Vitamin A

A fat-soluble vitamin stored in the liver, vitamin A comes in two forms: retinol, found in animal products; beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. It has a number of important functions and is essential for healthy skin, eyesight, growth and reproduction.

Vitamin A rich foods

How it works

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals – molecules that damage healthy cells, speed up the ageing process and can cause a number of serious diseases to develop. Vitamin A promotes the growth of strong teeth and bones, and keeps skin healthy. In the eye, vitamin A is essential for the formation of visual purple, a pigment that lets us see in dim light. Vitamin A is a well-known immune system booster and helps the body to fight infection. It also lays an important role in wound healing.

Deficiency symptoms

  • Poor night vision
  • Dandruff
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Frequent colds or infection
  • Mouth ulcers

Vitamin A is often referred to as the ‘vision vitamin’ because of its benefits for sight.

Remedies

Acne, wrinkles and psoriasis. Many face creams contain vitamin A, and drugs derived from vitamin A are used to treat severe acne. As an antioxident, vitamin A neutralizes free radicals, substances that destroy collagen (essential for the skin’s elasticity), and are known to play a role in inflammatory disorders such as psoriasis.

Viral infections. Because of its role in strengthening the immune system and improving resistance, vitamin A helps to protect against sore throats, colds and other viral infections, and shortens the duration of such illnesses.

Supplements

Multivitamin tablets usually contain at least 800mcg of vitamin A, and intakes of up to 3000mcg of vitamin A per day are considered safe. Because vitamin A is stored in your body it does not need to be taken daily, but it can build up in the liver, and retinol is toxic in high doses. Zinc is required for vitamin A to be released from the liver.

pill, gel capsule, medicine

Precautions

Vitamin A as retinol can cause birth defects in an unborn child and should not be taken as a supplement by pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant. Pregnant women should also avoid cod liver oil and liver, as these contain high amounts of retinol. Excessive amounts of beta-carotene turn your skin yellow, but your colour will return to normal if you reduce the dose.

VITAL FACTS

Vitamin A – Main functions:

  • Antioxidant
  • Boosts immunity
  • Essential for vision
  • Healthy skin
  • Fertility

Sources

Retinol is found in meat, fish, eggs and diary produce. Beta-carotine is present in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. One carrot should provide your RDA of vitamin A.

  • Liver
  • Cod liver oil
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Butter
  • Tomatoes

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is around 800mcg.

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