Vitamin A is known to be the first ever fat-soluble vitamin to be documented. It is described as the “Jack of all Trades” of vitamins with benefits to vision, the immune system, cell development, skin and bones, and reproduction.
There is a good reason why Vitamin A is referred to as retinol or retinal. This is because the chief and best known function of Vitamin A deals with the vision or eye sight. Vitamin A plays an essential role in the synthesis of Rhodopsin, a pigment that stores Vitamin A compounds that is present in the retina’s rod cells. The Rhodopsin functions by allowing the rod cells to detect light in a dark condition. Additionally, Vitamin A also plays a role in the maintenance of a healthy cornea. Vitamin A deficient individuals may exhibit a condition known as keratinization wherein a build up of a protein called keratin clouds the cornea. If this worsens, permanent blindness called xerophthalmia may occur.
Vitamin A does not only support the eye sight. It also works to protect the skin and the internal linings of the body such as the lungs, intestines and bladder by maintaining and promoting cell growth and development. Vitamin A also aids in the normal bone metabolism.
Vitamin A is also recognized to possess anti-viral or anti-infective properties. It aids in the prevention of viral infections and maintenance of an optimal state of the immune system to promote the body’s defenses against diseases. For instance, children affected with measles who are Vitamin A-deficient may result to infection leading to blindness.
People who are experiencing vitamin A deficiency may be from results of their extreme low fat dieting or are suffering from conditions such as alcoholism, measles, or cystic fibrosis. Deficiency of Vitamin A may result to conditions such as anemia, cessation of bone growth, loss of sight most especially at night, bone malformation, keratinization, and cell growth retardation. The body’s susceptibility to viral infections is also increased, making the body prone to infections, respiratory viruses, or pneumonia.
In order to maintain the recommended daily intake of vitamin A the following foods are excellent sources of Vitamin A for the body: liver and fish oil, milk and milk products, butter, eggs, and spinach. It is important to avoid excessive intake of Vitamin A through supplements to prevent conditions such as dry and itchy skin, vision changes, brittle hair and nails, fatigue, liver damage, bone growth retardation, muscle weakness and Vitamin K malabsorption that results in insufficient blood clotting abilities of the body.
Dr. James E. Carlson B.S.,D.O.,M.B.A.,J.D.
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