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Vitamin A palmitate, better known as retinyl palmitate and sometimes misspelled as retinol palmitate, is the most convenient form of vitamin A for use in supplements.
Unlike other forms of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate can be used as an oil or as a powder. It can be put in capsules, creams, syrups, and soaps. When it is applied to the skin, it becomes retinoic acid, the same form of vitamin A that appears in the anti-acne product Retin-A, but in much lower and entirely safe amounts.
Vitamin A palmitate is not ready-made vitamin A, but the body easily converts it to the kind of vitamin A needed for health. Vitamin A palmitate supports health for head to toe. Here are some examples
Vitamin A is essential for the ability to see at night. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene that the body can easily convert to vitamin A, and so carrots are often recommended for maintaining night vision. A beta-carotene or vitamin A supplement, of course, can be even better.
Vitamin A supports normal function of membranes, and it helps the immune system deal with infections of membranes, such as measles and diarrhea, especially in children. Having enough vitamin A is essential for children to fight off these infections.
Although no one should try to treat iron deficiency anemia without having a blood test finding that there is actual iron deficiency (due to the possibility of a hereditary iron overload disease called hemochromatosis), if you do have iron deficiency anemia, taking vitamin A in addition to iron supplements will help you get better faster. Vitamin A activates the liver to store iron more efficiently,
In women who have a family history of breast cancer, consuming more beta-carotene and vitamin A is linked to a lower risk of developing the disease. In a famous Finnish study of vitamins as a tool for preventing lung cancer in smokers, daily supplementation with beta-carotene taken by itself was found actually to increase the risk of lung cancer, by causing an imbalance of antioxidants in the lungs. Vitamin A palmitate, however, does not have this effect, and a balanced program of antioxidant supplementation is not shown to cause any problems in smokers or non-smokers alike.
There's only one food that has ready-to-go vitamin A in the form of retinol, and that's cod liver oil. Norwegians, Icelanders, people in the Faroe Islands, Swedes, and Danes actually tend to like cod liver oil, and cherry, lemon, and lime flavors are available there. Most of us, however, need to get our vitamin A another way. And the simplest way is to take a supplement made with vitamin A palmitate.
It's never a good idea to take a megadose of vitamin A palmitate. For an adult man, a dose of 10,000 IU (3 mg) a day is the upper limit. For women who may be pregnant, the dose is 5,000 IU a day. Infants should not get more than 1,000 IU a day from all sources, including formula.
This tiny amount of vitamin A palmitate, however, can make a big difference in the health of your eyes, skin, respiratory system, digestive tract, and immunity. Take vitamin A palmitate and/or beta-carotene to keep your vitamin levels sufficient.
Groff JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 2nd ed. St Paul: West Publishing; 1995.
Ross AC. Vitamin A and retinoids. In: Shils M, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC. ed. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999:305-327.
Semba RD. The role of vitamin A and related retinoids in immune function. Nutr Rev. 1998;56(1 Pt 2):S38-48.
Semba RD. Impact of vitamin A on immunity and infection in developing countries. In: Bendich A, Decklebaum RJ, eds. Preventive Nutrition: The Comprehensive Guide for Health Professionals. 2nd ed. Totowa: Humana Press Inc; 2001:329-346.