As there are various essential vitamins, every single Vitamin has its own function and importance in a human body. Here we will discuss about the very useful Vitamin A, and its health benefits. We will also talk about the deficiencies occurred due to lack of Vitamin A, and how we can meet the actual requirement of this vitamin for a proper bodily function.
Vitamin A is generally a bio-active nutrient. In other words, a group in which the nutritional organic compounds are not saturated is called Vitamin A. The organic compounds include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid and various Pro-vitamin A Carotenoids as well as beta-carotene. Retinol which is found is blood, is the main element of Vitamin A. The precursor of Vitamin A is beta-carotene, and it is majorly found in plants.
Being a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A works like a hormone in our body. It is highly considered as an essential tool for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Also, it helps in proper functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other interior organs of our body.
Health Benefits of Vitamin A
Taking a proper amount of Vitamin A gives us various health benefits, in which few of them are discussed below:
Reducing Risk of Cancer
Vitamin A contains many useful nutrients which are helpful in reducing the risk of cancer. The Pro-vitamin A Carotenoids is helpful in lowering the risk of lung cancer if taken in sufficient amount. The other organic compound of Vitamin A which is beta-carotene plays a protective and a very essential role against prostate cancer among younger males. Also, this organic compound is helpful in reducing the risk of colon cancer as it has an inverse association with the development of such cancer type.
Cure of Diabetes
Another benefit of Vitamin A is the cure it provides for diabetes. The retinoic acid, an organic compound found in Vitamin A, plays an important role in treating diabetes by normalizing the blood sugar in diabetic mice.
Generally the people who consume good amount of beta-carotene, the risks of developing asthma are seen less in them. Asthma is basically a Vitamin A deficiency.
Cure Diseases caused by Measles
In children, Vitamin A deficiencies are seen more than in any other age group. Common fever and diarrhea are two common diseases caused by Measles, and they may become more severe due to lack of Vitamin A. The risk can easily be shorten by taking sufficient amount of Vitamin A.
Healthy Skin and Hair
As Vitamin A plays an important role in the growth of all bodily tissues, it helps us get a healthy skin and hair. Sebum is the oil that is helpful in maintaining levels of moisture n the skin and hair. The production of Sebum is our body is done by taking sufficient amount of Vitamin A.
Food Sources Containing Vitamin A
The nutritional organic compounds which are available in Vitamin A are obtained from different food sources:
- The richest sources of retinol include liver, fatty fish like herring and salmon, fish oils, butter, milk, cheese, eggs and other food items obtained from the animal sources.
- Carotenoids like beta-carotene are available in plant-based foods, such as: butternut squash, papaya, apricots, cantaloupe, pumpkin and carrots. Also, broccoli, dark leafy green vegetables, zucchini, bell peppers, etc. contain high rich nutrients of beta-carotene.
Risk Factors of Over-consumption of Vitamin A
If Vitamin A is taken in an excessive amount, either through normal diet or by using any dietary supplement, risk of toxicity becomes high. A person, who consumes overdose of Vitamin A, may suffer with dry skin, gum disease, hair loss, brittle nails, weak bones, irritability, dizziness, nausea, headaches, coma, etc. Sometimes liver disease can also be caused due to over-consumption of Vitamin A in some cases. To avoid these risk factors, make sure you are getting the appropriate amount of Vitamin A. You must follow the RDA aka recommended dietary allowance in order to meet proper Vitamin A requirement.
- For an infant of age between 0 to 6 months and 6 to 12 months, 400 mcg RAE and 500 mcg RAE is enough respectively.
- If we talk about children of age between 1 to 3 years, 4 to 8 years and 9 to 13 years, the adequate intakes of Vitamin A are 300 mcg RAE, 400 mcg RAE and 600 mcg RAE respectively.
- The adolescents of age between 14 to 18 years and 18 to 50 years, 900 mcg RAE is needed for male and 700 mcg RAE is needed for female.
- The females need an additional amount of Vitamin A at their pregnancy and lactation periods, i.e. a female of age between 14 to 18 years and 18 to 50 years needs 750 and 770 mcg RAE respectively during pregnancy, and 1200 and 1300 mcg RAE during lactation period respectively.
Important note: Don’t get confused with the term Mcg Rae. MCG stands of microgram and RAE stands for Retinol Activity Equivalents. The reason for using these terms here in the above RADs is just because our body converts all the dietary sources of Vitamin A into retinol. For example: 1 mcg of physiologically available retinol is equivalent to the following amounts from dietary sources:
- 1 mcg of retinol is equivalent to 12 mcg of beta-carotene
- and, 1 mcg of retinol is equivalent to 24 mcg of alpha-carotene or beta-cryptoxanthin
If you are taking a dietary supplements, your body will convert 2 mcg of beta-carotene into 1 mcg of retinol.
According to the Federal Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, natural food sources should be highly considered for getting essential nutrients instead of taking dietary supplements. But unluckily if your body is not getting enough amount of Vitamin A nutrients through the regular diet, you must consult your doctor or a dietitian, so he/she can recommend you a Vitamin A Supplement in order to meet the requirement of Vitamin A nutrients.
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