Vitamin A is the name of a group of retinoids that are dissolvable in fat, including retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters.
It is beneficial in the formation and protection of skin, bones and other body tissues. It is also essential for healthy eyesight since it is present in rhodopsin; a protein that is responsible for absorbing light in the retinal receptors. It functions as an antioxidant that helps prevent the destruction of body cells and has many other benefits as well.
According to health experts, Vitamin A promotes cell growth, cell division and helps protect and maintain the heart, lungs, kidneys and other vital organs in their prime condition.
Where does Vitamin A come from?
Vitamin A consists of two types available in the human diet. Preformed Vitamin A, also known as retinol, can be found in animal products such as fortified milk, eggs, cheese, and meat, but higher concentrations are found in liver and fish oils.
Pro-Vitamin A is present in plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables.
The most important and well-known type of pro-Vitamin A is beta-carotene, a carotenoid that causes plant foods to have dark pigments. Beta-carotene can be found in certain bright colored foods like apricots, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, winter squash, dark green and leafy vegetables, pumpkin and pink grapefruit.
What are the benefits of Vitamin A?
Vitamin A has a myriad of health benefits. Retinol not only produces the pigments in eye retinas, but it is also crucial for good eyesight, especially night vision, and overall healthy eyes. A study was conducted to study old age prone eye diseases by the National Eye Institute.
Results showed that Vitamin A and zinc, which have high antioxidant content, were found to have a significant effect by lowering the risk of the onset of macular degeneration, which is related to old age by about 25 percent. One of the health experts claimed that age-related macular degeneration is one of the top causes of vision loss in the older generation.
What’s more, Vitamin A improves the condition of the skin, by causing the skin to glow and promote the repair of skin cells. Being a potent ingredient, Vitamin A is present in most Retin-A type products sold on shelves. Retin-A is a brand name for tretinoin, which is a prescribed medication to reduce acne and improve skin conditions. It functions by promoting faster cell growth, to allow more supple and youthful skin to be regenerated quicker. However, it can cause irritation when large amounts of it are being used on the skin.
Vitamin A also has other medical benefits. This includes the formation and regulation of teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucous membranes, the immune system, and white blood cells. Beta-carotene also functions as an antioxidant, safeguarding cells from free radical destruction.
Even though antioxidants play a role in preventing the onset of cancer, there is insufficient evidence to back up the theory that beta-carotene supplements are potent in cancer prevention. Furthermore, organic beta-carotene can also be taken through vegetables and fruits which have been found to be effective in hindering the onset of cancer.
Alcohol consumption in pregnant women can cause Vitamin A deficiency and this may often lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. Hence, by supplementing expectant mothers with Vitamin A, it may counter the detriments and prevent the fetus from developing the syndrome.
What exactly is Vitamin A deficiency?
Vitamin A deficiency is one of the top factors that lead to childhood blindness in Southwest Asia. It occurs when the body lacks a sufficient amount of Vitamin A needed.
Every year, approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children in the world who suffer from vitamin A deficiency lose their vision. Half of them actually die within 12 months of going blind.
Several symptoms of severe Vitamin A deficiency include extreme night blindness, diarrhea, dry eyes, and skin conditions.
What are the optimal dosages of Vitamin A?
Intake recommendations for Vitamin A are stated in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) which are created by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Vitamin A has to be treated in the right dosage. Insufficient amounts of it can cause an individual to be more sensitive and less immune to diseases and eye problems, and too much of it may also lead to other issues as well.
The optimal dosage for Vitamin A is dependent on age, gender, and reproductive status. Women should generally consume 700 mcg while men should take about 900 mcg per day, according to experts. In general, people should steer clear of doses over 25,000 international units (IU) per day as it can pose other problems and lead to many side effects.
One IU is equal to 0.3 mcg retinol, or 0.6 mcg of beta-carotene, as posited by the National Institute of Health. To make an easier comparison, half a cup of baked sweet potato has approximately 19,218 IU of vitamin A, according to the measurements by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A medium-sized cantaloupe also has 18,668 IU and half a cup of chopped up carrots has around 10,692 IU. Hence, if you consume these amounts of carrots and sweet potatoes, you are definitely overdosing on Vitamin A for the day; so be sure to take note of your Vitamin A intake. Though vitamins are beneficial and vital for your body, be sure to abide by the healthy consumption range in order to avoid unnecessary side effects from occurring.
Common sources of Vitamin A include fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Over-consuming Vitamin A is indeed possible since it is dissolvable in fat and can lead to many problems with symptoms like skin and hair loss, and even neurologic problems and gastrointestinal pain. Prolonged overdosage may also result in liver failure.
An internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center has confirmed that prolonged overdosage may result in nausea, vomiting, problems with balancing, liver failure, muscle discomfort, confusion, fatigue, hip fractures and even a higher tendency in developing osteoporosis. Hence, it is imperative to take note of your daily Vitamin A intake to ensure that you are consuming healthy amounts for your body.
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