Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin A
Vitamin A refers to a group of nutrients known as retinoids, which ensure several functions in the body. Generally speaking, we can find two forms of vitamin A in foods:
- Preformed vitamin A — this form is exclusively found in animal products (e.g., dairy, fish, liver).
- Provitamin A –– this form is usually found in fruits, vegetables, and oils.
In order to get used by the body, both forms of vitamin A must get converted into retinal and retinoic acid, which offer the vast majority of the health benefits.
You should note that vitamin A is a fat-soluble molecule, meaning it gets stored inside adipose tissue for later use. In the human body, the vast majority of vitamin A is stored inside the liver
These compounds get transported by attaching to retinol-binding protein (RBP).
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of vitamin A, as well as the potential side effects that could arise from its deficiency.
The benefits of vitamin A
Vitamin A offers a myriad of health benefits, including the following:
It neutralizes oxidative stress
Provitamin A carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, possess potent antioxidative properties.
You see, the body keeps close storage of free radicals and antioxidants to prevent oxidative stress and tissue damage.
Unfortunately, this balance gets disrupted in some cases, leading to what’s known as oxidative stress.
Throughout hundreds of clinical trials, researchers found that oxidative stress is the hallmark of most chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative ailments (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease).
It promotes eye health and prevents macular degeneration
One of the most prevalent health benefits of vitamin A is promoting eye health and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMG).
In fact, scientists found that higher blood levels of different forms of vitamin A (e.g., beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin) reduce the risk of AMG by 25%.
Researchers attribute this risk reduction to the potent antioxidative properties of carotenoids and their action on oxidative stress.
It may reduce some types of cancer
Another significant health benefit of neutralizing free radicals is the ability to reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
In a 2014 study, researchers monitored 10,000 adult smokers who had high levels of alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. These individuals experienced a 46-61% reduction in the risk of dying from lung cancer.
Furthermore, laboratory studies confirmed the ability of retinoids to block the growth of certain types of cancers, including bladder, breast, and ovarian cancers.
It promotes fertility and fetal health
Vitamin A is vital for fertility since it plays an important role in the development of sperm and eggs.
After conception, this compound aids in fetal development and prevents certain birth defects induced by intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR).
For this reason, doctors recommend all pregnant mothers to start taking vitamin A supplements to optimize their health and the development of the baby.
It boosts the action of the immune system and reduces the risk of infections
Vitamin A interferes with numerous immunological reactions, including the ones that involve the stimulation of immune cells to fight off infections.
Another vital role of this vitamin to promote the growth of B- and T-cells, which are part of the cellular immune system that reacts to foreign pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi).
To add to this argument, vitamin A deficiency often leads to abnormally high levels of pro-inflammatory compounds that disrupt immune system response and predispose you to various infectious diseases.
Dosage and sources of vitamin A
Getting sufficient amounts of vitamin A through your diet is crucial to prevent the complications of its deficiency. Therefore, you must include a variety of foods that contain this vitamin in your diet.
However, the amount of vitamin A absorbed by your body will depend on how effective it is at converting carotenoids into the active form of vitamin A. This process depends on your diet, what drugs you’re taking, and genetics.
With that being said, here is a list that contains the foods with the highest amounts of vitamin A:
- Liver sausage
- King mackerel
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
- Cheddar cheese
- Sweet potatoes
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Swiss chard
- Red peppers
- Butternut squash
The chart below demonstrates the richest foods of vitamin A:
The consequences of vitamin A deficiency
While vitamin A deficiency is relatively uncommon in developed countries due to the fortification of food, it still occurs in many nations around the globe, causing serious complications.
In this section, we will discuss the common signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.
Based on statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children. The sad news is that it’s also the most preventable cause of blindness worldwide.
We also mentioned that vitamin A is crucial for pregnancy and the development of the fetus; therefore, low levels of this vitamin slows the growth of the baby and increases the risk of birth defects.
On the lighter side of things, vitamin A deficiency causes dermatological conditions, such as acne vulgaris and hyperkeratosis.
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“If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider“
“If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention“
Vitamin A is a crucial compound that mediates numerous vital functions in the body, making it one of the most important vitamins. It is essential for normal vision and boosts your immunity for greater protection.
Vitamin A contributes to many of the vital organs within the body to work better and in conjunction with each other.
Hopefully, this article managed to shed some light on this important topic, but if you still have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below.