Our body needs a number of nutrients in the form of minerals and vitamins to function properly. A deficiency of any of these minerals and vitamins leads to a deficiency in the body, which manifests itself in the form of a number of symptoms that can lead to illnesses. While some of these nutrients are produced by the body, some others need to be provided to it. This is why we need to have a balanced diet to include all important nutrients in our meals. One such micronutrient that our body needs is vitamin A, which cannot be manufactured by the body naturally and therefore must be included in our diets.
The vitamin A that our body gets from our food, is stored in the liver, until it is required by the body. Vitamin A supports many bodily systems and a deficiency of this vitamin may lead to symptoms like throat infections and ulcers, acne and dry skin, sore eyes, etc. In pregnant women, a deficiency of vitamin A may result in night blindness and poor immunity, especially if the mother becomes deficient in the last trimester. It may also have an adverse impact on the brain development of the foetus.
Types Of Vitamin A
There are two different types of vitamin A- a preformed vitamin A called retinol present in meats, milk and eggs, and the other is a Provitamin A, called carotenoids, present in fruits and vegetables. The retinol or preformed Vitamin A is used up directly by the body, while the carotenoids need to be converted by the body into retinol. The most important carotenoid is the beta-carotene present in foods like carrots and oranges. Our body is able to convert this carotenoid into retinol, in the most efficient way. Yellow, orange and red coloured vegetables and fruits are the richest sources of beta-carotene.
Vitamin A Health Benefits: Carrots are rich in carotenoid beta carotene
Here are 5 benefits of vitamin A, which make it essential for the body:
1. Maintains Eye Health: Adequate intake of vitamin A can keep eye disorders at bay and even improve eyesight. A number of eye disorders like glaucoma, cataracts, night blindness, etc. can be avoided by regular consumption of foods with vitamin A in them.
2. Boosts Immunity In kids: Vitamin A is very important for improving immunity in kids. Research has indicated that a deficiency of Vitamin A in kids makes them susceptible to diseases like diarrhoea and measles.
3. Promotes Skin And Hair Health: Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for skin and hair health. This is because vitamin A promotes the replacement of skin cells and also promotes hair growth. It is used in making acne medicines and also medicines to treat baldness. Vitamin A also prevents skin ageing, making your skin looking young for longer.
4. Lowers Risk Of Cancer: Research has shown that adequate intake of beta-carotene is linked to lower risk of lung, stomach and prostate cancer in people. However, an overdose of vitamin A supplements may actually lead to an increase in the risk of cancer.
5. Maintains Bone Health: Vitamin A is essential for healthy bones as it plays an important role in the formation of osteoblasts- the bones that are responsible for building new bones. A deficiency of vitamin A leads to poor absorption and metabolism of calcium, leading to poor bone health.
Although vitamin A is essential for the body, its overdose through supplements can have adverse impact on your health. Studies have suggested that higher doses of vitamin A may lead to osteoporosis and even hip fractures in older people. It’s healthier to consume Vitamin A through natural sources like fruits and vegetables, instead of taking supplements. To know the recommended daily intake of vitamin A for you or your kids, it is always better to consult an expert dietitian or nutritionist.