Vitamins are an essential part of our diet, as they are crucial for our health and wellbeing. We make vitamins after we consume food or supplements, and they provide many health benefits such as preventing health issues due to deficiencies, promoting organ health, and they are involved in every bodily process. In our series Vitamins & Why They Are Vital, we will go over each vitamin’s health benefits, foods you can consume or supplement in order to get the necessary amounts, and how vitamins function in the body, starting with Vitamin A!
Vitamin A, also known as Retinol and Retinoic Acid, is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning that it is able to be stored in our body fat and can be absorbed along with fat we consume in our diet, and is stored in the liver as retinyl esters. This vitamin is important for vision, growth, cell division, reproduction, and immunity, and if enough Vitamin A is not acquired in your diet, it can lead to symptoms such as hair loss, skin problems, dry eyes, and you can be more susceptible to infections. Vitamin A benefits both color and low light vision, and helps maintain the surface tissue of the skin, intestines, lungs, and other organs!
Vitamin A also has antioxidant properties which means it can protect cells against damaging free radicals. Free radicals can play a role in developing risks of diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. It is best to consume foods with Vitamin A as the main source versus using a supplement, as supplements may not provide all of the offered benefits.
The recommended amount of Vitamin A for men is 900 micrograms (mcg) of Vitamin A each day, while women should have 700 mcg per day. If you are one to take a multivitamin supplement, most contain 750-1050 mcg of Vitamin A, providing 83-115% of your daily requirement. If you do not take a supplement of/containing Vitamin A, it can also be found in food sources such as eggs, fish, spinach, dairy products, foods rich in beta-carotene like dark leafy greens, carrots, and cantaloupe. It is recommended to get your Vitamin A from food sources versus a supplement as that is the most available and usable source for your body.
When consuming sources of Vitamin A, the body absorbs it as 75-100% retinol and 10-30% as beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor of Vitamin A, meaning it will convert to Vitamin A in the body as needed. Otherwise, retinol and beta-carotene are both stored in the liver until they are used!
Vitamin A plays some other important roles in health such as:
- Can decrease risk of developing some cancers due to the regulation of cell growth and differentiation.
- Can reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is significant vision loss for those who are 65 or older.
- Can prevent measles, which Vitamin A insufficiency is a major risk factor of. In 2013, 11,200 deaths of measles were associated with Vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is found in a variety of foods, and is very beneficial for vision and immune health! This is only the first of many vitamins and their benefits in our Vital Vitamin series, so stay tuned next month to learn more about all of the B Vitamins!