What is Vitamin A

Humans obtain vitamin A, also known as retinol or beta-carotene, from animal- and plant-based foods. The food industry uses vitamin A to enhance a product's nutritional value. Retinol and beta-carotene metabolize differently, but they offer the same health benefits to consumers. Manufacturers and suppliers count on Brenntag for vitamin A distribution. Choose Brenntag as your chemical distributor today.

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Vitamin A comes in two primary forms. Preformed vitamin A (retinol), comes from animal products. Provitamin A (beta-carotene) appears in plant foods. Both types are fat soluble with low solubility in water. Since vitamin A readily oxidizes, many manufacturers add antioxidants as a protectant. It has high stability toward bases but low stability toward acids. While retinol has the chemical formula C20H30O, beta-carotene has the formula C40H56.

During digestion, the body converts beta-carotene from plants into retinol. An intestinal enzyme breaks it into two retinol molecules. Retinol that comes from animal products does not require this process. The two types of vitamin a have different tolerable upper intake levels. Since the body uses only the beta-carotene it needs, a person can safely take up to 25mg. However, 3,300mcg of retinol starts to cause adverse effects. Instead of exiting through urine, retinol stays in the liver until use. Excess amounts can damage the liver.

Since retinol and beta-carotene have different bioactivities, experts measure their intake in retinol activity equivalents (RAE). One microgram of RAE is equivalent to 1mcg of retinol or 12mcg of beta-carotene. Adults should consume between 700 and 900 mcg RAE every day. Retinol supports immune function, cell growth, and vision. It increases white blood cell production and bone growth. Beta-carotene protects cells from free radicals. A lack of vitamin A can result in a reduced ability to see in the dark. Vitamin A deficiency also contributes to age-related macular degeneration. Consuming both forms of vitamin A ensures healthy skin, eyes, and immune response.

How the Food Industry Uses Vitamin A

Food companies fortify dairy products and other foods with vitamin A for marketing or compliance. In Canada, producers must add retinol to dairy products like margarine. The United States does not have fortification requirements for vitamin A. However, American manufacturers add it to foods and beverages to enhance their health benefits.

When promoting a product to health-conscious consumers, companies try to make their selections more nutritious. The nutraceutical industry uses vitamin A as an ingredient in dietary supplements. Some of these products have a combination of beta-carotene and retinol, while others have one type. Supplement labels describe the exact contents of each type of vitamin A. Multivitamins often include both forms. Between 28 and 37 percent of Americans use one or more supplements containing vitamin A.


Businesses rely on Brenntag for vitamin A products from leading global suppliers. Whether you manufacture supplements or food products, we can provide a custom blend of additives for your needs. Contact our representatives for a custom quote.


Let Brenntag know what you’re looking for and we will tell you more about our wide range of vitamin raw materials. We are most proud of our position as a leading U.S. source for raw supplement ingredients and advanced nutraceuticals for the vitamin industry. With over 190 locations across North America, we are strategically positioned to give you the best sales and service possible. We invite you to learn more about us and choose Brenntag as your chemical and ingredient distributor by contacting us online.


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