Vitamin A is often thought of as one singular micronutrient, but it’s actually the name for a group of fat-soluble antioxidant compounds that are essential to human health.
Vitamin A can be consumed in the foods you eat or taken in supplement form. There are two forms of Vitamin A found in the foods we eat: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A.
These fat-soluble compounds provide many benefits to the body. They are necessary for numerous processes in your body including the function of your immune system and organs, promoting healthy eyes and vision, and supporting the proper growth and development of babies in the womb.
Role of Vitamin A in Immune System Function
Vitamin A plays a vital role in protecting your body from foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and other organisms. Vitamin A maintains the mucous membranes in your eyes, lungs, GI tract, and genitals which help block bacteria and other infectious agents from entering the body.
Vitamin A also plays a part in the production of white blood cells. White blood cells are part of the body's immune system. They help the body fight infection and other diseases by capturing and clearing out bacteria and other pathogens from your bloodstream.
If you aren’t getting enough vitamin A in your diet, deficiency can cause a weakened immune system and increase your vulnerability to infection.
Vitamin A for Eyesight
Vitamin A maintains and supports healthy eyes and vision. As mentioned before, Vitamin A helps maintain the mucus barrier in your eyes, which helps prevent eye infections. It also helps protect the surface of the eyes, the cornea.
Vitamin A is one of the major components of the pigment rhodopsin. Rhodopsin is found in the retina of your eye and is extraordinarily sensitive to light. Vitamin A is needed to convert light that hits your eye into an electrical signal that can be sent to your brain. One of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness.
Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin A may also help slow the decline in eyesight that some people experience as they age. When taken in combination with other antioxidants, vitamin A has been shown to play a role in reducing the risk of vision loss from macular degeneration (AMD). A study performed on people with mild to moderate AMD showed that taking a daily multivitamin that included vitamin A reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD by 25%.
Other Benefits of Vitamin A
May Reduce Risk of Diseases
In addition to supporting a strong immune system and healthy eyesight, vitamin A may also lower your risk of certain cancers.
Cancer develops as a result of abnormal cells growing and dividing in a rapid and uncontrollable way. Since vitamin A plays a significant role in the growth and development of cells, scientists are interested in learning more about how vitamin A can decrease cancer risk or slow progression.
Observational studies have linked diets high in beta-carotene (provitamin A from plant foods) to a decreased risk for certain types of cancer, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as cervical, lung and bladder cancer. However, diets high in preformed vitamin A from animals are not linked to the same benefits.
Supports Reproductive Health
Vitamin A also supports healthy growth and reproduction. It is essential for maintaining a healthy reproductive system in both men and women. Getting enough vitamin A in the diet is essential for reproductive health and the healthy development of babies during pregnancy.
On the contrary, too much vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to the growing baby and may cause birth defects.
Supports Healthy Bones
Another benefit of vitamin A is strong and healthy bones. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin A may help protect your bones and reduce your risk of fractures. Keep in mind that vitamin A intake alone does not determine your risk of fractures, and your intake of other key nutrients, like vitamin D and calcium, also plays a role.
Are You Consuming Enough Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is found in two forms in the food we eat. Animal sources of vitamin A provide the active form known as preformed vitamin A. Plant-based foods provide provitamin A, also known as beta-carotene.
The recommended daily value (DV) for vitamin A is 5000 IU (900 mcg). While it’s best to consume most of your vitamins and minerals from food in the diet, dietary supplements can help replace what’s missed in the diet.
Animal sources of vitamin A include oily fish, liver, cheese and butter. One teaspoon of cod liver oil provides 1,350 mcg (150% DV), while half a salmon filet provides 229 mcg (25% DV). Cheddar cheese provides 92 mcg (10% DV) in one slice, and butter provides 97 mcg (11% DV) in one tablespoon.
Plant-based sources of vitamin A include sweet potato, winter squash, and kale. One cup of sweet potato provides 1,836 mcg (204% DV), while one cup of winter squash contains 1,144 mcg (127% DV). Kale provides 885 mcg (98% DV) per one cup cooked.
If you don’t get enough of these foods in your diet every day, consider adding a supplement that includes vitamin A.
Our immunity and wellness supplement provides 4500 mcg of vitamin A (500% DV) in the form of beta-carotene. It also includes other antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, herbs, beta-glucans, and superfood mushrooms designed to aid and maintain a robust immune system under stress.
The Bottom Line on Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a group of fat-soluble antioxidant compounds that are essential to human health. This vitamin provides many health benefits including support for a healthy immune system, healthy reproductive system, and maintaining good eyesight.
Vitamin A has also been recognized for its possible role in cancer prevention and improved bone health.
Vitamin A can be consumed from both plant and animal sources. The recommended daily value is 900 mcg. Try adding more food sources of vitamin A to your diet, but if you feel you may not be getting enough, you can take a supplement like Naked Immunity and Wellness to help meet your daily needs.