Importance of Vitamin A
Vitamin A plays numerous important roles in the body. It is essential for reproduction, growth and development, and it helps maintain good health for your eyes, skin and immune system. Moreover, it plays an important role in ensuring the optimal function and maintenance of a variety of organs such as the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
It is commonly said that you need to eat carrots to ensure that you can maintain perfect vision and this is because vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyesight.
Vitamin A is most commonly found in animal-protein foods however, it can also be formed from carotenoids. Carotenoids are nutrients found in various plant-based foods. An easy way to remember which foods contain carotenoids is to search for fruits and vegetables by colour.
Bright yellow, orange, red and green fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids. There are several different carotenoids and they all have different functions. Beta-carotene is a specific carotenoid that can be turned into vitamin A in the body.
Fish liver oils, liver, egg yolks, butter, and cream are sources of preformed natural vitamin A. Low-fat and nonfat milks and margarine are significant sources of vitamin A, because they are fortified. Some good sources of β-carotene are dark-green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, kale, and spinach as well as dark-orange vegetables and fruits such as carrots, sweet potatoes or yams, pumpkins, melon, and apricots.
Deficiency and Excess Intake
Vitamin A deficiency is more prevalent in third-world countries where individuals have poor access to animal protein, other animal products as well as fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene. A deficiency in vitamin A has the most severe health consequences for infants, growing children as well as pregnant and lactating women.
The most common symptom of vitamin A deficiency is xeropthalmia, which is initially characterised by the inability to see as it gets darker. As it progresses, an xeropthalmia characteristic known as Bitot spots start to develop in the eye, making it relatively easy to identify. A vitamin A deficiency can also affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection.
Hypervitaminosis A on the other hand, is a condition in which a person experiences an excess of Vitamin A in their body, and the side effects depend on how much vitamin A they have consumed and how quickly it was consumed. Typical side effects include dizziness, nausea, headaches, pain in your joints and bones as well as skin irritations. In more severe cases, excess vitamin A can lead to an increase in intracranial pressure, a coma and could even be fatal. Some individuals have experienced a side effect of eating too many carrots. Carrots are high in beta-carotene which is a yellow-orange pigment. Excess beta-carotene can result in discolouration of the skin, making the skin appear yellow. While this may look a bit strange, it is not harmful to your health.
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