In Australia the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of vitamin A as retinol equivalents (RE) needed to maintain normal body functions in a healthy individual is:
Babies – birth to 6 months 300 mcg = l,000 IU
Babies – 6 months to 1 year 450 mcg = l,498 IU
1 year to 5 years 300 mcg = l,000 IU
6 years to 8 years 400 mcg = l,332 IU
12 years to 15 years 725 mcg = 2,420 IU
15 years and over 750 mcg = 2,500 IU
Vitamin A is vital for the healthy development of the unborn child. During pregnancy the RDI is 2,500 IU of vitamin A which must be obtained from the diet or by supplementation each day. When breastfeeding, the RDI increases to 4,000 IU daily.
There is evidence that the excessive intake of vitamin A in pregnancy may lead to birth defects. Some medical researchers state that pregnant woman should avoid vitamin A (retinol) in amounts over 25,000 IU daily.
It is very important if expecting a child not to eat large quantities of liver and meat offal as these contain very high levels of vitamin A. If taking a vitamin A supplement then always follow the directions. Research has shown that some women, especially those women born in the United Kingdom, may be consuming levels as high as 283,050 IU per day. These high intakes could lead to birth defects; therefore organ offal meats as part of the diet should be avoided.
Under medical supervision, doses of up to 50,000 IU of vitamin A (retinol) are used for severe deficiency in children over 8 years of age and adults. Vitamin A has also been used therapeutically in doses of up 300,000 IU daily for five months with minimum side effects for the treatment of acne vulgaris. However, these amounts of vitamin A should not be consumed during pregnancy.