You’ve probably heard the advice “be sure to get your vitamins” – whether from your parents while growing up, or your doctor.
Maybe it was in response to health issues you’ve experienced.
Or maybe it was just general health advice.
I’m a Streetsville Mississauga naturopathic doctor, and I want to help you to better understand what all of the various vitamins do.
Today we’ll take a close look at vitamin A, and its benefits.
Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A, although generally referred to as one nutrient, is actually the name of a group of compounds which include retinal, retinyl esters, and retinol.
The vitamin A which is found in food comes in two forms:
- Provitamin A – alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These are forms of vitamin A found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Preformed vitamin A – this is found in animal products such as chicken, fish, and dairy.
In order for the body to be able to use vitamin A, it must be converted to retinal and retinoic acid, which are its active forms.
As a fat-soluble vitamin, excess vitamin A which cannot be used by the body is stored in fat tissue.
Benefits Of Vitamin A
There are a number of reasons to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin A, either through diet or supplementation.
It helps your skin, eyes, and bones, is good for your immune system, and may even help stave off cancer.
Keep reading as we look at these benefits in more detail.
1. It Has Anti-Cancer Properties
There are a lot of products and supplements which claim to “cure cancer”.
Let’s be very clear – there is no supplement or product which can cure or out-right prevent cancer from forming.
There are too many factors at play for any one supplement to be able to make this claim.
There are, however, substances which can help to lower the risk of cancer developing, and vitamin A is one of them.
A 2017 article in the Annals of Hematology showed vitamin A can assist in lowering the risk of cervical cancer.
For more naturopathic cancer care solutions, contact us here at the Mindful Healing Clinic.
2. It’s Good For Your Skin
The secret to clear, glowing skin?
It may just be vitamin A.
Well, vitamin A might be a part of it, at least.
A deficiency in this nutrient may lead to an increased risk of acne development due to the overproduction of keratin in hair follicles.
This would result in blockages in your pores which make it harder for dead skin cells to be removed.
3. It’s Good For Your Eyes
Vitamin A is important for preserving and promoting eye health.
It helps preserve eyesight, and prevents night blindness.
A 2015 article in JAMA Ophthalmology found a link between vitamin A consumption and declines in vision with age.
4. It’s Good For Your Bones
When you think of bone health, you probably think of calcium, and perhaps vitamin D.
Vitamin A, however, also plays a role in proper bone growth and maintenance.
An analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed individuals with lower levels of vitamin A in their blood were at higher risk of bone fractures.
5. It Supports Your Immune System
Another article, in Expert Opinion Biological Therapy notes that providing treatment for vitamin A deficiency can decrease the risk of death from malaria and measles in children, in countries where these are prevalent.
Symptoms Of Vitamin A Deficiency
There are a number of risks associated with vitamin A deficiency. In this section we will review some of them.
Individuals at higher risk for vitamin A deficiency include people with cystic fibrosis, premature infants, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Low vitamin A levels are a leading cause of blindness in children across the world.
Deficiency also increases the risk and severity of diarrhea or measles.
Pregnant individuals with low levels of vitamin A are at increased risk of anemia, and even death.
Other, less serious issues which can result from low vitamin A include skin issues such as acne and hyperkeratosis, which is a thickening of the outer layer of skin.
Dietary Sources Of Vitamin A
There are a number of dietary sources of both preformed vitamin A and provitamin A.
Some sources of preformed vitamin A include:
- Eggs – yolks specifically
- King mackerel
- Beef liver
- Liver sausage
- Cheddar cheese
- Cod liver oil
- Chicken liver
While sources of provitamin A, such as beta-carotene include:
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
- Dandelion greens
Should You Supplement With Vitamin A?
Because it is fat-soluble, if you have too much vitamin A, it is stored in the body and excessive amounts can lead to toxic levels.
Side effects of vitamin A toxicity include:
- Joint pain
- Liver damage
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Vision problems
- Itchy skin
- Low appetite
Due to this, you need to be careful if considering supplementation with vitamin A.
However, those who are vegan or vegetarian may have difficulty getting enough preformed vitamin A in their diets, as most of the dietary sources of this form of the nutrient are animal products.
If you are worried about not getting enough vitamin A for any reason, book an appointment with us at the Mindful Healing Clinic.
Book An Appointment At The Mindful Healing Clinic
Are you worried about nutrient deficiencies?
Did you read this article and wonder if you’re getting enough vitamin A – or any other vital nutrient in your diet?
At The Mindful Healing Clinic, we can help.
We’ll work with you to determine any nutrient deficiencies you may have and offer natural solutions to help ensure your body is getting everything it needs to perform at its peak.
Contact us today to set up an appointment.
Until next time,
Dr. Maria Cavallazzi is a medical doctor from Colombia where she practiced as a family physician for 8 years until she moved to Canada 16 years ago and became a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga.