Does Vitamin A make you’re “A-List” on a daily basis? Or are you lacking in this “Grade-A” vitamin? You know that vitamins and minerals are essential to your overall health and well-being, but which vitamins and how much of each should you be getting? And can you have too much of a good thing? Let’s take a look at the ever-important Vitamin A.
All About A
There are actually two types of Vitamin A:
Preformed Vitamin A
This type of Vitamin A is found in animal food sources, including eggs, milk (whole or fortified low-fat and skim) liver and fortified breakfast cereals. Our bodies absorb it in the form of retinol.
Made into retinol inside the body, this type of Vitamin A is more easily absorb by our bodies than preformed Vitamin A. It is found in the carotenoids in fruits and vegetables (including carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes), beta-carotene in particular. The darker in color fruits and vegetables are, the more carotenoids they contain. Only about 8 percent of carotenoids can be converted into Vitamin A, but the rest—lutein, lycopene, zeazanthin—play other important roles in body.
Benefits of Vitamin A
You can thank Vitamin A for a lot of things: your eyesight, your immune system and your healthy bones, to name but a few.
Take a closer look at some of the ways Vitamin A benefits your health:
Vitamin A is a key building block in the production of white blood cells, which kills virus and bacteria that can make us sick. There is also evidence that Vitamin A helps white blood cells fight infections. Additionally, it strengthens the mucous membranes, skin and the linings of the intestines and urinary tracts, keeping infectious agents from entering the body.
Vitamin A protects the cells in our bodies from damaging free radicals that have the potential to cause disease and advance premature aging.
A lack of Vitamin A is linked to corneal ulcers, vision loss and blindness. Supplementation with Vitamin A has been shown to slow the loss of retinal function in patients diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.
Vitamin A has shown promise in treating acne and psoriasis.
Too Much A?
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body can store it within your body fat and it is more difficult for your system to get rid of excess amounts than other water-soluble vitamins such as B and C.
As such, vitamin A toxicity can result. This can lead to nausea, jaundice, irritability, anorexia (not to be confused with anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder), vomiting, blurry vision, headaches, muscle and abdominal pain and weakness, drowsiness and altered mental status.
In chronic cases, hair loss, drying of the mucous membranes, fever, insomnia, fatigue, weight loss, bone fractures, anemia, and diarrhea can all be evident on top of the symptoms associated with less serious toxicity.
These toxicities only occur with preformed (retinoid) vitamin A (such as from liver). The carotenoid forms (such as beta-carotene as found in carrots), give no such symptoms, but excessive dietary intake of beta-carotene can lead to carotenodermia, which causes orange-yellow discoloration of the skin.
A new study shows a correlation between low bone mineral density and too high intake of vitamin A.
The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A for adults is 700 micrograms (2,333 IU) a day for women and 900 micrograms (3,000 IU) for men. Women who are pregnant need an additional 50 micrograms, and those who breastfeed 1,300 micrograms a day to ensure healthy development in their children.
So now you know! Taking Vitamin A is an essential part of your overall health and well-being and making sure you get the recommended amount – neither too little nor too much - will help you live a long, healthy, A+ life!