Why do I need Vitamin A?

Your body cannot produce enough Vitamin A, so you must get it from your diet.

Black and white photo of a cod fish

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that your body can store it for a limited time in your fatty tissues. If you are on a low fat diet, or if you don’t get enough zinc, you may have impaired absorption of Vitamin A.

You’ll recognize the names some of the compounds found in Vitamin A: retinol, retinoic acid, and beta-carotene.

VITAMIN A PROVIDES SUPPORT TO

  • Bone metabolism
  • Cellular health
  • Gene transcription (DNA function)
  • Growth and development
  • Heart function
  • Immune function
  • Kidney function
  • Lung function
  • Mucous membranes (epithelial tissue that secretes mucous and lines body cavities and tubular organs, including the gut and respiratory passages)
  • Red blood cell production
  • Reproductive system
  • Skin health
  • Teeth
  • Vision (especially important for retinal health)

DISEASE CONDITIONS CAUSED BY DEFICIENCY 

  • Dry lips and thickened tongue
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Ear infections
  • Enamel hypoplasia (thin tooth enamel)
  • Fat malabsorption
  • Hyperkeratosis (white lumps at hair follicles)
  • Impaired immunity
  • Impaired vision–several stages which can lead to blindness. Vitamin A and zinc deficiencies are a leading cause of childhood blindness in developing countries and the numbers are staggering.
  • Infertility
  • Itching
  • Malaria
  • Measles
  • Miscarriage
  • Night blindness
  • Rashes
  • Urinary tract infections

HEALTH CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH TOXICITY (too much)

RISK FACTORS (Conditions or behaviors that increase the risk of deficiencies)

  • A diet low in Vitamin A-rich foods
  • Alcoholism
  • Anemia
  • Bile duct disorder
  • Celiac disease
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Diarrhea
  • Duodenal bypass
  • Giardiasis
  • Lack of breast milk for infants
  • Low fat diets
  • Pancreatic sufficiency
  • Respiratory infections
  • Smoking (Vitamin A deficiency causes emphysema)
  • Vegan diets are often low in Vitamin A
  • Zinc deficiency

BEST SOURCES OF VITAMIN A (descending order)

  1. Cod liver oil
  2. Turkey liver
  3. Beef, pork or fish liver
  4. Chicken liver
  5. Ghee
  6. Red capsicum
  7. Sweet potato
  8. Carrots
  9. Broccoli leaf
  10. Butter
  11. Kale
  12. Collard greens
  13. Butternut squash
  14. Dandelion greens
  15. Spinach
  16. Pumpkin
  17. Collard greens
  18. Cheddar cheese
  19. Cantaloupe
  20. Spirulina

CAUTION

Taking too much retinoid Vitamin A can be dangerous. Since it is fat-soluble, excess amounts can accumulate in your fatty tissue to toxic levels. Too much liver in your diet may therefore be bad for you. Too much beta-carotene, which is not a retinoid form, may make your skin orange but is otherwise harmless. If you are tempted to supplement with large doses, consult an expert. All things in moderation!

 

 

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