What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is is what is known as a fat soluble vitamin and originates from two primary sources, preformed retinoids and provitamin carotenoids also known as carotene. There are actually two different types of vitamin A that depend on whether they came from an animal or a vegetable. Food that comes from animals such as meat, cheese, eggs and milk create a vitamin A known as preformed vitamin A. Your body absorbs it in the form of retinol, which is by far one of the most active and usable forms of vitamin A. When Vitamin A comes from a vegetable it is called provitamin A carotenoid. It is less efficient for your body due to the fact that your body has to turn it into retinol in order to be used.
Functions of Vitamin A
This vitamin is a group of compounds that plays a very important role in some of the basic functions of the human body. Some of these functions include bone growth, vision, cell division, reproduction and a process known as cell differentiation. Vitamin A is also used to help regulate and promote a healthy immune system that can help your body fight off harmful infections from bacteria and viruses. White blood cells, which are the primary fighting force of the immune system relies heavily on a presence of vitamin A in order to remain healthy and strong. Studies have also shown that some provitamin A carotenoids can function as something called antioxidants. Antioxidants have the affect of protecting your cells from free radicals which can damage the genetic makeup of a cell and potentially lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Vitamin A Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
Vitamin A deficiency and its symptoms are somewhat rare in developed countries. But they can exist if your diet is lacking in foods that provide your body with vitamin A. When your body is lacking a sufficient amount of vitamin A the earliest symptom you will notice is an inability to see in dim light. This is called night blindness or nyctalopia. As the deficiency progresses you will begin to develop rough skin, chronic sores, sinus infections and abscesses in the ears and mouth. If there is a dietary deficiency in children it can result in the retardation of bodily growth and severely impair teeth and bone formation. In the end, a severe deficiency of vitamin a can be fatal, as can excess levels.
Vitamin A Foods
By far the most rich source of vitamin A is liver and cod oil. Many vitamin A natural supplements can actually take the form of cod oil that you can mix into a small drink, which will serve as your daily intake of vitamin A. If you are looking for a good source of beta-carotene, look for leafy green vegetables as well as yellow vegetables. These include romaine lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, yellow fruits and carrots.
Quick Vitamin A Facts
Vitamin A is a term that actually refers to a large family of compounds that are related in their molecular structure. The family includes retinol, retinal, retinyl ester, retinoic acid and provitamin carotenoids such as carotene
Vitamin A is essential for growth in living organisms. It takes part not only in the vision process but in the many developmental processes that take place as an organism ages.
Vitamin A actually requires some fat to be present in order to digest and use effectively. A healthy level of protein allows an easy transition from carotenoids to retinol, or a form of vitamin A that the body can't use to one that it can easily.
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