There are two types of vitamin A, preformed and pro. preformed – which comprises retinoic acid, retinal and retinol. It can be found in poultry, meats, fish and various dairy foods. It is the most active kind.
Provitamin A, which comes in the form of carotenoids, is contained in plant-based foods like fruit and vegetables, the most common and important of which is beta-carotene. This is an antioxidant used to decrease asthma symptoms brought on by exercise, prevent heart disease, treat AIDS, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and high blood pressure. So its medical benefits are many. Beta-carotene is also in given to malnourished women to reduce their chances of death and night blindness during pregnancy. Some sun-sensitive people take beta-carotene supplements to reduce their risk of sunburn. In supplements, Vitamin A usually goes under the names of retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Essential for good vision, especially in dim light, this powerful vitamin not only helps keep your eyes, teeth and skin healthy, it’s also vital for your skeletal system and mucus membranes, which are the linings around some parts of the body, such as the nose.
Vitamin A also helps strengthen your immune system, enabling you to fight off nasty bugs much more easily. Until recently, it was believed that Vitamin A helped protect against lung cancer too, but studies now suggest it might actually increase the risk in smokers instead.
The unique thing about this vitamin is that the body can make its own from precursors found in green or orange fruits or vegetables called carotenes.
WHERE IS IT FOUND?
One of the richest sources of vitamin A is any food that comes from an animal. Liver, egg yolks and seafood all have very high contents, as does cheese, fortified milk, kidney and cream. But it is best to get as much of your daily vitamin A from plants as all these foods are also high in saturated fat. Bright yellow and orange fruits such as grapefruit, apricots and cantaloupe, pack in this power vitamin, as do carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach and broccoli.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
If you don’t get enough vitamin A, you can be prone to poor eyesight and more coughs and colds. Too much though and you could poison yourself or temporarily turn your skin yellow or orange. The recommended average daily amount for men is 0.7mg and for women, 0.6mg. The best way to get this is by eating a varied diet with plenty of fortified dairy, fruit and vegetables, beans and whole grains along with lean meats and oily fish.
Some research however suggests that having up to 1.5mg a day for a number of years might cause brittle bones, especially in older people. Post menopausal women are at risk as well as men who’ve reached retirement age. This is because bone density naturally decreases with age.
For this reason, women who have gone through the menopause and men over 60, who are more at risk of osteoporosis, should avoid having liver or liver products like pâté, more than once a week, and should not take any supplements containing vitamin A (including fish liver oil) if they do eat such foods.
Many multivitamins contain vitamin A too, as well as a variety of other fish oils, so be mindful. If you do take supplements, make sure your daily intake from these and the foods rich in vitamin A combined does not exceed 1.5mg.
Other vitamins can also effect the absorption of vitamin A. For example, if you are lacking in vitamin D, you could suffer more from the damaging effects of too much vitamin A. People who tend to be at most risk of this are women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, those who don’t expose themselves to much sun or cover up their skin for cultural reasons, people with darker coloured skin, and adults over the age of 65.
Generally, it is not advised that pregnant women take any multivitamins containing vitamin A unless they are advised to by a doctor.
Body Transformation Coach & mentor at body core
Find out how I use physiological and neurological techniques to create pain free powerful bodies