When folks go shopping for vitamins that provide the most healthy bang for their bucks, they usually don’t begin with A like they do with the alphabet. That is, vitamin A isn’t regarded as one of your ‘it’ supplements these days. But it should be. Getting enough vitamin A into your body is essential for your good health; otherwise, you risk developing problems with your vision, immune system, reproduction, and even skin health, among other assorted health issues.
Most of the vitamin A that your body needs is provided through foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Your body can also converts the carotenoids found in plant foods such as green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables into vitamin A, per healthline.com. There are actually two types of vitamin A found in foods – preformed vitamin A (also known as retinol) and provitamin A.
Strive for a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet – one that includes both categories of food sources mentioned above – should suffice in warding off a vitamin A deficiency, a condition rarely encountered in developed countries such as the U.S. But the risk of getting such a deficiency is greater in women who are pregnant as well as breastfeeding mothers, infants, and children, as well as those people with cystic fibrosis or who are suffering from chronic diarrhea, per healthline.com.
Leading Cause of Preventable Blindness in Children
An A deficiency is nothing to scoff at. Per the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a vitamin A deficiency is the No. 1 cause worldwide of preventable blindness in children: between 250,000 and 500,000 children a year are so stricken, and about half those children die within a year of losing their sight. In pregnant women, such a deficiency can lead to night blindness, a contributing factor in maternal mortality.
7 Indicators of a Vitamin A Deficiency
If you have any of the following symptoms, don’t just assume you have a vitamin A deficiency – get to a doctor and get things checked out, and ask for advice when it comes to a proper diet and vitamin supplementation:
- Night blindness. A low level of vitamin A can lead to a deficiency of a light-sensitive protein in the eye known as rhodopsin. Such a condition can impair vision in dim light, such as at night. This can show up if you are having difficulty driving at night or finding your way to the bathroom when the rooms are dark, per curejoy.com. Other eye-related issues stemming from a vitamin A shortage can include corneal ulcers and foamy Bitot’s spots in the whites of eyes.
- Excessive infections. These typically involve the throat, chest, bladder, or stomach, and indicate a problem with your immune system, which can take a hit due to a shortage of vitamin A in your system. Now you know why A also goes by the nickname of ‘the anti-infective vitamin.’ Vitamin A plays an important role in the formation and maintenance of cells lining your urinary tract, digestive tract, and airways, per curejoy.com.
- Dry eyes. This ties in to the deficiency of retinol and its crucial role in maintaining proper eye health, per 1md.org. Your eyes need tears and mucous to stay wet, and an A deficiency could mean malfunctioning glands in the mucous membrane lining the inside of eyelids and covering the eyes, per curejoy.com.
- Acne. Vitamin A’s anti-inflammatory properties can help stave off the kind of skin inflammation that can contribute to the format of acne. Per 1md.org, studies have shown a correlation between lack of A and the breakout of acne.
- Healing of wounds. That is, healing of wounds that’s taking longer than it should. Vitamin A is essential for the production of collagen, which aids in skin health. The topical application of vitamin A products can supplement whatever you are taking orally in this regard.
- Infertility. Low levels of vitamin A in both men and women have been linked to problems in getting pregnant. Per 1md.org, scientists believe infertility is connected to ramped-up levels of oxidative stress, and vitamin A has been identified as an antioxidant.
- Delayed growth. Children not getting sufficient vitamin A can experience stunted growth because the vitamin is needed for the proper development of the human body. Per healthline.com, a study of more than 1,000 Indonesian children showed that those with insufficient A that were given high-dose A supplements over four months grew 0.15 inches more than those children given a placebo.