Vitamin A; Benefits, symptoms of deficiency, and sources of this vitamin

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally in many foods. This vitamin is essential for eyesight, immune system, and reproduction. This vitamin also helps the body’s organs to function better, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.

In this article, we will get acquainted with vitamin A and its effect on the body.

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that exists in many forms in nature. Different types of this vitamin are divided into two main categories; “Retinoids” are found mostly in meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and “carotenoids” found mostly in fruits, vegetables, and other plant products. The most common type of carotenoid is beta-carotene.

Both of these vitamins are converted to “retinol” by the liver in the body. Retinol is then delivered to the body’s cells or stored by the lymphatic system.

What are the properties of vitamin A for the body?

As a nutritious food, this vitamin has many benefits for the body, to name a few.

1. A powerful antioxidant

Antioxidants are a set of molecules whose job in the body is to protect tissues against free radicals.

Antioxidants play a crucial role in fighting free radicals and regenerating damaged cells. Also, antioxidants reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

2.Essential for eye health

Vitamin A is essential for converting light into electrical signals transmitted to the brain and maintaining vision.

Nyctalopia can be one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency. This vitamin is one of the main components in forming the biological pigment “Rhodopsin” (Rhodopsin), found in the retina. Rhodopsin is very sensitive to light and, therefore, can make low light vision possible.

People with retinal detachment have normal vision during the day, but in the dark and low light due to rhodopsin deficiency, their eyes can not react well; Thus, a person’s vision is severely reduced and goes to the point of blindness.

In addition to preventing retinal detachment, eating adequate amounts of beta-carotene may help prevent vision loss due to aging.

“Age-related macular degeneration” or “yellow spot degeneration” (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age. Although this disease’s exact cause is unknown, cell damage to the retina may result from oxidative stress.

Studies in patients with “yellow spot destruction” show that giving antioxidant supplements to people over the age of 50 reduces the risk of developing the advanced form by 25%.

3.Reduces the risk of cancer

Cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the body begin to grow or divide in an uncontrolled manner. Because vitamin A plays a vital role in cell growth and development, its effectiveness in preventing and reducing cancer risk is attractive to scientists.

Studies show that adequate beta-carotene intake is directly associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cervical, lung, and bladder cancers.

It should be noted. However, that high intake of this vitamin through plant foods can reduce the risk of cancer, but animal foods that contain active forms of vitamin A do not have such an effect on reducing the risk of cancer. (Everything About Zinc Deficiency; Symptoms, Risks)

Also, vitamin A supplements have not shown the same beneficial effect. Some studies have shown that smokers taking beta-carotene supplements have an increased risk of lung cancer.

4.It is useful for infertility and fetal growth

Vitamin A is essential for maintaining a healthy reproductive system in both men and women and ensuring the fetus’s average growth during pregnancy.

Laboratory studies show that vitamin A deficiency in men reduces the growth of sperm cells and causes infertility. Similarly, a deficiency of this vitamin in women reduces the egg’s quality and hurts egg implantation in the uterus.

In pregnant women, vitamin A is involved in the growth and development of many major organs and structures of the fetus, such as the skeleton, nervous system, heart, kidneys, eyes, lungs, and pancreas. However, overuse during pregnancy can be dangerous for the developing fetus and lead to congenital disabilities.

Therefore, doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid arbitrary consumption of foods that contain large amounts of this vitamin and supplements containing this vitamin.

5.Increases the strength of the immune system

Vitamin A plays a vital role in boosting the immune system. Having enough of this vitamin in the body makes the mucosa of parts of the body, such as the eyes, lungs, intestines, and genitals, resistant to bacteria and infectious agents’ invasion.

Vitamin A is also involved in the production and function of white blood cells. As you know, white blood cells are responsible for absorbing and clearing bacteria and other bloodstream pathogens. This means that this vitamin deficiency can increase your susceptibility to infection and delay recovery if you are sick.

In countries where infections such as measles and malaria are common, correcting vitamin A deficiency in children has reduced the risk of dying from these diseases.

6.Vitamin A is essential for the skin and its protection

Acne is a chronic and inflammatory skin disease. People with this disease develop painful spots and blackheads on the face, back and chest.

The skin’s sebaceous glands produce sebum; Oils, and waxes that keep your skin oily and waterproof. Acne mainly affects the sebaceous glands when the sebaceous glands are blocked by excess fat and dead cells.

Acne scars are safe for the body but can have severe psychological consequences, leading to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

The exact role of vitamin A in the development and treatment of acne is still unknown. However, it has been suggested that a deficiency in this vitamin may increase the risk of acne, as it causes the creatine protein to overproduce hair follicles.

Overproduction of creatine protein can block hair follicles and make it challenging to drain dead cells.

Here are some other properties of vitamin A for the skin.
  • Anti-wrinkle: Retinoids work best against the most obvious signs of aging, namely scary wrinkles. Many gels and serums are containing this vitamin on the market that you can easily use.
  • Firming: Retinoic acid (the active form of retinoids on the skin) effectively keeps the skin smooth, fresh, and moist. Vitamin A deficiency can cause dry skin, itching, or dry hair.
  • Strengthen skin pigments: Vitamin A causes pigment in the skin and helps in natural tanning.
  • Healing: This vitamin improves and softens the skin and regulates the body’s metabolism to regenerate cells in the skin’s top layer.

7.Ensures bone health

As you probably know, calcium is an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy bones throughout a protein’s life. However, getting enough vitamin A is essential for proper bone growth, and a deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.

The risk of bone fractures is 6% higher in people with deficiencies than in people with regular vitamin A levels in the blood.

Which foods have vitamin A?

Thyroid or the active form of vitamin A is mostly found in animal sources, especially liver and fish. Other retinoids include milk and chicken eggs, which also contain a precursor to this vitamin or carotenoids.

Also, green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, fruits, and some vegetable oils are rich sources of vitamin A precursors, including beta-carotene.

Is high vitamin A intake harmful to health?

Overdose of retinoids (found in certain supplements or medications) can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, coma, and even death.

Also, as mentioned earlier, a high intake of vitamin A in pregnant women can increase infants’ risk of congenital disabilities. Therefore, women who may be pregnant should not take high doses of vitamin A supplements.

Also, consuming large amounts of beta-carotene or other vitamin A precursors can cause the skin to turn yellow or orange. Although this complication is harmless, it can have other problems.

On the other hand, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. This vitamin deficiency also increases the severity and risk of death due to measles and diarrhea.

However, it is best to consult your doctor before taking vitamin A supplements, as, as we have said, high retinoid intake can cause food poisoning. Also, these supplements may interact with birth control pills, anticoagulants, and acne medications.

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