Vitamin A is important for many functions in your body. It includes a healthy vision, ensuring the normal functioning of your immune system. Here are 6 health benefits of vitamin A and its functions.
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A compound is found in two unique forms:
1. Preformed vitamin A: Preformed vitamin A (VA) is a fat-soluble vitamin that our body needs. The body can not synthesize it, so it is necessary to consume food. It is found in animals products including meat, chicken, fish, and dairy and includes retinol, retinal and retinoic acid compounds.
2. Provitamin A: Provitamin A is the plant’s inactive form of the vitamin such as carotenoids alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Such compounds are transformed into your body’s active form. For instance, in your small intestine, beta-carotene is converted to retinol which is an active form of vitamin A (1).
1. Protects Your Eyes From Night Blindness
Vitamin A is essential for your vision. You need the vitamin to transform the light that hits your eye to an electrical signal that can be sent to your brain.
Night blindness, known as nyctalopia, maybe one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency. Night blindness occurs in people with a deficiency of vitamin A as the vitamin is a major component of rhodopsin pigment (2).
Rhodopsin is found in your eye’s retina and is lightly sensitive. People with this condition can still see normally throughout the day, but in the darkness, they have reduced vision as their eyes struggle to gain light at lower levels.
Besides preventing night blindness, eating enough beta-carotene can help slow down the decline. The leading cause of blindness is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although its exact cause is unknown. It is believed to be related to oxidative stress due to cellular damage to the retina (3, 4).
Age-related eye blindness study found that giving an antioxidant supplement including beta-carotene to people over 50 years of age with AMD reduced their risk of developing advanced macular degeneration by 25 percent. A recent review, however, found that beta-carotene supplements alone will not stop or postpone AMD’s decline in vision (5, 6).
2. May Reduce Chronic Skin Disorder (Acne)
People with Acne, most often on the neck, back, and chest, develop red spots and blackheads. Such spots occur when dead skin and oils block the sebaceous glands. It locates such glands in your skin’s hair follicles and contain sebum. It is a waxy substance that keeps your skin waterproof and lubricated.
Although the spots are physically harmless. The acne can have a severe effect on the mental health of people, leading to anxiety, and depression. However, the exact role of vitamin A in treatment of acne remains unclear (7).
This would increase your risk of acne by making it harder to remove dead skin cells from hair follicles, which contributes to blockages.
3. Enhances a Healthy Immune System
Vitamin A plays an important role in preserving the natural defenses of your body. It involves the mucous membranes that help trap bacteria and other infectious agents in your skin, lungs, intestines, and genitals.
It also involves the production and function of white blood cells that help capture and clear bacteria from your bloodstream. This means that if you become ill, a vitamin A deficiency can increase your susceptibility to infection (12, 13).
In fact, the correction of vitamin A deficiency in children has been shown to decrease the risk of dying from these diseases in countries where infections such as measles and malaria are common (14).
4. May Reduce Risk of Certain Cancers
Cancer occurs when uncontrolled growth or division of abnormal cells starts. Since vitamin A plays a major role in the development of your cells, scientists are interested in its role in cancer prevention (15, 16).
Vitamin A consumption in the form of beta-carotene can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Cancer such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cervical, lung, and prostate cancer in these studies (17, 18).
The association between the body’s levels of vitamin A and the risk of cancer is not clear. However, existing evidence shows that getting adequate vitamin A, especially from plants, is important for healthy cell division and may reduce your risk of certain cancer types (23).
5. Promotes Healthy Growth
Vitamin A is essential to maintain a healthy male and female reproductive system and to ensure normal growth and development of embryos during pregnancy.
Similarly, animal studies have suggested that female vitamin A deficiency can affect reproduction by reducing the quality of eggs and affecting the womb implantation of eggs (26).
Vitamin A is also involved in the growth and development of many of the unborn child’s major organs and tissues, including the skin, nervous system, heart, kidneys, ears, lungs, and pancreas, in pregnant women.
Most health experts also pointed out that women avoid foods containing exorbitant amounts of vitamin A, such as liver and vitamin A supplements during pregnancy.
6. Vitamin A Supports Bone Health
Protein, calcium and vitamin D are the primary nutrients for maintaining healthy bones as your age. Eating enough vitamin A, however, is also necessary for proper bone growth and development. However, Poor bone health has been also associated with VA deficiency.
In fact, people with lower vitamin A levels are at higher risk of bone fractures than those with healthy levels. In addition, a recent meta-analysis of observational studies showed that people with the highest average dietary amounts of vitamin A had a 6 percent reduced risk of fractures (29, 30).
However, for bone health, low levels of vitamin A may not be the only problem. Some studies have found that there is also a higher risk of fractures in people with high vitamin A intake (31).
However, these findings are based on observational studies unable to determine cause and effect. This means that the link between vitamin A and bone health is not clear at the moment, and more we need controlled studies to confirm what was seen in observational studies.
Keep in mind that the status of vitamin A alone does not determine your risk of fractures and also plays a role in the availability’s impact of other key nutrients, such as vitamin D (32).
The Bottom Line
Vitamin A is crucial to your body’s essential processes. VA is good for maintaining healthy vision, ensuring the normal functioning of your organs and immune system, and promoting normal growth and development of the baby in the womb. Either too little and too much vitamin A may have negative health effects. The best way to ensure that you get the right balance is to eat foods rich in vitamin A as part of your normal diet and avoid excessive levels of supplementation.
Frequently Asked Question
VA is important for all. However, for infants and young children and pregnant and lactating women it is the most essential.
While infants and young children, especially when 3 may be affected by VAD; pregnant and lactating women are more likely to be affected.
The risk of disease and death from severe infections such as measles and diarrhea is increased by VAD. VAD may also cause growth retardation in young children.
VAD is the primary cause of preventable childhood blindness. You can prevent VAD in children by early breastfeeding.
The sources of plants include green leafy vegetables and yellow/orange fruits and vegetables, particularly carrots, papaya, pumpkin, mango, oranges, etc. Red palm oil is rich in vitamin A.
The animal sources include liver, egg, fish, milk and dairy products such as cheese, curd, and butter.
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is fat soluble and stored in your skin. It means that it can contribute to toxic levels of excess consumption. Nausea, dizziness, headaches, pain, and even death may be symptoms.
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