Continuing in our series to help you get familiar with your vitamin ABCs, we take a closer look at vitamin A, the function it plays in our health, and how it helps keep us alive and kicking!
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which we derive from various animal and plant-based foods. Vitamin A is found in 2 forms: retinols and carotenoids. Retinols are more fully-formed types of the vitamin, and our bodies use this type to store the vitamin, ready for when we need it. Carotenoids, on the other hand, are pigments found in some plants that our bodies can convert into vitamin A.
The Benefits of Vitamin A
So what do we actually need vitamin A for?
- Eye Health: Amongst its many uses, the role it plays in our eye health is perhaps the most significant. It’s no coincidence that we are told as children that carrots help us see in the dark: foods rich in vitamin A, carrots being one, allow us to produce the pigment found in our eyes called rhodopsin, which helps our retinas to perceive light. Poor night vision could be a sign that you are not getting enough vitamin A in your diet!
- Healthy Immune System: Although no single vitamin can boost the immune system alone, in combination they can create all the necessary factors to keep your health at its peak. Vitamin A contributes by increasing the concentrations of certain proteins that are vital for T-cell production. T-cells are the white blood cells that leap onto foreign bodies and destroy them, keeping infections firmly in check.
- Skin Health: Vitamin A is very rapidly becoming the darling of the beauty world, as more and more and more skin benefits are discovered. For several years, vitamin A has been associated with the treatment of acne, but now dermatologists are looking to vitamin A as an anti-aging aid.
- Vitamin A and Anti-Aging: Dr Leslie Baumann, the director of cosmetic dermatology at the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute in the US, has made the observations that over the counter acne preparations, rich in retinoids, are also able to improve stretch marks and blemishes caused by discolouration of the skin. Prescription-strength retinoid acne creams are able to produce even more impressive results, he claims, with signs of aging actually being reversed or prevented. Dr Cathy Reid, honorary secretary of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, backs up these claims but advises caution: whilst improvements are noticeable, sensitive skin may react adversely to high concentrations of retinoids, resulting in irritation and dermatitis. Her recommendation is to try a twice-weekly routine of applying a small, pea-sized amount, and building up as your skin becomes accustomed to the treatment.
- Vitamin A for Acne: Vitamin A is proven to be very effective at battling those spots in cases of acne. This is partly because it can limit the amount of sebum that your skin produces, meaning less clogged pores, and fewer pimples!
Vitamin A Foods
If you want to top up your levels without taking supplements, here is a list of the foods that are rich in vitamin A:
- Sweet potatoes
- Dried apricots
- Butternut squash
- Dark leafy greens
- Whole milk
- Cod liver oil
How Do You Know If You Have a Vitamin A Deficiency?
If you suffer from a combination of the following symptoms, there is a chance that you may be deficient in vitamin A:
- Dry cracked skin
- Dry mucous membranes, for instance, the inside of eyelids
- Repeated respiratory infections
- An inability to sweat
- A reduced sense of taste, hear and smell
Are there Side Effects of Taking Vitamin A?
If you stick to the recommended daily doses, vitamin A is safe and essential for health. However, do be aware that it is fat-soluble, which means that our bodies have the ability to store it in our fat cells. If we take too much, our levels could become too high, and in that case we may experience blurred vision, painful bones, headaches and dizziness, and changes to our hair and skin. We suggest that you always mention supplements to your doctor, so that they can advise on dosages, and monitor the effects the vitamin may be having on you.
What the Papers Say:
What People On The Web Say:
I’ve suffered from some bad breakouts and acne for a long time now, on and off. I tried absolutely everything for my face, washing it all the time, creams, soaps, acids. Up until now nothing really worked all that well, some might have helped a bit, and others made it worse. But then I had an epiphany! After reading an article online about how apricots were good for your skin because of all the vitamin A, I thought, why don’t I just go directly to the vitamin and start taking it and see what happens! Well that’s exactly what I did, and let me tell you, this is apparently the only thing I needed all along! After 2 days my skin was cleared up, and I’ve had no breakouts in about 2 weeks! Greatest feeling in the world!
After taking this I’ve noticed a difference in my skin improving. I’ve had fewer break outs and has been great for my vision as well. When at the range and focusing on the 300 meter target, it hasn’t been as blurry. It was always hard to focus in on, up to this point. That was after taking this product for about 3 months.
I have been hunting for a product that will help shrink my pores and control oil production. My research led me to Vitamin A supplements. Since starting this regimen two months ago, my overall production of blackheads has reduced significantly, and some of the stubborn old clogs have washed away in the shower. My pores appear smaller as well.
When I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in early spring of 2001 I was told that I would be totally blind in one to two years. Eleven years later, due to the Vitamin A Palmitate, I am still driving, still working at my job as a home health care nurse and enjoying a full, but somewhat limited life.