Vitamin A supplement or treatment.
If in doubt, it is highly recommended that you contact your GP. They will be able to discuss your health, diet and lifestyle and give your thorough medical advice on whether taking Vitamin A is necessary based on your unique eating habits. They may also be able to suggest other causes of your hair loss if they believe that you are in fact consuming the right amounts of vitamins and minerals.
For more information about hair loss and hair loss surgery, please get in touch with the team here at Wimpole Clinic on 020 7935 1861. We are one of the UK’s leading hair loss clinics and our experts will be able to find a hair loss solution to suit you in order to bring your head of hair back to its former glory.