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Vitamin A and all its incredible benefits

We all have a sense that vitamin A is important. Possibly simply because we know to get a healthy supply of all vitamins and minerals. But other than those who have a real interest in things like this, many of us do not know what vitamin A is and does. 

Vitamin A is a simple term for a group of fat-soluble compounds that are crucial for our health. Vitamin A is essential for things like eye health. But vitamin A has many incredible benefits beyond those we learned as kids. 

An important consideration when we talk about things like vitamin A is to understand the sources of vitamin A. Where exactly do we get vitamin A from natural food sources? And if we cannot get enough vitamin A, what is the best way to supplement vitamin A? 

What is vitamin A? What are the many benefits of vitamin A? What are the sources of vitamin A? And how do we make sure we are getting enough vitamin A in our diet? This guide is all about the many incredible benefits of vitamin A. 

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin is A is the general term for a group of fat-soluble compounds that are crucial to human health. These compounds are necessary for things like healthy eyesight, a strong immune system, organ health, and the proper development of babies in the womb. 

Vitamin A occurs performed in nature. This type of vitamin A is readily accessible by the body. Preformed vitamin A is found in things like meat, chicken, fish, and dairy products. 

Other forms of vitamin A include retinol and retinoic acid. These are commonly found in a variety of food sources and a supplement. 

Vitamin A benefits

As an essential nutrient, vitamin A is crucial to our health. Since it is a major part of a balanced diet, vitamin A affects almost the entire body. Some of the primary benefits of vitamin A include:

Eye health

Perhaps the most well-known benefit of vitamin A is its importance to eyesight. Vitamin A is essential for eye health. Vitamin A is necessary to convert light taken in by the eye into an electrical impulse that is sent to the brain and registered as sight. 

One of the chief health issues we can suffer from as a result of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness or nyctalopia. Night blindness occurs when people do not get enough vitamin A in their diet. This deficiency leads to a reduction in levels of a pigment called rhodopsin. 

This pigment is found in the retina of the human eye and is especially sensitive to light. People who are lacking this pigment as the result of vitamin A deficiency will be able to see fine during the day. But they will not be able to see at night because the lack of the pigment will not allow enough light to trigger vision in the brain. 

Vitamin A, and its many forms, can also prevent macular degeneration as we age. Macular degeneration is the steady decline in vision that afflicts older adults. By maintaining a steady supply of beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A, we can prevent this type of vision loss. 

May prevent certain types of cancer

Cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to divide and multiply in an uncontrolled way. These cells eventually damage the body in progressive ways. 

Vitamin A is instrumental in helping cells divide and multiply in normal ways. For this reason, scientists have been looking at vitamin A as a way to regulate cell growth to prevent cancer. 

Some studies have shown that beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A, can decrease the risk of several types of cancer. Researchers have discovered that vitamin A can prevent the growth of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cervical cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer. 

Supports a healthy immune system

It has long been understood that vitamin A plays a crucial role in the immune system. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining the body’s natural defenses. 

Vitamin A is necessary for the production of white blood cells. The function of white blood cells is to capture and clear bacteria and other infectious agents from the body. 

What this means is that a vitamin A deficiency can make you susceptible to infection and disease. 

Reduces risk of acne

Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder. Although common, there are legitimate treatments for acne, and vitamin A can reduce your risk of developing acne. 

Acne occurs when sebaceous glands in the skin become clogged with dead skin and oils. These glands are found in hair follicles on the skin. They produce an oily waxy substance called sebum that keeps your skin lubricated and waterproof. 

Though acne is harmless, it has a serious impact on how people view themselves and on their mental health. Severe acne can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. 

Vitamin A has been found to prevent or reduce the severity of acne. The exact mechanism by which vitamin A treats acne is not entirely known, but the results show that vitamin A is an effective acne treatment. 

Supports bone health

We know that the key nutrients for supporting healthy bones are protein, calcium, and vitamin D. But doctors have learned that vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining bone health. 

Researchers have learned of the importance of vitamin A from observing people who have a vitamin A deficiency. What they found is that people with a vitamin A deficiency have a significantly higher risk of bone fractures. 

One study found that people with healthy levels of vitamin A in their diets have a 6 percent decrease in the risk of bone fractures. 

Healthy growth and reproductive health

Vitamin A is crucial to maintaining reproductive health in both men and women. It is also necessary for the proper growth of a developing fetus. 

Studies have shown that vitamin A deficiencies can block the development of sperm in men. For women, vitamin A deficiency can impact the production of egg cells and impede proper implantation. 

Vitamin A is essential for the proper development of major organs and physiological structures in a developing fetus. Development of the skeleton, nervous system, heart, kidneys, eyes, lungs, and pancreas all require sufficient levels of vitamin A. 

