In times of sickness and in times of health, vitamins are highly recommended by our friends and colleagues, as well as medical professionals, whether to help us get well sooner or as prevention and overall health booster.
There is a wide variety of vitamins out there in colorful veggies and tasteful fruits, waiting for you to include them as a regular part of your healthy diet.
The following text will guide you through necessary info regarding no other than vitamin A.
WHAT IS VITAMIN A, AND HOW CAN IT HELP?
Vitamin A is actually a name for a group of fat-soluble retinoids including retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters.
The most familiar to us, and very important form of vitamin A is beta carotene. There are also some other familiar names you may have heard before like lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
First and foremost vitamin A is an essential component of rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light, vital for proper vision. That is where it’s most famous role, a role in proper vision comes from. The role of vitamin A in eye health is also associated with the support of normal function of the cornea and conjunctival membranes.
There are other roles of vitamin A, it can help with:
- Growth of cells and cell communication
- Maintenance of the integrity and function of barriers like skin, the lining of our guts, bladder, and respiratory tract
- Normal formation and maintenance of lungs, heart, kidneys, and other organs
- Immune function
- Defense against infections
As well as many other nutrients, Vitamin A has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that may protect you and your cells from oxidative damage that can lead to heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases.
HOW MUCH OF VITAMIN A DO WE NEED?
Too little or too much vitamin A can both have negative effects on health.
Deficiency may develop because of low intakes and also because of gastrointestinal abnormalities which can lead to poor absorption of the vitamin. Low vitamin A may lead to an increased risk of severe infections.
When the infection occurs, our body needs vitamin A to fight it, and if there is not enough vitamin A then it can just get worse than it already is.
Too much vitamin A on the other side may lead to vitamin toxicity (hypervitaminosis A).
This is why it is important to know how much of it we need.
For the proper intake of vitamin A first we must pay attention to gender and age, and also the conditions like pregnancy and lactation.
Recommended intakes of vitamin A are given in RAE (retinol activity equivalent)
- younger than 6 months – 400 mcg
- from 7 to 12 months – 500 mcg
- from 1- 3 years – 300 mcg
- from 4- 8 years – 400 mcg
- from 9-13 years – 600 mcg
- Males (14 years and older) – 900 mcg – equivalent to 3,000 IU
- Famlels (14 years and older ) – 700 mcg – equivalent to 2,333 IU
- Pregnancy – 750-770 mcg
- Lactation – 1200-1300 mcg
- 1 IU (International Units) retinol = 0.3 mcg RAE, so 900 mcg for adult males is the same as 3,000 IU, and 700 mcg the same as 2,333 IU for adult women (not pregnant or lactating).
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries, however, it may happen (much often in developing countries) if infants don’t get adequate amounts through breast milk because their mothers also don’t have adequate amounts (often due to poverty).
The most common symptom of vitamin A deficiency in children and pregnant women is xerophthalmia (progressive eye disease which can lead to dryness, irritability, and night blindness).
Vitamin A deficiency is one of the top causes of preventable blindness in children and also increases the severity and mortality risk of infections.
WHERE TO FIND VITAMIN A?
To avoid immune system problems as well as vision problems we need to get enough vitamin A. Now that we know how much we need, it is time to find out the sources that will share with us their vitamin A richness.
Plants contain vitamin A in the form of carotenoids. They have to be converted into retinol during digestion before our body can use them.
Carotenoids are one of the plant pigments, they give colors to some fruits and vegetables. They are mostly associated with orange-colored fruits and vegetables but can also be found in green ones.
In the following, you can see some of the rich sources of vitamin A :
- sweet potato
- sweet red pepper
- fortified breakfast cereal
- black-eyed peas
- tomato juice
You can make pumpkin pie or soup. You can eat your carrots raw as a snack as well as apricots and mango. There is a wide variety of options, but the important thing is to include these beautiful vitamin A sources in your diet.
Vitamin A is generally safe to use, but like many other nutrients, it may have some interactions with certain medications. If you are not sure whether to use it or not, the best option is to talk to your doctor.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a prescription, no matter if you live a healthy lifestyle or you are just beginning to change your habits, vitamin A is important for many functions, and it should be a regular part of every diet. Any day is a good day to start with its intake.
- National Institutes of Health, “Vitamin A”, NIH
- Mayo Clinic, “Vitamin A”, org
- Gilbert, Clare. “What is vitamin A and why do we need it?.” Community eye health 26,84 (2013), PMC
- Huang, Zhiyi et al. “Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System.” Journal of clinical medicine 7,9 258. 6 Sep. 2018, PMC
- Harvard School of Public Health, “Vitamin A”, harvard.edu.