Vitamin A : Facts, uses, sources (Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin A)

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We interviewed Dr. Swati Maheshwari, Internal medicine specialist, this is all she has to say about vitamin A.

Vitamin A is group of unsaturated nutritional organic compounds that includes retinol, retinal, and several provitamin A carotenoids (notably beta-carotene). Vitamin A is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication. It also supports cell growth and differentiation, playing a critical role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, kidneys, lungs and other major organs. Acute deficiency of vitamin A can cause night blindness.

Types of Vitamin A

There are two different types of vitamin A – one that is preformed is found in meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. The second type, provitamin A, is found in fruits, vegetables, plant-based products. The most common type of provitamin A is beta-carotene which a precursor to vitamin A.

Benefits

Adequate intakes of carotenoids from fruits and vegetables are linked to a lower risk of certain types of cancer.

Retinoic acid, (derived from vitamin A) has been found to normalise blood sugar in mice with diabetes.

Vitamin A is important in the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.

It is also responsible for a healthy eyesight and vision.

Sources

Ready-made retinol, the active form of vitamin A, only comes from animal sources which are :

  • meats, such as liver
  • fatty fish, and fish oil
  • butter, milk, and cheese
  • eggs and poultry

Plant-based foods contain carotenoids (an orange pigment that contributes to the color of certain fruits and vegetables) antioxidant forms of vitamin A. These are converted to retinol in the body.

  • orange-colored vegetables
  • sweet potatoes
  • orange-colored fruits (papayas, mangoes)
  • Plant foods rich in beta-carotene include:
  • broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, and other dark, leafy green vegetables
  • zucchini
  • peppers

Dosage

  • up to 3 years: 600 mcg per day
  • 4 to 8 years: 900 mcg per day
  • 9 to 13 years: 1,700 mcg per day
  • 14 to 18 years: 2,800 mcg per day
  • 19 years and over: 3,000 mcg per day
  • From 14 years, the requirement for males is 900 mcg per day, and for females, 700 mcg per day
  • For women aged 19 to 50 years, the requirement is 770 mcg per day during pregnancy and 1,300 mcg per day while breastfeeding

However, overconsumption of vitamin A can be toxic. It can cause :

  • skin changes, such as yellowing, cracking, itching, and heightened sensitivity to sunlight
  • vision changes and, in younger children
  • brittle nails
  • hair changes, like hair loss and oily hair
  • weak bones, bone pain/swelling
  • vomiting, dizziness, headaches and nausea
  • difficulty gaining weight
  • decreased appetite
  • gum diseases
  • changes in alertness
  • a bulging fontanelle, or the soft spot in the skull, in children
  • liver disease, in cases of extremely excessive intake

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