Vitamin A or retinol is a pale-yellow, fat-soluble alcohol which is most commonly found in fatty fish and fish-liver oils.
Plants do not contain vitamin A but many fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene which the body converts into vitamin A. One of the most important uses of vitamin A is its ability to support the health of your eyes. It also plays a big role in improving the body's functions concerning wound-healing, bone formation, skin health, growth, mucous membranes, lactation, and immunity.
As a potent antioxidant, it helps to protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals – these are molecules that can cause early aging and tissue degeneration.
Sources of Vitamin A
Your body cannot produce vitamin A by itself. You need to get it from food sources that include milk, eggs, kidney beans and liver.
Beta-carotene is a substance from plants that the body converts into vitamin A. Plants which are high in beta-carotene include carrots, broccoli, apricots, and yellow and green vegetables.
Here are some of the adverse effects of vitamin A deficiency:
1. Night Blindness
It refers to a person's difficulty in seeing at night or in dimly lighted areas. It is one of the most common and primary indications of vitamin A deficiency.
Other manifestations of vitamin A deficiency in the eyes include i) Conjunctivitis – the inflammation or redness of the conjunctiva, the lining of the white part of the eye and the underside of the eyelid, ii) Xerophthalmia – the abnormal dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea of the eyes, iii) Color-blindness – the inability of the eyes to identify colors, iv) Photophobia – the sensitivity of the eyes to light, and v) complete loss of vision.
2. Dry Hair and Unhealthy Nails
Another symptom of vitamin A deficiency is dryness of the hair. It could also include peeling or the appearance of longitudinal ridges on the nails.
3. Infections of the Skin
Vitamin A plays an important part in the maintenance of your skin health. A deficiency in this vitamin may trigger acne or worsen the condition of existing acne on your skin. It is therefore imperative to take enough vitamin A to stop and prevent acne.
Vitamin A can also prevent the growth of boils, cold sores and other infections of your skin. It is also a potent antioxidant that helps to prevent wrinkles, dryness and premature aging of your skin.
4. Other Health Problems
Aside from its effect on your eyes and skin, vitamin A deficiency also plays a role in the maintenance of your overall health. A deficiency of this vitamin can also lead to reproductive health problems, cardiovascular diseases, a weakened immune system, and loss of smell or appetite.
Vitamin A is an essential substance that helps to maintain the body's health and protect it from diseases. The best way to prevent vitamin A deficiency is to eat a healthy diet and to take multivitamin supplements daily.
The vitamin A requirements of people vary with age, but for adult males and females, the required daily amount of this nutrient is 3,000 IU.
You should avoid taking excessive vitamin A for long periods as this can cause serious health problems which include dry skin, mouth sores, liver failure, and thinking problems.