Vitamin A, a fat soluble nutrient, plays a crucial role in the body. It is a key ingredient for good vision, healthy immune system, important for reproduction and foetal development, supports cell growth, and much more. It also aids in healthy functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys and many other organs of the body. With its antioxidant properties, it protects the cells against the effects of free radicals. Furthermore, it helps surface tissues like the skin, intestines, lungs, inner ear, bladder etc.
With these many functions, we sure understand how essential this vitamin is. Book a simple test and know if you could be Vitamin A deficient.
There are two kinds of vitamin A; one is preformed vitamin A, retinol and retinyl esters, often found in animal products, meat, dairy, fish etc, while the other one, i.e. provitamin A is found mostly in fruits and vegetables with the most common, beta carotene, found in dietary supplements. Vitamin A being a fat soluble nutrient, is stored in the body tissue for usage later, stored in the liver, in the form of retinyl esters.
How much Vitamin A should you get daily?
The right amount actually depends on the age and the sex of an individual. The vitamin A content of foods is expressed as retinol equivalents. The average daily recommended quantity, in micrograms (mcg) of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) for an adult male and adult female is nearly 600µg/d.
Both deficiency of the vitamin as well as surplus can be a problem that could lead to side effects, and hence maintaining the daily intake within the subscribed limit, and not exceeding it, is crucial. The amount varies for pregnant and breastfeeding women, about 800 µg/d and 950 µg/d respectively can be suggested.* For infants up to 12 months, 350 µg/d RAE shall be sufficient. Anything taken in excess is harmful; similarly, too much intake of vitamin A can lead to nausea, vomiting, vertigo or even blurred vision, and in the long run, can also be the cause behind bone thinning, birth defects, frequent headaches, liver damage etc.
What are some good sources of Vitamin A?
Be it naturally from food, following a healthy diet, or from supplements, it is necessary to get enough vitamin A in the body. A few sources include:
Preformed Vitamin A: Egg yolk, butter, cod liver oil, fish like salmon etc.
Pro Vitamin A: Carrots, cabbage, spinach, kale, basically it can be found in leafy vegetables.
In supplementary form, these are available as retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate, beta carotene etc. While most of the daily intake can be satisfied with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and including Vitamin A rich food in the diet, sometimes doctors might also suggest supplements to make up for severe deficiency.
Answering a few FAQS about Vitamin A
What does Vitamin A deficiency lead to?
Since Vitamin A is one of the most important nutrients for good eyesight, naturally deficiency could lead to difficulty for people to see in low lights, and gradually night blindness. Most cases of deficient Vitamin A, in one way or the other lead to defects in the eye, such as Keratomalacia, an eye disorder, where the cornea starts getting dry or Bitot spots, where keratin builds up in the eyes, causing unclear and hazy vision. A deficiency especially with young adults and pregnant women, called Xerophthalmia, is the inability to see in low light, and this also can lead to permanent damage, if not treated properly.
Mostly in the case of an underdeveloped or developing nation, where people have scarce resources, and limited access to nutritious food, it might lead to health complications. It may increase the chances of infections like measles or diarrhea, and can affect the fetus growth in pregnant women. While the not so severe cases may include signs such as irritated skin, acne etc.
How do you know if you have Vitamin A deficiency?
You can go for an eye check up, or get a Vitamin A test done, to help the doctor find out the amount of Vitamin A present in your body.
Find out if you have sufficient and healthy amounts of Vitamin A in your body; book your Vitamin A test now.
What to do if you have a deficiency?
If you find out, your body does not contain enough Vitamin A, start eating nutrient rich foods, fruits, leafy vegetables and animal products. Mild deficiency can easily be treated by following a well balanced and healthy diet. If the level is far below the desired amount, consult a doctor, they will recommend either a dietary plan or vitamin supplements to make up for the lack of it.
Vitamin A, being a fat soluble nutrient, performs vital functions. If you start noticing any form of signs or symptoms, visit a doctor at the earliest, they will help diagnose any underlying condition, while one should equally be careful and conscious of their vitamin levels and always follow a healthy and a well balanced diet.
Are there any risks associated with taking Vitamin A?
Taking more than recommended, unless required, can pose irreversible risks, such as birth defects, liver problems etc. There could be adverse effects, apart from dry skin, vomiting, confusion, and headaches, if your supplements interact with medicines you take, such as birth control pills, blood thinner etc., the interactions can be unsafe.
Why do people take Vitamin A?
Apart from the many benefits it offers, oral Vitamin A is sometimes used as a treatment for measles and dry eye, and certain types of leukemia as well. While most of the intake can be fulfilled with following a healthy diet, topical and oral retinoids are used as treatments for acne and other skin conditions like wrinkles, ageing etc.
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