Vitamin A is a vital vitamin that dissolves in fat. It is commonly referred to by various names such as retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, or retinyl ester, all of which represent different forms of vitamin A. Certain animal products contain preformed vitamin A, also known as retinol, while certain fruits and vegetables contain plant pigments called provitamin-A carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A in the body.
Signs and symptoms:
One of the initial indications of a deficiency in vitamin A is night blindness, a condition known as nyctalopia. Night blindness causes difficulties in seeing clearly in the dark, but normal vision is possible under sufficient light conditions. Night blindness is caused by a disorder in the retina.
As the deficiency of vitamin A worsens, dryness of the whites of the eyes and corneas can occur, leading to an inability to produce tears, a condition called xerophthalmia. In addition, foamy spots known as Bitot spots may appear in the whites of the eyes. Corneal ulcers, open sores on the corneas, or corneal drying or clouding (keratomalacia) may develop, which can eventually result in blindness.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which is important in maintaining overall health and well-being. Some of the key benefits are as follows:
Vision Support: Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining good vision. The vision may be maitained especially in low light conditions. It’s a component of rhodopsin which is a protein in the retina of the eye that helps to see during night.
Skin Health: Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy skin as it supports the growth and repair of skin cells and tissues. It helps to regulate oil production, and supports the shedding of dead skin cells, which can assist in preventing clogged pores and acne.
Immune Function: Vitamin A plays a crucial role in maintaining the immune system by assisting to maintain the integrity of mucosal surfaces, such as the lining of the respiratory, urinary, and digestive and tracts. It also maintains the production and function of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections.
Reproductive Health: Vitamin A is crucial for reproductive health in both men and women. In women, it supports fetal development during pregnancy and assists in maintaining the health of the placenta. In men, vitamin A supports sperm production and overall function of reproduction.
Antioxidant Activity: Vitamin A has antioxidant properties, which means it assists to neutralize harmful molecules known as free radicals, which may damage cells and add to chronic diseases such as heart and cancer disease.
Bone Health: Vitamin A is helps in the regulation of bone metabolism and assists to maintain strong and healthy bones.
Cell Growth and Development: Vitamin A is helps in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation, which is crucial for normal development and maintenance of tissues throughout the whole body.
It’s important that while vitamin A is crucial for good health, excessive consumption can be harmful. It’s recommended to get vitamin A from a balanced diet from the foods rich in this vitamin, such as liver, eggs, fish, dairy products, and colorful fruits and vegetables like carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and mangoes.
Types of Vitamin A found in foods:
Preformed vitamin A (also known as retinol) and provitamin A are two types of Vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is commonly found in meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products.
The body converts carotenoids in plant foods, such as red, yellow, green and orange fruits and vegetables, into vitamin A.
Many people in developing countries do not get enough vitamin A causing to its deficiency. The individuals at highest risk of deficiency are breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, infants and children. Cystic fibrosis and chronic diarrhea may also increase the chances of deficiency.
Retinol, or preformed vitamin A, can be found in many fortified breakfast cereals, juices, dairy products, and other foods. Beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, or zeaxanthin, which are converted into vitamin A in the body, can be obtained from various fruits, vegetables, and some supplements.
Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli, as well as orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and different types of squash (winter and summer), are good sources of vitamin A. Other sources include tomatoes, red bell peppers, cantaloupe, mango, beef liver, fish oils, milk, eggs, and fortified foods.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to several complications, including:
Eye problems: Vitamin A plays a crucial role in various functions of the eyes. Its deficiency can result in vision loss and blindness.
Skin issues: Insufficient vitamin A levels can cause dry, scaly, and itchy skin.
Infertility: Vitamin A plays a significant role in the reproductive system. A deficiency can lead to difficulties in conceiving and infertility.
Growth issues: In children, vitamin A deficiency can cause delayed growth and developmental problems.
Respiratory tract infections: A lack of vitamin A can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections in the chest and throat.
Fruits with Vitamin A:
Apricot, Lemons, Mango, Melons, Papaya, Passion-fruit, Plum, Rambutan.