Vitamin A, also known as retinol and retinoic acid, is one of the essential micronutrients required...
to keep the body’s systems functioning well. Micronutrients, although needed only in minuscule amounts, are crucial in the production of enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for healthy growth and development.
Vitamin A, as well as being essential for vision under conditions of poor lighting, helps keep skin and mucous membranes that line the nose, sinuses, and mouth healthy. It also plays an important role in:
- Immune system function
- Bone formation
- Wound healing
- Urinary system
- Digestive system
- Cell regeneration
Sources of Vitamin A
Because the body cannot manufacture vitamins, it obtains them from the nutrient-rich foods we eat. All the sources of vitamin A need some fat in the diet to aid absorption. Vitamin A from food is stored in the liver until required by the body and is bound to protein before being transported to where it is needed.
Vitamin A compounds are found in both animal and plant foods and come in two different forms: preformed vitamin A from animal sources and provitamin A from plant sources.
Preformed vitamin A, found as retinol in animal products, is the active form of the vitamin and can be used by the body just as it is.
Good sources include:
- oily fish
- fortified low-fat spreads
- milk and yoghurt
- liver and liver products such as liver pâté
Some oils, for example palm oil, and fortified cereals also contain Vitamin A.
Provitamin A carotenoids — alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin — are the inactive form of the vitamin found in plants. Carotenoids, which act as a type of antioxidant, are the pigments that give plants their green colour and some fruits and vegetables their red or orange colour. These compounds are converted during digestion to the active form in the body. For example, beta-carotene, the most important type of carotenoid, is converted to retinol in your small intestine.
The main food sources of beta-carotene are:
- yellow, red and green (leafy) vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and red peppers
- yellow fruit, such as mango, papaya and apricots, cantaloupes
What are the causes of vitamin A deficiency?
Vitamin A deficiency can be caused by prolonged inadequate intake of vitamin A. This is especially so when rice is the main food in your diet (rice doesn't contain any carotene). Vitamin A deficiency may also occur when your body is unable to make use of the vitamin A in your diet. Mild forms of vitamin A deficiency may cause no symptoms but can lead to fatigue
Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
- Dry Eyes. Eye problems are some of the most well-known issues related to vitamin A deficiency
- Night Blindness
- Dry Skin
- Infertility and Trouble Conceiving
- Delayed Growth
- Throat and Chest Infections
- Poor Wound Healing
- Acne and Breakouts
An increased risk of vitamin A deficiency occurs in:
- People with illnesses affecting the way food is absorbed from the gut (bowel) into the body
- People who have had weight reduction surgery
- People who have a strict vegan diet
- Prolonged excessive alcohol intake
- Other forms of liver disease, as vitamin A is stored in the liver
- Toddlers and preschool children living in poverty
What is the treatment for vitamin A deficiency?
The treatment for mild forms of vitamin A deficiency includes eating vitamin A-rich foods as described above.
For more severe forms of vitamin A deficiency causing symptoms, treatment includes taking daily oral vitamin A Nutritional-supplements
If you feel you may have Vitamin A deficiency and would like to find out for sure, please contact us at BioMed. We offer Diagnostic profiling