Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin (that is, a substance soluble in fats and oils) that is stored in the liver. It is very important for the body, as it is involved in stimulating the immune system, taking care of the skin and eyes, and in bone and muscle development.
Vitamin A can be found in foods and supplements such as preformed vitamin A (active form) and provitamin A (inactive form that becomes active once in the body). The most common type of vitamin A found in foods and supplements is beta-carotene, which is converted to retinol in the body.
How can you get vitamin A?
You can get vitamin A from foods of animal or plant origin:
- Meat: chicken and cow.
- Fruits: avocado, apricot, peach, mango, papaya, tomato.
- Liver: beef or cod.
- Vegetables: beans or beans, chickpeas, peas.
- Dairy products: cream, fortified milk, butter, cheese.
- Vegetables: broccoli, pumpkin, asparagus, spinach, fennel, kale, lettuce, arugula, carrot.
Vitamin A can also be found in the form of dietary supplements, usually as retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate (preformed vitamin A), beta-carotene (provitamin A), or a combination of preformed vitamin A and provitamin A.
You should not start consuming any of these products without first consulting with a health professional.
Benefits of vitamin A
A regular and balanced intake of vitamin A, especially when it comes from food, can offer certain health benefits:
Different studies agree that the presence of vitamin A is associated with a better performance of the body’s defenses, possibly thanks to the fact that it stimulates the formation of white blood cells and keeps the mucous membranes moist, preventing the entry of pathogens.
- What can you consume to improve defenses
A deficiency in vitamin A can increase susceptibility to infection and even delay recovery. This can be seen in studies that compared the higher incidence of measles or malaria in children with vitamin A deficiency.
Improves skin health
Vitamin A is associated with good skin care, since it intervenes in its tissues, guaranteeing flexibility, moisture retention, sebum reduction, and increased shine.
This, in turn, helps combat certain skin disorders such as acne, dryness, psoriasis, and eczema. It also keeps the body free of toxins and harmful compounds.
Vitamin A has antioxidant properties, which, among other benefits, allow to combat the effects of oxidative stress, which often results in the main marks of the passage of time: wrinkles, fine lines or blemishes on the skin.
Strengthens muscles and bones
Iron, calcium, and vitamin D are names you probably hear when it comes to taking care of your bones and muscles. But don’t forget vitamin A.
This plays a fundamental role, since it favors the formation of a layer called dentin, which surrounds the internal part of the teeth, improving their resistance, it is useful to maintain the shape of the bones, and it promotes muscle growth.
Although the link between vitamin A and bone health is currently not fully understood, its low levels have been associated with an increased risk of fractures and diseases such as osteoporosis, so experts advise including it in the diet, especially of older people .
Many people with night blindness have low levels or deficiencies of vitamin A. Experts explain that this association is due to the fact that the vitamin is a key part of a very light-sensitive pigment in the retina: rhodopsin.
It also increases the adaptability of the eye, mainly by allowing it to adjust to changes in light and stay moist.
But vitamin A is not only helpful in preventing night blindness, as eating foods rich in beta-carotene also appears to help delay other vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration.
Other benefits of vitamin A
A regular intake of vitamin A was also linked to the following benefits:
- Lower risk of cancer: This is because retinol has been used as a possible chemotherapeutic and preventive agent, due to its antioxidant and antiproliferative action.
- Kidney stone prevention– Vitamin A is involved in the formation of calcium phosphate and helps keep the lining of the urinary tract healthy.
- Reproductive system protection: a deficiency of vitamin A can block the development of sperm, affect the quality of the ovum, and cause problems in fetal development.
- Reduction of cholesterol levels: being soluble in fat, vitamin A helps reduce the presence of cholesterol in the blood.
How much vitamin A should I consume?
Depending on the age and condition of the people, the Food and Nutrition Committee of the Institute of Medicine advises the following daily consumption of vitamin A:
- 0 to 6 months: 400 micrograms per day (mcg / day).
- 7 to 12 months: 500 mcg / day.
- From 1 to 3 years: 300 mcg / day.
- 4-8 years: 400 mcg / day.
- From 9 to 13 years old: 600 mcg / day.
- Men from 14 years old: 900 mcg / day.
- Women from the age of 14: 700 mcg / day.
- Pregnant women: 770 mcg / day.
- Lactating women: 1,300 mcg / day.
Why should I consume vitamin A?
If you do not consume enough vitamin A, you can suffer a deficiency, which triggers certain health problems:
- Weakened and dull hair.
- Skin damage.
- Inflammation of the eyelids.
- Painful or burning sensation in the eyes.
- Sexual disorders
- Brittle nails,
In the event of an overdose, which is very rare because any excess amount is usually expelled by the body, harmful symptoms such as blurred vision or nausea can develop. This condition can be reached when a high amount of supplements is ingested.
Until there is significant scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Vitamins are essential for our body to function and develop properly. One of them, vitamin A, also known as retinol, is involved in stimulating the immune system, taking care of the skin and eyes, and in bone and muscle development.
You can get it from food of plant origin, such as fruits, legumes, vegetables, or nuts, of animal origin, meat, fish, dairy or eggs, or from dietary supplements. The latter should only be consumed under the recommendation of a health professional, since their misuse can cause overdose.
Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Drug Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Committee, Office of Dietary Supplements.