Vitamins are the organic compounds, the essential micronutrients that an organism needs for various activities in our body to function properly and stay healthy. They are required in very small quantities. Our body does not produce vitamins naturally, that is why have to be consumed in our diet. A well-balanced diet fulfils the requirements of all the vitamins and nutrients in the body.
Vitamins are of two types- fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins– The kind of vitamins are stored in fatty tissue and the liver. Therefore, they are called fat-soluble vitamins.
Example- Vitamin A, D, E and K.
Water-soluble vitamins– These kinds of vitamins are not stored in the body for a longer period of time. Because they do not stay longer, they a person needs to have a regular supply of it.
Example- Vitamin C and B complex
There are many types of vitamins however, in this article, we are going to talk about only Vitamin A.
What is Vitamin A?
Fat-soluble in nature, Vitamin A is a generic name and is found in two forms in our body.
- Preformed Vitamin A– They are also known as retinol. They are found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods.
- Provitamin A- They are precursors to vitamin A and are found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. The most common type of pro-vitamin A is beta-carotene.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient required for many reasons in our body. Little negligence with the amount you are consuming can be risky.
Why Do We Need Vitamin A?
1. Good Eyesight
Vitamin A is essential to maintain good eye health. Ever since as a kid, we have heard we should eat our carrots for good eyesight. Well, the carrots are super rich in beta-carotene which is an essential compound for eye health. The retina of our eyes has rod cells and cone cells. The rod cells allow us to see in low lights and also help in detecting motion. The carotene helps these rod cells to function well. This sums up what our elders tell us about carrots. They are indeed good for our eyes.
2. Immune System
Vitamin A is essential to maintain a good Immune system. The right amount of it in the diet aids in the normal functioning of the immune system. As per research, it plays an important role in the regulation of innate and cell-mediated immunity and humoral antibody response. In case of a deficiency, the integrity of the mucosal epithelium is altered.
3. Healthy skin
Vitamin A is a known antioxidant. It is an essential compound that aids in the process of the regeneration of the skin. It improves skin quality and reduces the sign of ageing.
4. During pregnancy
Vitamin A is an essential compound during pregnancy as it helps in fetal growth in development.
Our Body Requirements
A body required vitamins in very small quantities. The amount of Vitamin A required in our body, as per National Health Institute NHS, UK is as follows –
This is for the people aged 19 to 64-
- For Men– 700 µg a day.
- For Females– 600 µg a day.
Having an average of 1.5mg a day or less of Vitamin A from diet and supplements combined is unlikely to cause any harm.
Sources of Vitamin A
- Plant-based sources
Some plant-based options for Vitamin A are sweet potatoes, carrots, papaya, apricots, pumpkins, cantaloupe, and mango.
In Green leafy vegetables— broccoli, kale, spinach, and collard.
- Animal-based sources
Fish, liver and liver products, especially beef liver.
- Dairy Products
Milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- In the form of Supplements
You can consume Vitamin A supplements if your diet isn’t fulfilling your daily requirements. However, it should be only done with a doctor’s consultation because excess of it can be dangerous too.
Side Effects of Vitamin A
Too much and too little of anything is bad and this applies even in the case of Vitamin A. Even though our body requires it many essential activities, we have to be mindful about how much of it we are consuming.
Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed its concerns in regards to vitamin A deficiency. It is counted as a notable public health problem in many parts of the world.
In case of Deficiency-
If you do not get enough vitamin A, you have more risk of eye problems such as:
- Night blindness- Deficiency could cause Night blindness but it is a reversible condition.
- Brittle bone- Bone problems especially in older people who are more prone to osteoporosis.
- Low immunity- Deficicey causes and affect the immune system, particularly kids by making them more susceptible to viral infections and other diseases.
- Xerophthalmia- It can cause a corneal condition called xerophthalmia which is non-reversible.
- Ageing- It can cause signs of ageing like wrinkles and dull skin. It can also lead o dry and scaly skin.
In case of Excessive-
If you get too much vitamin A, is as risky as low intakes.
- Problem during pregnancy- Excess of it could cause birth defects in babies.
- Poisoning– Acute vitamin A poisoning most often occurs when an adult takes several hundred thousand IUs of it while Chronic poisoning may occur in adults who regularly take more than 25,000 IU a day.
Vitamin A toxicity
Yes, you read that right. Vitamin A toxicity is real. According to research, It happens when you consume vitamin A from either topical or oral use. Even though it is rare, it is still dangerous and causes skin irritation and erythema. To prevent this a balanced diet should be consumed which has an equal amount of meats, vegetables and fruits.
Our Final Thoughts
It is an essential nutrient and an ample amount of it should be consumed in order to keep our immune system healthy, eyes healthy and skin healthy. In case you feel you are deficient, consult your doctor who could advise you on how to meet the requirements of daily Vitamin A.