Vitamin A (retinol) is a fat-soluble nutrient. It is available from two sources – an animal source known as retinoids that includes retinol essential for eye-health. The plant source is called carotenoids that include beta-carotene. The body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A. According to the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine, the daily intake of Vitamin A is 900 mg for men and 700 mg for women. It is an anti-oxidant that is classified as one of the top 5 anti-aging vitamins.
Health Benefits of Vitamin A
In the right quantities, the health benefits of vitamin A are critical for promoting good vision, preventing night blindness, maintain healthy teeth and skin and to build up the body’s immunity levels. Here are some of the medical conditions that can be targeted with the right doses of vitamin A.
Eye Disorders : Age-related macular degeneration that affects many older people can be arrested with a diet rich in vitamin A. Cataracts can also be kept at bay by consuming vitamin A. The results were less significant in those who only consumed vitamin A supplements although these were said to slow down a hereditary disease called retinitis pigmentosa or night blindness. This is prevented by the property of vitamin A of keeping the eyes moist. It can also prevent dry eye condition too. Those with weak eyes can get improved vision with the necessary quantities of vitamin A as it helps in forming visual purple in eyes. Those who suffer from glaucoma can also benefit from vitamin A.
Measles : In children, the severity of measles and complications resulting from it could be reduced with vitamin A supplements. Children who get infected by measles and have low levels of vitamin A in their body are more likely to develop serious complications from measles. A doctor must first check if there is a vitamin A deficiency in the child before recommending supplements as large quantities can be toxic and some cases can be fatal.
Cancer : Those who consume a healthy diet rich in carotenoids and beta-carotene found in vegetables and fruits are less likely to contract cancers such as colon, breast, cervical and esophageal cancer. There is no proof that vitamin A supplements have the same effect. In fact they have the opposite effect in those who smoke and drink. These people can contract lung cancer if they take vitamin A supplements. Abnormal cell growth in the cervix – cervical neoplasia – can be reduced with topical vitamin A.
Recommended Vitamin A Dosage
Immunity : Presence of adequate quantities of vitamin A in the body can enhance the immunity levels. This helps the body fight disease causing antigens through increasing lymphocytic responses. White blood cells activities are enhanced. Mucous membrane is kept moist therefore prevent germs causing infections from entering the body. Even if the germs enter the body, vitamin A can provide a double core protection. Therefore it can prevent infection and fight it too.
Skin Disorders : Many skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, premature aging, and warts can be treated with
skin creams that contain vitamin A. Prescription pills and creams that contain synthetic forms of vitamin A called retinoids are used for treating severe acne and psoriasis. These medications must be taken under medical supervision for they can result in serious side effects.
The health benefits of vitamin A as an anti-aging oxidant are significant. it is ranked among the top 5 most potent anti-aging vitamins. It helps to neutralize the harmful effects of oxidation that is caused by free radicals. These free radicals are the number one cause for age-related skin degeneration. Topical creams containing vitamin A reduce damage to the skin caused by UV rays. They also reduce fine lines and wrinkles on the skin by acting as an exfoliator. Vitamin A taken internally can reduce dark circles beneath the eyes.
Melanoma is a deadly skin cancer. A new study suggests that Vitamin A supplements can help protect people from melanoma. In a study, it was found that in a study group that consumed vitamin A supplements, 40% were less likely to contract melanoma. The effects were greater in women rather than men and protection was more in body parts exposed to sun’s rays.
Miscellaneous Health Benefits
- Strong bones and teeth are maintained with vitamin A. It helps to form dentin which is a hard material found below the teeth’s surface. This enhances the strength of teeth.
- Urinary stones can be prevented with vitamin A. Calcium phosphate can form urinary calculi and this is prevented by vitamin A. Recurrence of stones can be reduced since vitamin A retains the shape of urinary tract lining.
- Muscular dystrophy caused by poor bone health can be prevented by vitamin A. It helps in proper muscle growth in children and teenagers.
- Old tissues can be repaired and replaced by vitamin A.
- Cholesterol levels can be lowered with the right intake of vitamin A. This in turn protects the individual from risk of strokes and heart disease.
- Reproductive system is kept healthy with vitamin A.
- Genetic research has suggested the significant role vitamin A has to play in regulation of genetic events.
Foods Rich in Vitamin A
Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms
Most common symptoms are night blindness caused due to retina disorder (leading to eventual blindness), dryness in eyes and skin. As Vitamin A helps in immunity, infections develop more often during deficiency. Linings of intestine, lungs and urinary tract become thick and stiff.
Vitamin A Excess Symptoms
In case one takes excess Vitamin A it leads to toxicity. Such people experience hair loss, weakened bones (bone and joint pains), frequent headaches, dry skin etc. Children may also loose appetite in case of excess of Vitamin A intake.
As retinyl palmitate, vitamin A sources can be found in beef, chicken liver, calf, fish liver oils and eggs, dairy products like whole milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese and butter. The health benefits of vitamin A can also be got from colored fruits and vegetables that have a deep orange or yellow color and dark-green leafy vegetables – e.g. mangoes, apricots, peaches, cantaloupe, winter squashes, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins contain beta-carotene.
Those who have vitamin A deficiency can take vitamin A supplements under medical supervision. All women of child-bearing age not taking birth control and those who are pregnant cannot take Isotretinoin a medication for acne for it can cause extremely dangerous side-effects. Birth defects can be caused by pregnant women consuming synthetic vitamin A. Excessive vitamin A can cause liver failure. This condition is called hypervitaminosis A and can be chronic or acute.
Health benefits of vitamin A are many, and it is easily available in foods we intake. Include optimum amount of Vitamin A in your diet to stay healthy!