Vitamin A is a family of compounds that play many important roles in our body. Two main compounds of Vitamin A are Retinol and Beta-Carotene. Retinol is found in many animal foods and is easily used by the body in its natural form. Beta-Carotene however is known as a precursor of Vitamin A. This means that it needs to be converted to Vitamin A by the body before it can be used.
All Vitamins are broken down into two categories: Fat-Soluble and Water Soluble. Fat Soluble Vitamins are stored in the body so with a healthy diet most people will have supplies to call on when required. Water Soluble vitamins are NOT stored in the body so they need to be taken in daily from the foods that we eat. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin so it can be stored in our body for up to a couple of months.
How does Vitamin A help?
Immunity – Vitamin A helps protect the integrity of our skin, the lining of our airways,digestive tract, urinary tract and the lining of our eyes. This limits the amount of bacteria and infections that can enter our system. If any of these linings were to break down bacteria could enter our bodies much more easily.
Vision – As I’ve mentioned above, Vitamin A protects the lining of the eyes. Retinol is required for the formation of rhodopsin which is a pigment located in the retina of the eye. This assists our overall eye health but is mainly responsible for helping our “night vision”. Night blindness is most commonly cause by a lack of rhodopsin.
The Physical Body – Vitamin A helps to form and maintain healthy teeth and skeletal and soft tissue.
Antioxidant – Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant which helps to neutralize free radical in our body which can cause lots of damage.
Where can I get Vitamin A?
Vitamin A comes from a variety of animal sources such as: eggs, meat, cheese, cream,liver and kidney. If you aren’t so keen on animal sources, beta-carotene is found in many vegetables including: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, pink grapefruit, apricots, mangos, peaches and most dark green leafy vegetable. Any vegetable that is yellow or orange in colour will contain beta-carotene.
What happens if I don’t have enough?
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed nations. However, it is a major problem in developing countries where it is the leading cause of childhood blindness. Its deficiency in these countries has also seen a rise in infections, diarrhoea and respiratory diseases.
What happens if I have too much?
Again, this is not commonly seen in developed nations where Vitamin A is ingested daily from diet. You would have to ingest very large amounts for it to cause toxicity but if you do then this toxicity can cause birth defects. It you have a week of eating nothing but carrots you will notice that your skin will turn orange. This is due to an overload of Vitamin A but will disappear after cutting back on the carrots!
In ancient Egypt it was known that night blindness could be cured by eating liver, a extremely high source of Vitamin A.
Your body is your most important asset Take care of it!