Vitamin A Overview

In the case of vitamin A, the eyes have it. The essential nutrient vitamin A, or retinol, plays a vital role in vision, reproduction and it helps healthy cells create accurate copies of themselves during cell division. In this article, we'll discuss the importance of vitamin A in your diet and sources for this vital nutrient. Here's a preview:

  • What Is Vitamin A? Vitamin A is is important to vision, especially the ability to see in the dark. A deficiency of vitamin A leads to xerophthalmia, which causes irreversible damage to the eyes and blindness. Vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of blindness in the world. Vitamin A is also important to maintaining healthy skin and it helps the body to resist infection.
  • Benefits of Vitamin A Vitamin A is important for the immune system, and it keeps skin and mucous membrane cells healthy. Vitamin A helps to fight cancer by inhibiting the production of DNA in cancerous cells. It slows down tumor growth in established cancers and may keep leukemia cells from dividing.
  • Foods That Contain Vitamin A Vitamin A can be found in both animal and plant foods. It is found as retinol in animal foods and as carotenoids in plant foods. These are compounds the body can convert into vitamin A. The single best source of vitamin A is liver.
  • Vitamin A Deficiency Vitamin A deficiency causes an inability to see well in the dark, rough skin, and a susceptibility to infectious diseases. In the United States, vitamin A deficiency is most common among low-income groups.
  • Vitamin A Supplements Vitamin A supplementation should be limited to 5,000 IU (1,000 RE) for men and 2,500 IU (500 RE) for women. Use caution when taking vitamin A supplements -- large doses of the vitamin can be toxic.
  • Carotenoids Carotenoids, also called provitamin A, are precursors to vitamin A. These colorful plant pigments can be found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that can help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease.