Vitamin A is one of many vitamins useful in regulating normal bodily functions and in preventing disease. The benefits of vitamin A are largely found in its support of good eye and vision health, a healthy immune system, as well as healthy bone growth and reproduction. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician historically celebrated as an early pioneer of modern medicine, was known to prescribe liver as an effective treatment for night blindness. However, it is now known that what was actually repairing failed vision in his patients was the vitamin A found in animal livers.
Vitamin A Nutrition Benefits
The benefits of vitamin A are numerous in the support of good health. Best gained by food sources, vitamin A strengthens the lining of the urinary tract, the digestive tract, the surface skin of the eyes and the respiratory tract. It also helps to keep each of these linings moist. When these surfaces are weakened, torn or otherwise damaged, infectious bacteria may enter and grow.
Vitamin A Health Benefits
Health Benefits of Vitamin A:
- Promotes healthy skin
- Improves the ability to see at night or in poor light
- Assists in the development and growth of teeth and bones
- Helps the smell, taste and hearing senses function properly
- Helps the liver metabolize carbohydrates
- Triggers the adrenal glands to produce cortisone
- May be useful in the prevention of some forms of cancer
Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is more prevalent in developing nations or in communities where excessive alcohol consumption occurs. Though it is not very prevalent in the United States, people with diseases and disorders that prevent vitamin A absorption and assimilation are particularly prone to developing a deficiency regardless of their geographical location. A few of these diseases and disorders are as follows:
- Pancreatic Disorders
- Celiac Disease
- Chrohn’s Disease
Specific symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are:
- Night blindness (and poor vision, in general)
- Dry eyes
- Dry hair
- Dry skin
- Dry fingernails
- Abscesses in the ears
- Loss of smell and/or taste
- An increase in colds and other illnesses (due to a weakened immune system)
- Increased instances of eye infections (some that lead to blindness)
- Poor skeletal development
- Poor growth in children
- Poor dental health (weakened teeth, enamel and an increase in cavities)
Vitamin A Food Sources
Vitamin A, in its active natural state, is only found in meats. However, it exists as a provitamin in plant-based foods. As a provitamin, it is a precursor of vitamin A referred to as a carotene and is changed to active vitamin A once it is consumed. Therefore, those who do not eat meat or meat byproducts are still able to benefit from vitamin A through fruit and vegetable consumption.
The following vitamin A foods should be eaten regularly to assure a healthy intake:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Yellow fruits and vegetables
- Tomato juice
Vitamin A Precaution
Vegetarians who do not consume meat, eggs and other dairy products must make a special effort to consume enough of the fruits and vegetables, which are high in carotenes. However, an excess of carotene can cause a yellowing of the skin.
Those who have difficulties absorbing vitamin A may be in danger of developing hypervitaminosis A, which occurs when too much of the unused vitamin is stored in the body. The symptoms of hypervitaminosis A are headache, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, drowsiness and excessively dry/itchy skin.
In either cases of excess carotene or hypervitaminosis A, symptoms normally disappear within a few days.
Natural cures and home remedies rely on the proper use of vitamins, such as vitamin A and others. Although many packaged foods advertise that key vitamins, such as vitamin A, have been added, the truth is that many of the naturally occurring vitamins were stripped from the product during its preparation phase. In their processing, these foods are sometimes heated in order to kill bacteria or frozen to preserve freshness. Each of these processes has an adverse effect on the original food, as its natural nutrients are then weakened or completely lost. However, in an attempt to replenish vitamins stripped during processing, consumer nutrition suffers as these are not as potent as the original, nor are they as effectively assimilated in the body. For this reason, it is best to consume natural foods whenever possible to assure that vitamin A and other nutrients are naturally gained.