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Vitamin A | Benefits, Deficiency & Sources


WHAT IS VITAMIN A?

Vitamin A is the name for a group of fat soluble retinoids, biologically active compounds found in both plants and animal tissues.
Dr. Andrew Weil, mentions in one of his articles "Because these retinoids are very bio-available and stored in our tissues, too much animal derived vitamin A can build up in the body and become toxic."
It is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin A is a key for good vision, neurological function, healthy skin, cell growth and immunity.  Like all antioxidants, Vitamin A is involved in reducing inflammation through fighting free radical damage. They are also responsible for building strong bones, gene regulation, maintaining clear skin etc.

Vitamin A is found in two forms mainly : Active Vitamin A and beta carotene. Active vitamin A comes from animal derived food and is called retinol. This can be used by the body directly.
Beta carotene is obtained from fruits and vegetables. These are converted to retinol by the body after the food is consumed. Beta carotene, a type of carotenoid need to be converted to active vitamin A in order to be utilized by the body.

BENEFITS OF VITAMIN A

* Protects eye health : It helps protect eyes against macular degeneration, helps heal dry eye, enables eyes to adjust to light changes, cuts down the risks of cataract, beneficial for people suffering from glaucoma and fights eye diseases.
* Provides immune support : It regulates the genes for body's immune response. It keeps mucus membrane moist and enhances activity of white blood cells. It not only prevents germs from entering the body, but also helps fight infections once the germs gain entry ensuring protection.
* Fights inflammation : Vitamin A has antioxidant properties that neutralize free radicals in our body that cause tissue and cellular damage, which helps decrease inflammation.
* Supports skin health and cell growth : It helps to keep the skin soft and supple by ensuring moisture retention, preventing dryness. It slows the aging process by reducing age spots and fine lines.
* Helps prevent cancer : Vitamin A intake could treat several forms of cancer by its ability to control malignant cells in the body. Lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, oral and skin cancers have been shown to be suppressed by retinoic acid.
* Prevents urinary stones : It prevents the formation of urinary calculi due to the formation of calcium phosphate. It also helps in keeping the lining of urinary tract in shape reducing the recurring chances of stones.
* Lowers Cholesterol : By lowering cholesterol it reduces risk of heart diseases and stroke.
* Healthy reproductive system : It is known for improving health and functionality of reproductive system.


DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN A | SYMPTOMS

People with long term malabsorption of fats are very susceptible to developing a Vitamin A deficiency. In developing countries, Vitamin A deficiency begins in infancy when infants do not receive adequate supplies of breast milk or colostrum. Chronic diarrhea can also cause loss in vitamin A in young children. The most common symptom of Vitamin A in young children and pregnant women include Xerophthalmia.
  Symptoms include :
* Inability to see in low light or darkness
* Low Iron Status (which can lead to Anemia)
* Increases the severity and mortality risk of infections (diarrhea, measles)

  Malabsorption of Vitamin A leads to :
* Pancreatic disorders
* Leaky gut syndrome
* Inflammatory bowel disease

In children it becomes a serious problem as it can cause severe visual impairment and blindness, it can increase the risk of infectious diseases like measles and pneumonia to become deadly and even death, significantly.
Poor eye health, at risk pregnancy, respiratory infections and premature skin damage are few causes of Vitamin A deficiency.

EXCESSIVE VITAMIN A

Excess of Vitamin A can be toxic known as hypervitaminosis A. Symptoms of hypervitaminosis A includes dizziness, headache, nausea, skin irritation, hair loss, confusion, liver damage, pain in joints and bones, coma and even death.


SOURCES OF VITAMIN A

* Beef liver (richest animal source of retinol)
* Carrots
* Sweet Potato
* Kale
* Spinach
* Apricot
* Broccoli
* Butter
* Eggs
* Cantaloupe
* Tuna Fish
* Mango
* Papaya
* Pumpkins

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