Vitamin A is a generic term referring to a group of fat-soluble compounds paramount for human health. It belongs to the family of compounds called retinoids. The retinoid designation came about upon discovering that vitamin A had the biological activity of retinol, which was initially isolated from the retina. There are three important forms of vitamin A: retinol, beta carotenes, and carotenoids.
How essential is vitamin A to the body? How does a deficiency or an excess of it affect the body? Vitamin A is essential in body processes like maintaining healthy vision and enabling the normal functioning of the immune system. It also promotes the proper growth and development of babies in the womb.
Vitamin A compounds are usually found in plant and animal foods. They came in two distinct forms: provitamin A and preformed vitamin A. Due to nutritional deficiencies in society, there is an urgency to discuss vitamin A. Therefore, this blog will describe the benefits, deficiency, and toxicity of vitamin A in the body.
Lowers the Risk of Certain Cancers
Cancer arises when abnormal cells start to grow or divide in an uncontrolled manner. However, due to the antioxidant propertiesof vitamin A, vegetables and carotenoid-rich fruits may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Studies have shown that retinoid can suppress the growth of certain cancer cells such as theovarian, bladder, and breast. As vitamin A serves an important role in cell growth and development, it interferes with cancer cells.
Research indicated that high amounts of vitamin A in beta-carotene are associated with decreased risk of certain types of cancer. Some of these include Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cervical, lung, and bladder cancer. Animal foods with active forms of vitamin A are not as effective as plant-based foods. Vitamin A supplements are also effective in reducing the risks of cancer. Sufficient vitamin A intake from whole plant foods may lower the risk of certain cancers.
Protects the Eyes Against Night Blindness and Age-Related Degeneration
Vitamin Ais vital in preserving eyesight as it converts the light that hits your eye into an electrical signal that is then transmitted to your brain for interpretation. One symptom of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness referred to as nyctalopia.
The vitamin is a vital component of the pigment rhodopsin. People with this condition can still see in the daytime but have reduced vision in darkness as their eyes struggle to absorb light at a lower intensity—rhodopsin is contained in the eye’s retina and is highly sensitive to light.
Additionally, consuming enough amounts of beta-carotene may assist delay the decline in eyesight that some people experience as they age. Age-related macular degeneration(AMD) is the most common cause of blindness in the developed world. Though not proven fully, it is suspected to result from cellular destruction to the retina characterized by oxidative stress.
A study on this aspect was conducted on people over 50 years who had some form of eyesight degeneration. They were given an antioxidant supplement (including beta-carotene) that lowered the risk of developing advanced macular degeneration by 25%. Therefore, consumption of sufficient amounts of vitamin A inhibits the development of night blindness and may delay the age-related decline of your eyesight.
Lowers the Risk of Acne
Acne is a chronic, inflammatory skin malfunction. People with this condition develop blackheads and painful spots, mostly on the face, chest, and back. These spots arise when the sebaceous glands get blocked up with dead skin and oils. Sebaceous glands are found in the hair follicles on the skin and synthesize oily sebum, a waterproof and waxy compound that keeps your skin lubricated and elastic.
Though the spots might be physically undamaging, acne may seriously impact people’s mental health and result in low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Studies show that vitamin A deficiency may elevate the risk of developing acne. It causes an overproduction of the protein keratin in your hair follicles. Finally, it elevatesthe chances of acne by making it hardto excrete dead skincells from hair follicles, which may lead to clogging.
Anchors Bone Health
The vital nutrients required to maintain healthy bones as you age are vitamin D, protein, and calcium. However, consumption of vitamin A-rich foods is also necessary for proper bone growth and development. Deficiency in vitamin A is associated with poor bone health. People with reduced blood levels of vitamin A are at a higher risk of bone fractures than people with healthy levels.
Additionally, research indicated that people with the highest levels of vitamin A in their diet had a 6% decreased risk of fractures. As researchers suggest, it is important to know that excess vitamin A in the body can also increase bone fracture risk. However, vitamin A alone does not determine the risk of fractures, and you should consider other key nutrients like vitamin D in the diet.
Vitamin A deficiency is prevalent in developing countries because the population has limited access to food sources of provitamin A and preformed vitamin A carotenoid. Being deficient in vitamin A can result in serious health complications. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) research, vitamin A deficiency contributes to preventable blindness in children globally.
Vitamin A deficiency also elevates the severity and chances of dying from infections like diarrhea and measles. Besides, vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of anemia and death in pregnant women. It also causes negative effects on the fetus by delaying growth and development. Less severe symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are acne and skin issues like hyperkeratosis.
Hypervitaminosis A is caused by eating excess preformed vitamin A through your diet or supplements containing the vitamin. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is usually stored in the body. Excess consumption may lead to toxic levels. Symptoms can be dizziness, nausea, headaches, pain, or death. Though it can result from excessive intake from the diet, this is rare compared to overconsumption from medications and supplements.
Vitamin A is pivotal in many processes in the body. It helps maintain healthy vision, promote the normal functioning of your body organs and immune systems. It alsoestablishes normal growth and development of babies in the woman. The best strategy to ensure you get a balanceddiet is to eat vitamin A-rich foods as part of your normal food and avert supplementing with excessive amounts. Everyone needs to eat a balanced diet to ensure their health is not threatened. Vitamin A deficiency has negative impacts on the body. However, excessive consumption of the same has serious side effects and can be fatal.