Vitamin A has many health benefits, including important functions in your body. It includes a healthy vision, ensuring the normal working of your body.
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A compound is found in two unique forms:
1. Preformed vitamin A: Preformed vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin the 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. Protects Your Eyes
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.
Rhodopsin is found in your eye’s retina and is light 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 these benefits of vitamin A, 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.
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 AMD’s decline in vision.
2. Reduces Chronic Skin Disorder
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. These glands are in your skin’s hair follicles and contains 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.
Vitamin A deficiency can increase your risk of developing acne as it causes your hair follicles to overproduce the protein keratin.
This would increase your risk of acne by making it harder to remove dead skin cells from hair follicles, which contributes to blockages.
Isotretinoin is one example of an effective oral retinoid in the treatment of severe acne. This drug may have serious side effects, however, and must be taken under medical supervision only.
3. Enhances Immune System
Vitamin 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.
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.
4. Reduces Risk of Cancer
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.
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.
However, high intakes of vitamin A from plant foods have been related to a reduced risk of cancer, animal foods containing active forms of vitamin A are not linked in the same way.
Therefore, vitamin A supplements do not have the same benefits. In fact, smokers taking beta-carotene supplements had an increased risk of lung cancer in some studies.
The link 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 risk of certain cancers.
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.
Rat studies investigating the role of vitamin A in male reproduction system have shown that vitamin A deficiency can impair sperm cell formation, which is the major cause of infertility.
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.
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.
However, too much vitamin A can also be harmful to the growing baby during pregnancy and can cause birth defects.
Most health experts also pointed out that women avoid foods containing enormous 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. 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 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 bone fractures.
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.
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 we need more controlled studies to confirm.
Keep in mind that the vitamin A alone does not determine your risk of bone fractures. Other nutrients such as vitamin D also play an important role.
Vitamin A is crucial to your body’s functions. Vitamin A has many benefits such as 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 can increase. VAD may also cause growth retardation in young children.
VAD is the primary cause of preventable childhood blindness. You can prevent VAD in children from 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 it can contribute to toxic levels of excess consumption. Nausea, dizziness, headaches, pain, and even death may be the symptoms.
Bioconversion of dietary provitamin A carotenoids to vitamin A in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010.
Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001.
Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for preventing age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017.
The psychosocial impact of acne, vitiligo, and psoriasis: a review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016.
Phrynoderma: a manifestation of vitamin A deficiency? The rest of the story. Pediatr Dermatol. 2005.
Vitamin A and risk of cervical cancer: a meta-analysis. Gynecol Oncol. 2012.
The anti-cancer effects of carotenoids and other phytonutrients resides in their combined activity. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2015.
Beta-carotene supplementation and incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease: the Women’s Health Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999.
The Role of Retinoic Acid (RA) in Spermatogonial Differentiation. Biol Reprod. 2016.
Vitamin A in reproduction and development. Nutrients. 2011.
Vitamin A in pregnancy: requirements and safety limits. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000.
The Effect of Vitamin A on Fracture Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017.
Vitamin A and bone health: the balancing act. J Clin Densitom. 2013.