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Vitamin A: What Is It and What Are the Main Benefits

Over 90% of the US population has a vitamin deficiency, with 50% deficiency in vitamins A, C, and magnesium. Without enough vitamin A, you could put your overall health at risk. In fact, vitamin A plays a part in your vision, immunity, and more.

What is vitamin A, exactly, and what are the benefits of vitamin A supplementation? Read on to find out!

After reading this guide, you can determine if it’s time to get tested for a vitamin deficiency. Learn how this crucial vitamin can help you remain happy and healthy today!

What Is Vitamin A

Before we discuss the benefits of adding vitamin A to your routine, let’s cover the basics. What exactly is vitamin A?

“Vitamin A” is a generic term for a group of fat-soluble compounds. These compounds are found both in animal and plant foods. They come in two forms: preformed and provitamin A.

Preformed vitamin A is the active form of the vitamin. Your body uses the preformed vitamin as it is. The preformed vitamin is found in:

  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Chicken
  • Meat

It includes the compounds retinal acid, retinoic acid, and retinol.

Provitamin A, on the other hand, is the inactive form of the vitamin, which is found in plants. These carotenoids include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Your body converts these compounds into the vitamin’s active form.

For example, your small intestine will convert beta-carotene into retinol.

Your body requires this vitamin to maintain healthy vision. It’s responsible for ensuring the normal function of your immune system and organs. In women, it aids in the proper growth and development of babies in the womb.

Food sources for vitamin A include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach)
  • Orange and yellow vegetables (sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, squash)
  • Red bell peppers
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mango
  • Eggs
  • Fortified foods
  • Milk
  • Fish oils
  • Beef liver

If you don’t eat these foods often, check your micronutritional status to determine if you have a vitamin A deficiency. 

The Benefits

Certain people are at risk of a vitamin A deficiency, including:

  • People with cystic fibrosis
  • Pregnant and lactating women in developing countries
  • Infants and children in developing countries
  • Preterm infants
  • People who use the weight loss drug orlistat

A varied and balanced diet generally covers the need for vitamin A. Here are a few benefits of vitamin A you can experience by improving your daily intake. 

1. Better Eye Health

Vitamin A plays an essential role in preserving your eyesight. Your body requires this vitamin to convert light that hits the eye into an electric signal for your brain to process. 

The vitamin is a major component of the pigment rhodopsin, too. Rhodopsin is found in the eye’s retina. It’s extremely sensitive to light. 

A vitamin A deficiency can lead to nyctalopia (night blindness). You might see normally during the day, but notice reduced vision in the dark. A vitamin deficiency can affect your eyes’ ability to pick up light at lower levels. 

Getting adequate levels of beta-carotene through your diet could slow eyesight decline as you age, too.

For example, your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will increase as you get older. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. It potentially occurs due to cellular damage in the retina, caused by oxidative stress. 

In one study, people with eyesight degeneration took an antioxidant supplement containing beta-carotene. Supplementation reduced their risk of advanced macular degeneration by 25%.

2. Healthy Immune System

Maintaining proper vitamin A levels could help strengthen your body’s natural defense system.

Vitamin A is involved in the production of mucous barriers in the lungs, gut, eyes, and genitals that trap infectious agents and bacteria. It plays a role in the function and production of white blood cells, too. Your white blood cells capture and clear pathogens from your bloodstream.

A vitamin deficiency could increase your susceptibility to infections. 

3. Reduced Acne Risk

Your sebaceous glands can get clogged up with oils and dead skin cells, prompting acne spots to form. Acne could impact your self-esteem, leading to anxiety and depression.

If you struggle with acne, consider using a vitamin-A-based medication. Otherwise, a deficiency could cause the overproduction of keratin in hair follicles, increasing sebum production. Excessive sebum can cause acne.

4. Bone Health Support

For proper bone health, you need protein, vitamin D, and calcium. Vitamin A plays a role in bone growth and development, too. Without it, your risk of bone fractures could increase. 

Vitamin A also plays a role in the growth and development of major structures and organs in unborn children during pregnancy. These structures and organs include the heart, nervous system, skeleton, lungs, eyes, and kidneys.

Not enough vitamin A during pregnancy could be harmful to the growing baby. 

5. Reduced Cancer Risks

Maintaining proper vitamin A levels could reduce your risk of certain cancers, too. 

Cancer develops when abnormal cells begin to grow or divide at an uncontrollable rate. Vitamin A plays a role in cell growth and development. 

Consuming more of the vitamin could decrease your risk of:

  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Cervical cancer

However, scientists are still researching the link between cancer risk of vitamin A levels. 

Prioritize Your Health: Add Vitamin A to Your Daily Routine Today

Vitamin A plays an important role in many bodily functions. Make sure to schedule nutrition testing before taking supplements to avoid taking too much of any one vitamin.

Strengthening your body with the right vitamins and minerals can help you live a long, happy, healthy life. 

Interested in nutritional monitoring? We can help.

Discover our Nutrition Test today to get started. 

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