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A fat-soluble, absorbable form of vitamin A which is present only in animal food (especially liver), fish, dairy food and eggs. It's thought to serve as a precursor to two active forms of vitamin A, retinal and retinoic acid.

Retinol is mainly involved in improving vision and reproduction, while retinoic acid performs the other duties of vitamin A, such as proper growth and skin health. Ninety per cent of the body's retinol is stored in the liver.

The vegetable form of vitamin A, beta carotene or provitamin A, can't be used as such and must first be converted in the body to retinol. For more nutritional information see 'Nutrition A to Z' by Dr. Michael Sharon (Prion Books)

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