“Eat your carrots, they will help you see in the dark!” – we were all told this as a child. Was it just an excuse to make us eat more vegetables? Or is there perhaps some truth behind it? We will find out, as we explore vitamin A.
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient that plays an important role in vision, immunity, cell maintenance and other important bodily processes. Vitamin A can be obtained through the diet from animal sources (as retinol) or plant sources (as carotenoid). The majority of vitamin A we consume,comes in the form of retinol. Once in our bodies, the majority of vitamin A circulates around and is stored in the liver.
For a healthy body and a healthy mind, it is important, among other things, to ensure that you get enough vitamins and minerals. For example, your heart, lungs, muscles and brain cannot do without the necessary dose of vitamin D and enough vitamin C helps you to fight that cold. Another important vitamin in this list is vitamin A.
We set out to find out the health benefits of getting enough vitamin A – and what the consequences are of having enough, too much, or too little of the vitamin.
The health benefits of vitamin A
Vitamin A is an important vitamin that plays an indispensable role in various processes in the body. These are the benefits of getting enough vitamin A for your health.
It helps with healthy skin.
It also has a function in protecting your skin from sun damage.
If you don’t get enough vitamin A, your skin will become dry, itchy and lumpy. Also, the vitamin can help heal abrasions . It also helps with the daily cell renewal of your skin. In short, we understand why every beauty product includes vitamin A in its ingredient list.
It’s good for your hair.
Vitamin A helps to shut down the oil glands around your hair follicles.
It helps to keep seeing good and sharp .
Vitamin A’s biological name – retinol – is aptly named because it contributes to the formation of retinal pigments in the eye, which are essential for vision. Vitamin A also helps maintain the cells that line the conjunctiva and make up the cornea – together these make the thin, clear membrane that covers the surface of the eye. One of the first symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency is night blindness.
It plays a major role in the functioning of the body ‘s natural defense system .
Vitamin A possesses antioxidant properties, as do vitamins C and E.
Therefore, vitamin A plays a role in immunity by reducing the damage caused by free radicals, such as reactive oxygen and nitrogen.
Vitamin A boosts immunity by maintaining the health of epithelial cells. Epithelial cells line most surfaces in the body and act as the “front line” of defense against invading pathogens (harmful bacteria, viruses and microorganisms). Vitamin A boosts immune function through the sticky mucus lining the respiratory tract and gut, by stimulating mucin secretion. This helps remove unwanted particles or pathogens that you may have inhaled.
Research from 1925 showed for the first time that a deficiency of vitamin A in the diet changes the structure of our surface cells (known as epithelia) and weakens the frontline defense barrier.Consequently, vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of infections of respiratory tract, diarrhea and other acute infectious conditions.
It ensures that bacteria and other substances do not harm your body. It is also involved in the production of white blood cells and their function. Deficiency of Vitamin A? Then you have more chance of infections and you recover less quickly if you are sick.
Vitamin A May Reduce Memory Loss
Research shows that vitamin A has a place in brain health – from the embryonic stage of life through adulthood and older years. The way this works isn’t fully known yet, but let’s take a look at what we know so far…
Vitamin A is heavily involved in neuroplasticity – this is the brain’s ability to continuously change throughout its lifespan, for example by removing neural pathways that are no longer usable. In particular, vitamin A contributes to neuroplasticity related to memory performance.
As you get older, your brain’s ability to mold and change when it needs to decline – this can lead to cognitive impairment, such as memory loss. Scientists think this is due to reduced activity of the brain signaling pathways with retinoid. Fortunately for us, vitamin A supplementation can reverse this age-related cognitive decline. When vitamin A enters the brain and binds to its specific receptor sites, it activates the production of more genes linked to neuroplasticity.This gives your brain the tools to change its structure and functions, just as it does some years ago.
A large-scale study showed that the amount of vitamin A you consume and store is positively correlated with better memory performance in older adults (65-94 years old). This has led to vitamin A being investigated as a potential preventer and improvement of cognitive diseases.
It keeps your bones healthy.
Not only does vitamin D influence the health of your bones, vitamin A also seems to play a role in this, according to various studies.
It ensures healthy growth of the body.
Especially in embryos and children, which makes it important that pregnant women get enough. A deficiency can also block the production of sperm cells in men.
How Much Vitamin A Should I Take Daily?
The reference nutrient intake for vitamin A varies throughout your life. Adults have a daily requirement of 625 and 500 µg for men and women respectively.
Deficiency of vitamin A
If you don’t have enough vitamin A in your body and therefore a deficiency has arisen, you will notice this in your eyes, hair and skin . You can suffer from skin problems , your hair becomes dull and it can cause (night) blindness .
How much vitamin A is too much?
Don’t go crazy with vitamin A – more doesn’t necessarily mean better and there is an acceptable upper intake level of 3000 µg per day due to its toxic side effects.
Not every vitamin can be taken unabashedly. Unlike vitamins C and D, vitamin A is an example of a vitamin that has consequences if you consume too much of it. You feel, among other things, nauseous, dizzy and suffer from headaches.
It is therefore not recommended to take vitamin A supplements, but simply to ensure a healthy diet with food products that naturally contain a balanced amount of vitamin A.
Side Effects of Taking Too Much Vitamin A
Since vitamin A is stored in the liver, toxicity can occur from acute high dose or chronic excessive doses. The most commonly reported side effect is skin irritation and dryness – with other less serious side effects such as headache and nausea being reported less frequently.
Make sure you’re taking the right dose of vitamin A and see your doctor if you experience any side effects.
Sources of vitamin A
Many western food products are now fortified with vitamin A to help the population meet their nutritional needs. These are breakfast cereals, cereals, milk, oils and spices. However, these are some sources that are naturally rich in vitamin A.
Vitamin A is found in animal products – especially liver. In addition, vitamin A also appears in the form of carotenoids, which is precisely in plant products. Your body also partly produces the latter itself.
Food rich in vitamin A therefore consists of a large list of meat, fish, egg and cheese . Do you eat meat and do you need extra vitamin A? Then opt for liver products, such as a slice of beef liver (provides you with 713% of the RDI) or liver sausage (166% of the RDI).
Don’t you eat meat? Opt for vegetables , such as a serving of sweet potato (204% of the RDI), winter squash (127% of the RDI), kale (98% of the RDI), carrot(95% of the RDI) or spinach (52% of the RDI).
You might be also interested in Health Benefits of Vitamin E.