Interesting Factoids About Vitamin A:
Anti-Oxidants, Osteopenia, Osteoporosis, and General Health
Vitamin A is important for many reasons, one of which is to prevent the bone loss of osteopenia and osteoporosis. It has a vital role in bone growth and immune system health.
Like vitamin C, it is necessary for the maintenance & growth of teeth, nails, bones, and hair.
Also like vitamin C, vitamin A has powerful anti-oxidant properties that help your immune systems fight off infections and protects us against free-radical damage from environmental and dietary toxins.
In fact, vitamin A is known to work synergistically with Vitamins C and E.
An important fact about Vitamin A – it helps us be waterproof. It helps build and maintain soft, pliable skin and mucous membranes including the mouth, stomach, and the lining of the intestinal tract.
Vitamin A is needed to maintain the strength and integrity of the skin and mucous membranes, which is the protective barrier between us and the countless bacteria and viruses that surround us.
When those linings break down, it becomes easier for bacteria to enter the body and cause infection. For example, if skin and lung linings are compromised from a deficiency, infectious diseases such as measles and pneumonia may become deadly.
Vitamin A is essential to healthy vision, and may slow or stop the decreased retinal function in people with retinitis pigmentosa.
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States.
An early sign of a deficiency is night blindness. While driving at night, looking toward oncoming headlights may be painful.
Blindness can result if a serious vitamin A deficiency is not corrected.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin A comes from both plant and animal sources.
Vitamin A that comes from animal sources is fat soluble; it is known as a Pre-Formed Vitamin A. Animal sources of Vitamin A comes in the form of retinoic acid, retinal and retinol.
Retinoids are easily used by humans – these animal sources of vitamin A are highly bio-available and can be easily stored in our bodies. Because of this, it is possible to get and store too much of it – and vitamin A toxicity can result.
Some of the best sources of Pre-Formed Vitamin A are: egg yolks, liver, cheese, and fish liver oils.
Vitamin A from fruits and vegetables comes is sometimes called Pro Vitamin A.
Pro-Vitamin A is found mainly in the form of beta-carotene, one of about 50 natural ‘vitamin A precursors’ called carotenoids. (A ‘precurser’ is a compound that begins as one thing, and the body converts it into something else.)
When we eat plants containing carotenoids, our bodies can change these vitamin A precursers, carotenoids, into usable vitamin A.
A wide variety of carotenoids are found together in plant sources, and as a group of similar compounds they are called mixed carotenoids.
The most commonly known vitamin a precurser is called beta-carotene. Some anti-oxidant supplements include other similar carotenoid molecules such as alpha-carotene, lycopene, astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Some of the best sources of Pro Vitamin A are: yellow, orange and green vegetables and fruits, including carrots, pumpkin, mangoes, olives, sweet potatoes, spinach and water melon.
The best Vitamin A supplements are plant-derived vitamin A precursors with mixed carotenoids. The plant sources are safer because we cannot convert and store more than our body uses; and it is thought the ‘mix’ includes other as yet undefined health benefits beyond the animal sources.
Nearly 600 carotenoids have been identified; about 10 percent can be made into vitamin A in the body, the rest are apparently used by the body for other purposes. Those that cannot be converted to vitamin A have other beneficial and healthful effects. For example, lycopene has been shown to help prevent prostate cancer.
The body can make all the vitamin A it needs from the 10 percent of plant-derived carotenoids that can be converted.
The plant-based carotenoids are water-soluble and do not accumulate in the body, so toxicity is rare.
Vitamin A is considered an essential nutrient, which means we cannot produce it in our own body – we must get Pre-Formed (animal-derived) Vitamin A or the Pro-Vitamin A (plant-derived) through our food.