Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is essential for growth, development, and the immune system. There are many health benefits of vitamin A. It is abundant in many foods including dairy products, Cod liver oil, cabbage, parsley, and carrots just to name a few.
FORMS OF VITAMIN A
Vitamin A occurs in two forms naturally:
1. PREFORMED VITAMIN A
Preformed Vitamin A compounds include retinyl esters and retinol. This form of vitamin A is in animal products.
2. PROVITAMIN A
Provitamin A compound includes Beta-carotene. They are abundant in plant products and can be found in fruits, oils, and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables that are yellow and orange have high amounts of Beta-carotene.
Preformed vitamin A is abundant in:
Food products high in Provitamin A are:
- Red peppers
- Sweet Potatoes
- Look for non-processed yellow and orange fruits.
- If you want to get vitamin A through juice, freshly juiced vegetables and fruits are best.
FUNCTIONS OF VITAMIN A IN YOUR BODY
Vitamin A plays a great role in boosting immune health, vision, skin, hair, cell growth, and fertility. Retinal presence in preformed vitamin A combines with an active protein known as Opsin and forms Rhodopsin. This molecule is a necessary element for boosting healthful vision especially color and low-light vision. The molecule Rhodopsin maintains the outermost thin layer that covers your eye. It also protects the cornea and conjunctiva that is a thin membrane inside your eyelids.
Besides, Vitamin A supports tissues of the bladder, skin, lungs, inner ear, and intestines. It also supports the distribution and growth of a type of white blood cells known as T-cells which prevent infection risk.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF VITAMIN A
1. A BOOSTER FOR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Your body’s immune system’s working correctly depends on vitamin A. It regulates the gene in your body which fights serious diseases. Beta-carotene supports the immune system, especially in children. It guards against serious diseases by creating special cells like T and B-cells which are vital for stimulating immune responses. If you are worried about your immune system it is important to get enough vitamin A but also vitamin D. You can read more about vitamin D here.
2. ESSENTIAL FOR REPRODUCTION
Vitamin A is vital for fertility and fetal development. It is critical in boosting egg and sperm development and plays an important part in the male and female reproduction process. Therefore, vitamin A plays an integral part in the development of fetal tissues, maternal and fetal health, placental health, and fetal maintenance.
3. LOWERS CANCER RISK
Vitamin A has potent antioxidant properties which are cause it protects certain serious types of cancer. Especially the chain smokers who consume enough smoke have the highest blood levels and may die due to lung cancer. Therefore, Retinoid present in vitamin A inhibits the growth of cancer cells such as breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, bladder cancer, etc.
4. IMPORTANT FOR EYE HEALTH
Beta-carotene and Rotopsin are the vital part of vitamin A which removes the blurring of eyes so that you can be able to see something. Consuming vitamin A activates Beta-carotene and Rotopsin which when you see something sends the signal to the brain and helps you see things clearly.
5. PREVENTS INFECTIONS
Foods high in vitamin A are essential for the re-growth of the skin cells. It helps by healing the wounds internally and externally. Vitamin A wedges the wounds by producing more collagen in the body which fights infections as well as keeps the body young, wrinkle-free, and naturally glowing.
6. PREVENTS INFLAMMATION
Vitamin A acts as a guard against inflammatory diseases. It protects your body from viral, inflammatory, and bacterial diseases’ risks by neutralizing the free radicals in your body. Free radicals cause the cells to become more active which can cause cell damage that may result in inflammation. It prevents serious inflammatory diseases from happening such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
7. VITAL FOR SKIN AND HAIR
Vitamin A is a vital nutrient for the skin and hair. Sebum is an essential oil that is produced naturally by the human body. Vitamin A enhances the production of Sebum in the body and maintains the moisture level in hair and skin cells.
DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN A
Luckily, deficiency of vitamin A is rare in developed countries. However, many parts of the developing countries are suffering from this deficiency. Its deficiency can lead to serious health complications in people. WHO has stated that the reason children suffering from preventable blindness are due to vitamin A deficiency. Its deficiency has also increased the rate of death in developing countries due to infections such as diarrhea and measles.
WHAT CAUSES VITAMIN A DEFICIENCY?
Vitamin A deficiency can be caused by not having access to foods with vitamin A. It is the most common deficiency in developing countries because sadly, the population does not have access to many foods with vitamin A.
People who are living under the line of poverty have less access to preformed vitamin A food products, which are abundant in animal-based products.
WHO CAN BE AT RISK OF VITAMIN A DEFICIENCY?
People at high risk of vitamin A deficiency are:
- Pregnant women in developing countries
- Preterm infants
- Children in developing countries
- People sick with cystic fibrosis
- People with disorders where they can not absorb fats or nutrients well
SYMPTOMS OF VITAMIN A DEFICIENCY
Vitamin A deficiency causes:
- Night blindness
- Dry eye
- Difficulty in reproduction
- Chronic diarrhea
- Fatigue and weakness
- Rough hair
- Weight loss
- Frequent infections
If you are someone who is sick often or has bad allergies vitamin A could be helpful. You should try consuming foods with vitamin A. Adding in a few foods with preformed vitamin A can help if you normally do not eat them. But getting extra through vegetables and fruits is one of the best ways. Your body can make this into the vitamin A it needs without getting too much.
VITAMIN A RECOMMENDED INTAKE
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily amounts are:
- 0-6 months: 400 mcg
- 7-12 months: 500 mcg
- 1-3 years: 300 mcg
- 4-8 years: 400 mcg
- 9-13 years: 600 mcg
- 14+: 700 mcg (females) and 900 mcg (males)
- For pregnant women: 750mcg-770mcg
- Lactating women: 1,200mcg-1,300mcg
SIDE EFFECTS OF TAKING TOO MUCH VITAMIN A
Side effects of too much vitamin A, typically caused by taking a large amount of preformed vitamin A in supplement form, can cause toxicity.
Preformed vitamin A overuse may cause toxicity in your body. It is also known as Hypervitaminosis-A
which causes severe skin issues, nervous system changes, and affects the working of major body organs such as kidneys, liver, etc. Unless you are taking mega doses of preformed vitamin A these issues will take time to develop. To reverse the problem simply stop taking vitamin A. It is possible to get too much from food sources but unless you are eating liver daily it shouldn’t be a problem.
SHORT-TERM VITAMIN A OVERUSE MAY CAUSE:
- Faded skin color
- Skin issues
- Cracked skin
- Dry mouth, skin, lips, and nose
LONG-TERM VITAMIN A OVERUSE MAY CAUSE:
- Liver damage
- Nervous system changes
- Kidney diseases
- High cholesterol level
Consuming vitamin A keeps the functions of your kidneys, heart, lungs, and all essential organs healthy and normal. It improves your immune system and helps decrease inflammation. It keeps the body cells, muscles, skin cells, and bones strong.
However, it has its advantages as well as risks, too. So, you should strive to get your recommended amount of vitamin A through your diet. It is much harder to get excess vitamin A when getting it only through diet compared to a supplement.