Vitamin A: More Than Meets the Eye

Veggie Table
The benefits of Vitamin A go way beyond just vision. It can boost your immune system, prevent cancer and improve your fertility. (Photo by Ian Sane)

When we think Vitamin A, our mind immediately associates it with good vision. While that’s the primary function of this nutrient, it is not the only benefit you can secure. It promotes cellular regeneration and bolsters your immune system. Researchers also claim that Vitamin A does its bit to prevent cancer.

In this article, we will cover the health benefits of Vitamin A and a list of the food sources that will make up for your daily requirement.

Vitamin is a fat-soluble vitamin. It exists in two forms:

  • Beta-carotene: Sourced from plants. It is not pre-formed; thus, it is first converted into retinol by the body, and then used.
  • Retinoids: Sourced from animals. It is in the active form implying that it can be used directly.

Each of these sustains different functions in the body.

Benefits of Vitamin A

Improved Eyesight

Vitamin A is not called the “eye vitamin” for no reason. Rhodopsin, the light-absorbing receptor, enables color vision and sight in low light. The retina needs Vitamin A for its production (retinal combines with opsin to form Rhodopsin), in the absence of which these functions fail.

Vitamin A also retains the moistness of the mucous membranes in the eyes preventing dry eyes. Beta-carotene reduces the chances of muscular degeneration, a condition responsible for age-related blindness. A severe deficiency of Vitamin A could lead to poor night vision, glaucoma, cataracts, partial or total blindness.

Smooth and Healthy Skin

As a major antioxidant, Vitamin A can turn the clock back on life. It protects the skin from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. It repairs old, damaged skin cells restoring an even texture, complexion and a youthful glow. By boosting the production of the skin-essential collagen protein, it prevents signs of ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin A plays an active role in minimizing sun damage to the skin. It is also effective in fighting acne.

Boosts Immune System

A deficiency of Vitamin A is generally a cause for recurrent infections in an individual. Vitamin A in adequate amounts improves lymphocytic responses. Thus, it helps fight viral infections by producing antibodies. These include diarrhea and measles and children and autoimmune diseases and illnesses like common colds in adults.

Unbeknownst to most, Vitamin A helps increase fertility. (Photo by Josh Bancroft)
Unbeknownst to most, Vitamin A helps increase fertility. (Photo by Josh Bancroft)

Reproductive Function

A little known benefit of Vitamin A is its role in reproduction. It affects fertility levels by influencing sperm production and embryonic development.

Cancer Prevention

Vitamin A can prevent certain types of cancer – skin, breast, ovarian, prostate, bladder and oral cancer. This is because of its ability to arrest the growth of malignant cells.

Besides, the above mentioned benefits, Vitamin A promotes the health of teeth, bones and hair, allows scrapes and cuts to heal fast and prevents the formation of urinary stones.

Natural Sources of Vitamin A

While you can always take a Vitamin A supplement, there’s nothing to beat food sources for ample amounts of the same.

  • Plant sources: Sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, kale, cantaloupe, spinach, apricots, broccoli, mango, papaya (practically all yellow and orange colored fruits and dark-green leafy vegetables)
  • Animals Sources: Liver, eggs, fortified milk, cheese, butter, oily fish (halibut and tuna)

How much should you take?

Vitamin A is the trickiest of all vitamins. You can’t have it in excess and neither less. An excess can cause liver toxicity. Here’s the recommended intake according to gender.

Males (14 years and older) – 900 mcg per day
Females (14 years and older) – 700 mcg per day
Pregnant women – 770 mcg per day
Breastfeeding – approx. 1300 mcg per day

Nevertheless, it is advisable you consult your doctor.

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