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Vitamin A: An Important Vitamin

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Vitamin A is important for vision, cell barrier function, growth, and differentiation promotion. Adequate consumption of these nutrients is essential.

Written by

Dr. Suhaila

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At April 24, 2024
Reviewed AtApril 24, 2024

Introduction

Nutrition forms a crucial part of human health and well-being. A balanced diet containing macro and micronutrients is essential for the proper functioning of all the body systems. Among the micronutrients are vitamins, each of which has a unique function. Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins, with its major role in vision and eyesight. Vitamin A is known as the vision vitamin because of its huge impact on eyesight and eye health. This article aims to discuss vitamin A, exploring its functions, sources, and therapeutic implications.

What Is Vitamin A and Its Sources?

Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins. Retinol is the biologically active form of vitamin A. Retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid are vitamin A derivatives, forming crucial rules in the body's processes. The various sources of vitamin A include plant sources and animal products. Primarily, there are two forms of vitamin A formed in the diet:

  • Preformed Vitamin A: Also known as retinol, this form can be used by the body without converting it into active forms. It is found mostly in animals, such as eggs, dairy liver, and fish. Oils like red palm oil and Buriti palm oil also contain vitamin A.

  • Pro Vitamin A: Carotenoids are mostly plant pigments. They are in a free vitamin form like beta carotene. They are found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, mangoes, maize, papaya, spinach, etc. Carotenoids also give plants their color. The body has the additional function of converting this into active vitamin A. Overcooking these food sources can reduce the vitamin A content.

All forms of the vitamin share the same structure and function. The recommended intake of vitamin A varies considerably based on the individual's age, gender, and any special considerations like pregnancy or lactation. In adult males, it is 900 micrograms of retinol activity equivalent; in females, it is 700.

Vitamin A is absorbed in the intestine and stored in the liver. When used as a medicinal supplement, it may be administered orally or intramuscularly. The carotenoids are converted to the active form retinol in the intestine, but some remain in unaltered form.

What Are the Functions of Vitamin A in Maintaining Health and Well-Being?

  1. Vision: In the eye surface, the retinal pigment derived from vitamin A combines with opsin protein to form rhodopsin. Therefore, when there is inadequate vitamin A, there is less rhodopsin production, leading to difficult vision in low-light settings and more chances of developing night blindness. This pigment is important for converting light into electrical signals and initiating a signal to start the vision process. Hence, vitamin A is very important in maintaining vision and reducing eye complications.

  2. Immune Function: Vitamin A is important in maintaining the immune response and balancing tolerance and defense against pathogens. It plays a role in the development and activation of immune cells such as macrophages. Vitamin A also preserves the integrity of the barrier of the various traps in the body that form a frontline defense against microorganisms that are harmful to health.

  3. Reproductive Health: Vitamin A supports reproductive health in both males and females. It is crucial for the embryo's overall development and prevents malformation and complications in the mother and fetus.

  4. Cell Growth: Vitamin A interacts with its receptors and expresses certain gene patterns supporting the proliferation and differentiation of cells. Therefore, adequate Vitamin A is required for normal tissue morphogenesis and good wound healing.

  5. Skin Disorders: Vitamin A plays a prominent role in maintaining the integrity of the skin. It has numerous dermatological benefits, such as promoting a healthy skin barrier, regulating the production of sebum, and significantly contributing to skin repair. Vitamin A has proven beneficial in various dermatological conditions like acne, psoriasis, etc. Retinoids, which are a derivative of vitamin A, are used topically in most of these cases.

  6. Bone Remodeling: Vitamin A regulates osteoblast and osteoclast activity. This function significantly contributes to improving bone density and strength, which leads to excellent overall skeletal health and fewer chances of fractures and osteoporosis.

What Are the Risks of Vitamin A Deficiency and Excess?

Vitamin A deficiency leads to several symptoms, such as:

  • Night blindness.

  • Dry eyes.

  • Prone to infections.

  • Retarded growth and development in children.

  • Skin problems.

  • Xerophthalmia, which might lead to severe eye issues and might lead to potentially irreversible blindness.

Vitamin A in excess can lead to hypervitaminosis A, which causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, bone pain, and hepatotoxicity. In patients with a severe excess of vitamin A during pregnancy, it can have teratogenic effects, leading to birth defects. Excess vitamin A for a long time can result in severe liver damage and an increase in intracranial pressure, which can be potentially fatal.

How Can Individuals Achieve Balance in Vitamin A Intake?

Achieving balance is crucial not to cause any deficiency or excess of the vitamin as that is detrimental to health. This can be achieved when individuals consume a healthy, balanced diet and have whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. Vegetables-rich beta-carotene should be consumed in moderate manners. Consuming a wide variety of foods in moderation is always advised to achieve the required amount of dietary intake and to have good health. Following diet plans and being mindful of portions can help in this regard. Educating individuals and families to choose nutrient-rich foods and encouraging diet consults with nutritionists and health care professionals is equally important.

Conclusion

Human beings need a good, healthy diet for their survival. A balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals must be consumed appropriately. Amongst the vitamins, vitamin A is important, with its functions ranging from barrier to vision help. They also have important roles in cell growth, maintenance, and embryonic development. A balanced vitamin A is beneficial and does not lead to any deficiency or excess. When consumed in adequate amounts, individuals can lead a healthier and happier life.

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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