Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for maintaining overall good health. It is present in two forms in nature- Retinol and Beta-carotene.
Retinol is the active form of Vitamin A which can be used directly by the body. Beta-carotene is obtained from colorful fruits and vegetables and is converted to retinol in the body for further use.
Vitamin A is essential for eyes, skin, bones and gastrointestinal health.
Health Benefits of Vitamin A
Here are some important roles of Vitamin A:
Important for Vision
Vitamin A is an amazing fat-soluble vitamin which is essential for eyes and vision. Getting enough Vitamin A reduces the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, dry eyes and night blindness.
It soothes inflammation of the eyes and keeps eye infections at bay. Beta-carotene possesses antioxidant functions and anti-inflammatory properties that ameliorate the risk of eye diseases.
Moreover, Vitamin A is required to nourish cornea and to protect it against damage. Your eyes need Vitamin A to produce moisture and to keep them lubricated.
It further improves night vision and helps your eyes adjust to light changes. (1)
Foods rich in Vitamin A are packed with age-fighting power that enhance skin health and delays the onset of premature skin aging. It improves wrinkles and reduces brown spots associated with aging and enhances the formation of skin-building compounds.
Vitamin A decreases degradation of collagen, a skin protein that holds the skin together and makes the skin look young. Besides this, Vitamin A retains water, keeps the skin moisturized and is effective for the treatment of dry and dull skin which is otherwise common during aging.
This skin-friendly vitamin further helps in the regeneration of cells and repairs old and damaged skin cells. Thus, Vitamin A improves overall appearance of the skin. (2)
Boosts Immune Function
The onset of infectious disease is high in populations where the intake of Vitamin A rich foods is low. Insufficiency of Vitamin A impairs immunity and thus, the chances of acquiring infections increases.
In the absence of this vitamin, the function of immune cells is diminished, and the normal regeneration of protective barrier is impeded. Therefore, such a Vitamin A deficient individual becomes more prone to infections because of poor immunity.
Vitamin A helps in the destruction of bacteria and foreign materials that cause damage to the body. It enhances the action of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that fights infections and prevents its spread. (3, 4)
Helps in Cancer Therapy
Vitamin A inhibits the growth and development of certain types of cancer tumors, which include lung, liver, oral, skin, breast and bladder cancer. It slows down the progression of the disease, prevents its spread and relapse.
Vitamin A activates immune cells that fight against cancer and thus, it controls the population of cancer cells. Oxidative stress plays a causative role in the onset and progression of cancer. As Vitamin A is a strong antioxidant, it lowers free radical load and fights oxidative stress. Hence, it prevents further damage caused to the healthy cells. (5)
Helps Clear Acne
Studies have revealed that low level of Vitamin A in the body plays a crucial role in the development and aggravation of acne. Getting enough Vitamin A from yellow-orange fruits and vegetables help in the regeneration of damaged skin cells and prevent dead skin cells from shedding off.
Vitamin A further lowers inflammation and prevents clogging of skin pores with oil. It also decreases redness, pain, lesions and blemishes associated with acne. Vitamin A serves as a barrier and protects the skin from external damage. Hence, it clears acne and promotes smooth skin appearance. (6)
Vitamin A intake boosts good reproductive health. It supports embryonic development as well as male and female reproduction.
Vitamin A helps in the maturation of follicles that in turn, promote development of the egg. Whereas if the egg is under-developed it will not be fertilized.
Vitamin A further improves sperm health and secretion of male sex hormone ‘testosterone’ and prevents infertility in males. An interesting research found that restoration of Vitamin A levels solved secondary infertility quickly. (7)
Scientific studies have observed that treatment with Vitamin A reduces watery diarrhea and death due to diarrhea in children. It decreases the duration as well as severity of diarrhea.
Insufficiency of Vitamin A can prolong the duration of diarrhea. Infectious organisms responsible for causing diarrhea can damage the intestinal mucosa. Vitamin A helps in repairing such as damage and reduces mortality in children. (8)
Other Health Benefits of Vitamin A
It has been found that Vitamin A is effective in the treatment of respiratory infections and measles in children. It promotes muscle growth and tissue repair. Vitamin A prevents the formation of kidney stones and boosts overall bone health.
Word of Caution
Getting Vitamin A from natural food sources is beneficial for overall health, but taking it in excess amounts in the form of supplements and injections can have certain negative effects on the body such as nausea, bone pain, dizziness, poor appetite, dry and rough skin.