Sources of Vitamin A

There are plenty of ways to get vitamin A from dietary sources. Some of the best sources of vitamin A include:

Liver

Liver is the best source of vitamin A for a supplement. One 3-ounce serving of cooked liver contains 6600 mcg of vitamin A. That is 700 percent of the daily requirement. Liver is so rich in vitamin A that some health experts caution against eating liver more than once a week to guard against consuming too much vitamin A. 

Dairy products

Dairy is a great source of vitamin A in general. Some dairy products are further fortified with vitamin A beyond what naturally occurs. Depending on the source, a single serving of dairy can have between 100 and 300 mcg of vitamin A.

Sweet Potatoes

A single whole sweet potato contains 1400 mcg of vitamin A in the skin. This is 1450 percent of the daily requirement. For people on plant-based diets, sweet potatoes could be their main source of vitamin A. 

Spinach

We know spinach is one of the superfoods. A half-cup of spinach contains 570 mcg of vitamin A. You can get a healthy amount of vitamin A in spinach whether you eat it raw or cooked. 

Carrots

We have all been told to eat carrots for good eyesight. There is a good reason for this. Carrots contain 450 mcg of vitamin A in a half-cup. 

Squash

All forms of squash are healthy sources of vitamin A. It may come as good news to some that a slice of pumpkin pie contains 480 mcg of vitamin A—more than half the daily requirement. 

Peppers

Sweet peppers are another great source of vitamin A. Make sure you eat the sweet red peppers which contain 120 mcg in a half-cup. Green peppers, on the other hand, contain only 18 mcg. 

Cantaloupe

Since vitamin A can break down when heated, it is good to have a source that is eaten raw. Cantaloupes contain 135 mcg of vitamin A in a half-cup.

Deficiency of Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries since the availability of foods that are rich in vitamin A is prevalent. Still, vitamin A deficiency does occur. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include: 

  • Dry skin
  • Dry eyes
  • Night blindness
  • Infertility and trouble conceiving
  • Delayed child growth and development
  • Throat and chest infections
  • Poor wound healing

Vitamin A dosage

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) levels for vitamin A are 900 mcg daily for men and 700 mcg for women. For women who are pregnant, the RDA is 770 mcg daily. For breastfeeding women, the RDA is 1,300 mcg daily.

Vitamin A side effects

 Vitamin A is a fat-soluble compound, and it is stored in the body. This means it is possible to get too much vitamin A. Getting too much vitamin A in your body can be toxic.  

Excess vitamin A is called hypervitaminosis A. this can lead to nausea, dizziness, headaches, and pain. If left untreated, hypervitaminosis A can be fatal. 

It is very difficult to consume too much vitamin A in dietary forms. Excess vitamin A and hypervitaminosis A are almost always the results of taking too many vitamins A supplements. Talk to your doctor if you are taking a vitamin A supplement to make sure you are getting the correct dose. 

Vitamin A FAQs

What is vitamin A? 

Vitamin is A is the general term for a group of fat-soluble compounds that are crucial to human health. These compounds are necessary for things like healthy eyesight, a strong immune system, organ health, and the proper development of babies in the womb. 

What are the benefits of vitamin A? 

Vitamin A is good for eye health, a healthy immune system, reproductive health, and the health of a developing baby. Vitamin A may prevent certain types of cancer. And vitamin A helps prevent acne. 

What are good sources of vitamin A?

The best source of vitamin A is liver. Other sources include dairy, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, peppers, and cantaloupes. 

What are the signs of a vitamin A deficiency?

The most common signs of vitamin A deficiency are dry eyes, dry skin, and night blindness. 

Can I take too much vitamin A?

Yes. Too much vitamin A can cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea. An excessive amount of vitamin A can lead to a dangerous condition called hypervitaminosis A which can be fatal. 

Conclusion

Beyond our general understanding that vitamins and minerals are necessary, we find that vitamin A is essential to life. Everything from eyesight to clear skin, to potentially preventing cancer can depend on getting enough vitamin A. It turns out that vitamin A is more than just a simple ingredient on the product label. 

We all have the sense that we should be eating things that contain all the necessary vitamins. And certainly, most of us make an effort to eat the right foods. But getting enough vitamin A in our diet is especially important. 

The good news is that there are plenty of foods that contain vitamin A. Liver is packed with vitamin A. So much so that we need to be careful how much we eat. If liver is not to your tastes, simple dairy products, and sweet potatoes are also loaded with vitamin A. It is really easy to eat foods that contain large amounts of vitamin A. 

If you are having trouble getting enough vitamin A in your diet, there are plenty of healthy supplements. Just be careful how many vitamin A supplements you take. Too much vitamin A can be toxic. Simply talk to your doctor if you think you need vitamin A supplements. 

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