Vitamin A is an essential nutrient in the body with a wide range of benefits from strengthening eyesight to ensuring the normal function of your immune system and aiding in the development of babies in the womb. One that is readily found in a variety of foods and also available in supplements.
Benefits of Vitamin A
1. Protects eyes from night blindness and age-related decline
Vitamin A is essential for preserving eyesight with one of the key indicators of deficiency being night blindness. People with night blindness see normally during the day but experience diminished vision in darkness with their eyes struggling to pick up light at lower levels. Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness globally. A study found that giving people over the age of 50 who have some eyesight degeneration who have used vitamin A supplements reduced their risk of developing advanced macular degeneration. Health: 7 Ways To Care For Your Eyes
2. May lower your risk of certain cancers
Cancer occurs when cells grow and divide in an abnormal way. Vitamin A is linked to lowering the risk of cancer because it promotes the healthy growth and development of cells. Studies have found that consuming higher amounts of it decreases the risk of certain cancers. This however is limited to beta-carotene which is exclusively found in plant-based foods. Vitamin A supplements and animal sources don’t exhibit the same link in terms of cancer risk reduction. Cancer: Here Are Some Of The Causes And Symptoms To Look Out For
3. Relieves Inflammation
Beta-carotene acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body, reducing the build-up of harmful free radicals and preventing oxidative damage to cells, and blocking inflammation. This blocking of inflammation is critical because inflammation is at the root of many chronic conditions including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Reduced inflammation is also linked to reduced risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
4. Supports a healthy immune system
Vitamin A is involved in the production and function of white blood cells which help fight bacteria and other pathogens in the body. It also plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s defences including the mucous barriers in your eyes, lungs, gut, and genitals which help trap bacteria and other infectious agents.
A deficiency in vitamin A can increase your susceptibility to infections and delay your recovery when you fall ill. In countries with high incidences of measles and malaria, correcting Vitamin A deficiency has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from the disease.
5. Healthy skin and hair
Vitamin A is involved in the growth of all bodily tissues which includes skin and hair. It contributes to the production of sebum which is the oil that helps maintain levels of moisture in the skin and hair.
Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder in which people develop painful spots and blackheads most commonly on the face, back, and chest. The exact role played by vitamin A in the treatment and development of acne remains unclear but what is known is that it reduces your risk of acne and a deficiency of it can increase your risk of developing acne. Some vitamin A-based medications for acne are available with a prescription.
6. Promotes healthy growth and reproduction
Vitamin A is essential to maintaining a healthy reproductive system in both men and women. It is also essential in ensuring the normal growth and development of embryos during pregnancy. Studies have shown that a deficiency in the vitamin blocks the development of sperm cells causing infertility. In females, a deficiency can impact reproduction by reducing egg quality and affecting implantation in the womb.
In pregnant women, vitamin A is involved in the development of major organs and structures of the unborn child including the skeleton, nervous system, heart, kidneys, eyes, lungs, and pancreas. However, too much vitamin A can be harmful to a growing baby which is why pregnant women are advised not to eat food with concentrated amounts of vitamin A such as liver and are also advised to avoid supplements containing vitamin A while pregnant or applying skincare products with retinol (Vitamin A skincare products). Parenting: 6 Tips To Look Good While Pregnant
Sources of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in two primary forms: active Vitamin A (also called retinol) and beta-carotene. Retinol is found in animal-derived foods and is a form that can be used directly by the body. Beta-carotene is plant-based, usually found in colourful fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene, however, needs to be converted to retinol in order to be utilized by the body. While it is possible to get it from supplements, physicians recommend obtaining antioxidants contained in Vitamin A from a well-balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than from supplements.
Natural plant-based sources of vitamin A include:
- Cantaloupe melon
- Sweet potato
- Carrot (cooked)
- Romaine lettuce (raw)
The recommended intake of Vitamin A varies according to age and people generally need more when they are pregnant and when breastfeeding. Vitamin A can also be sufficiently obtained through a healthy diet without requiring supplements. Health: 6 Things You Should Know Before Taking Supplements
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