Vitamin A palmitate is a form of vitamin A. It’s found in animal products, such as eggs, chicken, and beef. It’s also called preformed vitamin A and retinyl palmitate. Vitamin A palmitate is available as a manufactured supplement. Unlike some forms of vitamin A, vitamin A palmitate is a retinoid (retinol). Retinoids are bioavailable substances. This means they are easily absorbed into the body and used efficiently.
Vitamin A palmitate vs. vitamin A
Vitamin A refers to nutrients which are categorized into two specific groups: retinoids and carotenoids.
Carotenoids are the pigments that give vegetables and other plant products, their bright colors. Unlike retinoids, carotenoids are not bioavailable. Before your body can benefit from them nutritionally, it must convert them into retinoids. This process may be difficult for some people to do, including:
- premature infants
- food-vulnerable infants, and children (who lack access to a sufficient amount of nutritious food)
- food-vulnerable women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding (who lack access to a sufficient amount of nutritious food)
- people with cystic fibrosis
In some instances, genetics may also play a role.
Both types of vitamin A help to support eye health, skin health, immune system function, and reproductive health.
Common uses and forms
Vitamin A palmitate can be taken in supplement form to support and maintain optimum eye health, immune system health, and reproductive health. It’s also available by injection, for those who cannot take it in pill form.
It’s often used as an ingredient in multivitamins, and is available as a sole ingredient in supplement form. These supplements may be labeled as preformed vitamin A or as retinyl palmitate. The amount of vitamin A that a product or supplement contains is listed on the label in IUs (international units).
Vitamin A palmitate is found in animal products of all kinds, such as:
- egg yolks
- milk and milk products
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that people over age four consume 5,000 IUs of vitamin A from foods derived from both animal, and plant sources (retinoids and carotenoids).
Potential health benefits
Vitamin A palmitate has been studied for multiple conditions and may have health benefits in several areas, including:
Clinical research studies done at Harvard School of Medicine, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary determined that a treatment combined from vitamin A palmitate, oily fish, and lutein, added 20 years of useful vision to people diagnosed with several eye diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa and Usher syndrome types 2 and 3. Participants received a supplement containing 15,000 IUs of vitamin A palmitate daily.
A study reported in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology analyzed the effects of topically-applied vitamin A palmitate, and an oil-based moisturizer which contained antioxidants, on photoaged skin. The bodily areas studied included the neck, chest, arms, and lower legs. Study participants who were given the vitamin A palmitate mixture, showed improvement in overall skin quality beginning at 2 weeks, with increased improvement continuing to escalate by 12 weeks.
Topical use of prescription products containing retinoids have shown effectiveness in reducing acne. Retinols have also been shown to induce less skin irritation than other acne treatments, such as tretinoin.
There is scientific interest in vitamin A palmitate’s ability to support wound healing and immune defense, when applied topically. More research is needed in these areas.
Side effects and risks
Vitamin A palmitate is fat soluble and remains stored in the body’s fatty tissues. For this reason, it can build up to too-high levels, causing toxicity and liver disease. This is more likely to occur from supplement use than from food. People with liver disease should not take vitamin A palmitate supplements.
Vitamin A supplements in too-high doses have been linked to birth defects, including malformations of the eyes, lungs, skull, and heart. It is not recommended for pregnant women.
People with certain types of eye diseases should not take supplements containing vitamin A palpitate. These include:
- Stargardt disease (Stargardt macular dystrophy)
- Cone-rod dystrophy
- Best disease
- Retinal diseases caused by gene Abca4 mutations
Vitamin A palpitate supplements can also interfere with certain medications. Discuss its use with your doctor, or pharmacist if you’re currently taking prescription medications, such as those used for psoriasis, or any medication processed through the liver. Certain over-the-counter medications may also be contraindicated, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Vitamin A palpitate supplements are not appropriate for everyone, such as pregnant women and those with liver disease. However, they appear to be beneficial for certain conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa. Eating foods containing vitamin A palpitate is safe and healthy. Taking supplements can be problematic in too-high doses. Talk to your doctor about your use of this or any supplement.