Vitamins are crucial for the efficient performance of certain body functions. Vitamin A is one such vitamin that is required mainly for excellent vision. Luckily, we have abundant sources of Vitamin A around us. Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin A and because of its perfect antioxidant properties, it is needed by bodies for the proper functioning of different organs especially the eyes. Let’s get to know more about this amazing vitamin:
What is vitamin A and Where it comes from?
Dr. Sherry Ross of California stated that vitamin A is important for not only vision development but is also essential for the normal functioning and maintenance of lungs, kidneys, heart, and other important organs. This vitamin is also quintessential for growth, cell recognition, immune system, vision, bone development as well as reproduction.
In 1816, a physiologist Francois Magendie found that animals like dogs have developed corneal ulcers due to very nutritional factors but he couldn’t name it. Later in 1912, Fredrick Gowland Hopkins, discovered that an unknown factor that was found in milk was quite essential for health benefits, and for this discovery, Hopkins got the Nobel Prize. Later in 1918, this ‘accessory factor’ was named ‘fat-soluble’ and ‘Vitamin A’ in 1920. This important vitamin was first synthesized by two Dutch chemists, David Adrian and Jozef Ferdinand in 1947.
Food Sources Of Vitamin A
This necessary and astounding vitamin is found in many food products. Following is the list of foods that contain vitamin A in different amounts:
|Carrot||835 µg/ 100gm|
|Ghee||3096 µg/ 100gm|
|Butter||684 µg/ 100gm|
|Spinach||469 µg/ 100 gm|
|Pumpkin||426 µg/ 100 gm|
|Cheddar cheese||265 µg/ 100 gm|
|Egg||140 µg/ 100 gm|
|Apricot||96 µg/ 100 gm|
|Papaya||55 µg/ 100gm|
|Tomatoes||42 µg/ 100 gm|
|Mango||38 µg/ 100 gm|
|Milk||28 µg/ 100 gm|
|Capsicum||18 µg/ 100 gm|
RDA Of Vitamin A
The following RDAs for vitamin A can be fulfilled either from natural sources or in the form of supplements. The RDAs for different age groups are:
- 1-3 years: 300 mcg/ day
- 4-8 years: 400 mcg/ day
- 9-13 years: 600 mcg/ day
- 14- 18 years: 750 mcg/ day
- 19 years+: 770 mcg/ day
- Men: 900 mcg/ day
- Women: 700 mcg/ day
- Pregnant women: 750 mcg/ day
- Breastfeeding mothers: 1300 mcg/ day
Benefits Of Vitamin A
Let’s peep into some astonishing benefits of this astounding vitamin as it is necessary for the supreme performance of many body functions:
1. Prevention Against Eye Diseases
When the light hits the eye, it is converted into an electric signal which is sent to the brain. Our eyes need vitamin A to perform this essential function and also preserves eyesight. People having vitamin A deficiency, develop night blindness which makes vision extremely poor at night because eyes struggle to pick up light at night or lower levels. Vitamin A is a major component of Rhodopsin which is a pigment found in the retina of the eye. This pigment helps the eye to catch up light in day or night but when one suffers from vitamin A deficiency, this rhodopsin does not catch the light at lower levels causing night blindness. This night blindness can be prevented by taking β-carotene on a daily basis from natural sources or supplements. A study carried out on the importance of vitamin A or β-carotene, suggested that people taking an adequate amount of β-carotene regularly, and has reduced the risk of developing any kind of blindness, cataract, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) up to 25%.
2. Lowers Risk of Cancer
β-carotenes in vitamin A are perfect antioxidants that protect cells from any damages caused by free radicals. Research conducted by the National Cancer Institute didn’t find any solid evidence that intake of β-carotene is related to cancer prevention. But small research resulted that β-carotene took in any form, whether natural or supplementary, aids in lowering the risk of lung cancer and maybe prostate cancer. Another observational study revealed that higher intake of vitamin A is directly related to lowering the chances of certain types of cancers i.e. cervical cancer as well as Hodgin’s lymphoma.
3. Healthy Immune System
White blood cells are a supremely important component of our blood which protects us from any infections, cellular damages, and pathogens that might infect our bloodstream. WBC also traps bacteria and other infection-causing agents. Vitamin A is essential for the production and proper functioning of WBC. This means that the more the WBC in the bloodstream, the more our body is prevented from any infections or bacteria. Hence, vitamin A deficiency may lead to several infections and also a delay in recovering from any sickness. It is also found that children can be protected against measles and malaria by diminishing the deficiency of vitamin A and this can delay the risk of dying at a very young age.
4. Healthy Skin
People get acne, spots that occur when the sebaceous glands get blocked by oil or dead skin. This acne becomes painful if left untreated. Small research suggested that those people who are taking enough vitamin A on a daily basis, are not at risk of developing skin acne or other skin related problems, but this treatment of acne with vitamin A remains unclear.
5. Healthy Bones
With the passage of time and age, old age people are most vulnerable to fractured bones and other bone-related diseases like joint pains or poor bone health. In an observational study, it has resulted that people who increase the intake of vitamin A in their diets have a 6% low risk of fractured bones. But this study is not a confirmed analysis and is just an observation and one should keep in mind that vitamin A alone does not protect our bones but vitamin D is also needed for healthy bones.
Side Effects Of Vitamin A
Overdose of vitamin A can cause:
- Overconsumption can lead to high toxic levels because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and it is stored in our bodies, which can be toxic.
- Overdosing can cause Hypervitaminosis A.
- Other symptoms that might appear are nausea, dizziness, pain, or headaches.
All the above risks are related to preformed vitamin A whereas provitamin A is a plant-based vitamin and does not cause any harm to the body as our body converts only the required amount that is needed.
This amazing vitamin is vital for our body, as it maintains our vision, normal functioning of body processes, maintains a strong immune system, and is also very quintessential for normal growth and development of a fetus. Despite all these benefits, moderate intake of vitamin A should be maintained, so that it has no adverse effects on our bodies. Too little or too much amount, both can be dangerous for us. But the best way of consuming vitamin A is in its natural form, not the supplements.