What is Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin which can be found in two primary forms Retinol or beta-carotene. Retinol is found in animal products (dairy, meat, fish products) and I'm sure you would have seen it listed as the star ingredient on loads of anti-ageing creams. Beta-carotene comes from colourful fruit and vegetables. It needs to be converted to retinol by the body for it to be used. If you are taking vitamin A in capsule form if you read the label it it will probably be called Vitamin A Palmitate.
The most well known benefit of Vitamin A is eye health. I’m sure you have heard when you were a child that eating carrots will help you see in the dark…well it’s true! Carrots contain beta-carotene which keep your eyes healthy and helps prevent macular degeneration. Vitamin A improves eyesight as it is a critical component of the rhodopsin molecule ("a biological pigment found in the rods of the retina. Rhodopsin is extremely sensitive to light and enables our vision in low light conditions")
Medical News Today published an article a few days ago with the latest study on Vitamin A which talks about how vitamin A "keeps the peace" in our immune system. It plays an important role in mediating the relationship between gut bacteria and the immune system. Studies suggest that interactions between our gut and the bacteria that colonies out intestines help control how our bodies respond to illness. Scientists have found that moderate levels of vitamin A in our intestines prevent the immune system from becoming overactive.
Beta carotene also acts an excellent anti-oxidant and because of the role vitamin A plays in keeping the immune system from overacting it can prevent inflammation in the body.
Vitamin A is excellent for your skin. Dermatologist often prescribe retinol cream (vitamin A) to help treat acne. As mentioned above it’s also the star ingredient in many anti ageing creams, this is because the retinol stimulates the production of new skin cells, and decreases the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production.
A deficiency in vitamin A is not often seen in developed countries but can cause, dry skin, dry eyes, night blindness, slow growth rate, poor wound healing and frequent infections. Because vitamin A is fat soluble and stored in the liver - too much of it can cause vitamin A toxicity which can lead to changes in your vision, swelling of your bones, ulcers and rough dry skin. This can be checked by a simple blood test.
Always speak to your doctor before adding a new supplement to your daily routine. Pregnant woman should avoid supplementing with vitamin A as research shows it can cause birth defects if taken in high doses. Stick to your prenatal supplement as this will have the adequate amount of each vitamin and mineral needed to see you safely through your pregnancy.