Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin related to a group of compounds known as carotenoids. Carotenoids serve as precursors of the vitamin. Examples of carotenoids are beta carotene, alpha carotene, gamma carotene, lutein and lycopene. Usually beta carotene obtained from food sources or supplements is readily transformed into vitamin A in the liver.
Vitamin A rich food sources are fish liver oils, green and yellow fruits and vegetables, broccoli, mustard greens, papayas, spinach, and yellow squash. Herbs rich in vitamin A are peppermint, parsley, eyebright, nettle and lemon grass. Inadequate vitamin intake leads to vitamin A deficiency which results in dry hair, poor vision, night blindness and retarded growth and development. It may also cause bouts of insomnia, chronic fatigue, pneumonia, colds, other infections, acne breakouts and even loss of weight. Use of antibiotics, laxatives and cholesterol reducing medications can also inhibit vitamin A absorption, causing low vitamin levels.
Vitamin A mainly prevents night blindness and disorders affecting the eye. The vitamin also maintains skin health and fights acne breakout. Moreover, vitamin A boosts the body’s immunity, promotes healing of gastrointestinal ulcers, combats toxins and pollutants from the environment and aids in skin repair, particularly of epithelial tissues. Other functions of vitamin A include storage of fat, protection against infections, colds and flu, as well as infections affecting the kidney, bladder and lungs.
Furthermore, vitamin A has potent antioxidant properties. In fact, based on recent studies, beta carotene offers antioxidant activity for prevention of cancer. The vitamin promotes healthy cell growth and regeneration. Plus, it can slow down ageing and avoid premature ageing. Without vitamin A, protein can not be properly synthesized.
Too much vitamin A may prove toxic to the liver organ. Vitamin A toxicity results in conditions like pain in the abdomen, liver enlargement, hair loss, itchiness, nausea and vomiting. On the other hand, beta carotene is still safe regardless if taken in large amounts.
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