Despite being abundantly available in Vitamin A rich foods, one-third of the world’s children under the age of five, suffer from its deficiency, according to a 2009 World Health Organisation’s global database on Vitamin A Deficiency. This deficiency has also been known to be fatal to kids, and has also been held responsible for causing preventable childhood blindness, particularly in South East Asian and Africa (as per a 2013 report by the National Institutes of Health). Numerous scientific studies have pointed at the health benefits of consuming adequate vitamin A, as part of your daily diet.
Let’s look at some of the important roles and benefits of consuming Vitamin A:
1. Eye Health
Vitamin A is responsible for maintaining eye health, as it converts the light entering our eyes into electrical signals that can be then interpreted by the brain. Additionally, Vitamin A is a component of the pigment rhodopsin, which is found in the retina of the eye and is said to be photosensitive.
2. Improved Immunity
A deficiency of Vitamin A can leave you to be vulnerable to a number of diseases and consuming it ensures that your body’s defences are active. This vitamin is important for maintenance of the mucous lining in the eyes, gut, genitalia and the lungs, and it is also crucial for development of white blood cells that fight infectious diseases.
3. Fights Acne
Acne is a skin problem that involves severe breakout of pimples that are often painful and most often even leave scars behind. Vitamin A is said to prevent development of acne.
4. Healthy Bones
Vitamin A also supports bone development and health and a deficiency of this vitamin has been linked with poor bone health. Some studies have shown that people with low levels of Vitamin A in blood are susceptible to bone fractures.
5. Reproductive Health
Vitamin A is important for maintaining the reproductive health of both men and women, especially the latter by ensuring the proper growth and development of the embryos during pregnancy. Deficiency of vitamin A in an expectant mother’s diet has been linked with birth defects in their kids.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver.
There are two types of vitamin A that are found in the diet.
Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods.
Provitamin A is found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. The most common type of pro-vitamin A is beta-carotene.
Vitamin A is also available in dietary supplements. It most often comes in the form of retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate (preformed vitamin A), beta-carotene (provitamin A) or a combination of preformed and provitamin A. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3936685/
Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. It is also known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye.
Vitamin A promotes good eyesight, especially in low light. It also has a role in healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Vitamin A is found in two forms:
Retinol: Retinol is an active form of vitamin A. It is found in animal liver, whole milk, and some fortified foods.
Carotenoids: Carotenoids are dark-colored dyes (pigments). They are found in plant foods that can turn into active form of vitamin A. There are more than 500 known carotenoids. One such carotenoid is beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by substances called free radicals.
Free radicals are believed to:
Contribute to certain long-term diseases
Play a role in aging
Eating food sources of beta-carotene may reduce the risk for cancer.
Beta-carotene supplements do not seem to reduce cancer risk.
Vitamin A comes from animal sources, such as eggs, meat, fortified milk, cheese, cream, liver, kidney, cod, and halibut fish oil.
However, many of these sources, except for Vitamin A fortified skim milk, are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
The best sources of vitamin A are:
Cod liver oil
Fortified breakfast cereals
Fortified skim milk
Orange and yellow vegetables and fruits
Other sources of beta-carotene such as broccoli, spinach, and most dark green, leafy vegetables
The more deep the color of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the amount of beta-carotene. Vegetable sources of beta-carotene are fat- and cholesterol-free. Their absorption is improved if these sources are eaten with a fat.
If you do not get enough vitamin A, you have more risk of eye problems such as:
Reversible night blindness
Non-reversible corneal damage known as xerophthalmia
Lack of vitamin A can lead to hyperkeratosis or dry, scaly skin.
If you get too much vitamin A, you can become sick.
Large doses of vitamin A can also cause birth defects.
Acute vitamin A poisoning most often occurs when an adult takes several hundred thousand IUs of vitamin A.
Chronic vitamin A poisoning may occur in adults who regularly take more than 25,000 IU a day.
Babies and children are more sensitive to vitamin A. They can become sick after taking smaller doses of vitamin A or vitamin A-containing products such as retinol (found in skin creams).
Large amounts of beta-carotene will not make you sick. However, high amounts of beta-carotene can turn the skin yellow or orange. The skin color will return to normal once you reduce your intake of beta-carotene.
The best way to get the daily requirement of important vitamins is to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, fortified dairy foods, legumes (dried beans), lentils, and whole grains.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine — Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Recommended Intakes for individuals of vitamin A:
Infants (average intake)
0 to 6 months: 400 micrograms per day (mcg/day)
7 to 12 months: 500 mcg/day
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins is how much of each vitamin most people should get each day. The RDA for vitamins may be used as goals for each person.
1 to 3 years: 300 mcg/day
4 to 8 years: 400 mcg/day
9 to 13 years: 600 mcg/day
Adolescents and adults (RDA)
Males age 14 and older: 900 mcg/day
Females age 14 and older: 700 mcg/day (for females aged 19 to 50, 770 mcg/day during pregnancy and 1,300 mcg/day during breastfeeding)
How much of each vitamin you need depends on your age and gender. Other factors, such as pregnancy and your health, are also important. Ask your health care provider what dose is best for you.