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What is Vitamin A?

What is Vitamin A?
Guest Post

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that is vital for human health. This vitaminIt undertakes important functions in many areas such as eye health, immune system and cell growth. Vitamin A is stored in the liver and can be obtained from natural food sources in two main ways: active vitamin A (retinol) and provitamin A (carotenoids).

Active vitamin A, also known as retinol, is found in foods of animal origin. These include meat, fish and poultry, as well as full-fat milk and dairy products. Retinol, due to its structure, has a form that can be used immediately by the body and allows us to benefit from the benefits of vitamin A in the fastest way.

Provitamin A, found in plant-based foods, is especially common in fruits and vegetables. These vitamin precursors, also known as carotenoids, are the pigments that create the dark green, yellow, orange and red colors of foods. Our body takes these carotenoids and converts them into the active vitamin A it needs. Beta-carotene, the most well-known carotenoid, can be effectively converted into vitamin A in our body and antioxidant It is a feature-rich component.

What are the Benefits of Vitamin A?

The benefits of this vital vitamin, obtained from both animal sources (as retinol) and plant sources (as beta-carotene), are endless.

First of all, vitamin A is indispensable for vision health. It plays a key role in the function of rod and cone cells in the eye retina. It is important in the production of colored pigments (retinals) required to provide effective vision, especially in low light conditions. In other words, we need vitamin A to maintain our ability to see at night.

Vitamin A is also critical for many other body systems. It is mandatory for tooth and bone development. It is effective in creating and maintaining healthy soft tissues, mucus membranes and skin. Thanks to its immune system strengthening properties, it protects us against diseases and contributes to a rapid recovery process.

A healthy pregnancy Vitamin A is also necessary for the breastfeeding process and the breastfeeding period. While the mother's adequate vitamin A intake can have a direct impact on the healthy development of the fetus, it also helps provide the baby with the necessary nutrients during breastfeeding.

Beta-carotene, that is, vitamin A of plant origin, is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidantsare molecules that help bind and neutralize free radicals. Free radicals can damage cell membranes, DNA and other cellular structures. This process plays a role in aging, as well as in the development of heart disease and some types of cancer. Therefore, consumption of beta-carotene through natural foods has the potential to reduce chronic disease risks.

However, studies have shown that supplements containing beta-carotene do not have the expected cancer risk-reducing effect. Therefore, the healthiest way to get vitamin A is to eat naturally with a balanced and varied diet. carrot, sweet potatoIncluding foods rich in beta-carotene, such as , spinach and kale, into your diet will allow you to get the most out of the benefits of this valuable vitamin.

Health Effects of Vitamin A Deficiency

It is vital for our body vitaminsIt is one of the most important nutrients we need to pay attention to in order to live a healthy life. Vitamin A, one of these vitamins, has an extremely critical role especially for eye health and visual functions. Vitamin A deficiency can cause some serious health problems in the body.

The first symptoms that occur when the level of vitamin A in the body decreases usually appear as eye problems. Eyes may be negatively affected at various levels when vitamin A is inadequately consumed. The most common among these is night blindness. This condition can be defined as a weakening of the eye's adaptation to dark environments due to vitamin A deficiency and a serious decrease in the ability to see at night or in low-light environments. However, with adequate and timely intervention, night blindness, is usually a fixable problem.

Unfortunately, not all health problems caused by vitamin A deficiency are temporary and treatable. Xerophthalmia is a more serious eye problem that can occur if you do not get enough vitamin A. Xerophthalmia is a condition that can lead to corneal damage and dry eyes and, if left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss. Progression of vitamin A deficiency may cause the cornea to lose its transparency and become opaque and even ulcerate.

Another manifestation of vitamin A deficiency is related to skin health. Hyperkeratosis is a skin condition that may occur as a result of vitamin A deficiency and excessive skin keratin It is characterized by becoming dry and scaly due to its production. This may cause aesthetically unpleasant appearance and discomfort on the skin.

What needs to be done for adequate vitamin A intake is, first of all, a balanced and varied diet. We need to include foods rich in vitamin A in our daily diets. These foods include liver, milk and dairy products, egg In addition to foods of animal origin such as carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes, it includes vegetables and fruits rich in beta-carotene. If such foods cannot be included enough in the diet, appropriate multivitamin or vitamin A supplements can be considered with the advice of a doctor.

Harms of Excess Vitamin A

As with any vitamin, excessive consumption of Vitamin A can lead to various health problems. Excessive intake of Vitamin A, especially during pregnancy, can have negative effects on fetal development and cause birth defects.

Excessive consumption of Vitamin A can occur in two different ways: acute and chronic poisoning. Acute vitamin A poisoning usually develops when an individual ingests hundreds of thousands of International Units (IU) of Vitamin A in a short period of time. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and liver damage. Chronic vitamin A poisoning is associated with an average intake of more than 25.000 IU of Vitamin A each day over a longer period of time. In this case, symptoms may include bone pain, vision problems, and skin changes.

Babies and children in particular are much more susceptible to Vitamin A poisoning, even at lower doses. Because the bodies of young individuals are less tolerant and the vitamin may reach toxic levels more quickly when metabolized than older individuals. Therefore, it is of great importance that vitamin supplements for children are carefully managed and recommended doses are not exceeded.

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that is converted into Vitamin A by our body and is mostly found in vegetables and fruits. Excessive intake of beta-carotene does not usually cause acute poisoning, but high doses of beta-carotene can cause skin discoloration to yellow or orange tones. This condition is often referred to as 'carotenemia' and by reducing beta-carotene intake the skin color will soon return to normal.

Foods Containing Vitamin A and Their Importance

One of the many vitamins necessary for the correct and healthy functioning of our body is vitamin A, also known as retinol. At the same time, thanks to its antioxidant properties, it protects against cell damage, supports eye health, strengthens the immune system and helps the normal growth of cells. Vitamin A exists in two different forms: active vitamin A (retinol) and provitamin A (beta-carotene). Let's divide the rich sources of these nutrients into two categories.

Animal Source Vitamin A (Retinol)

Active vitamin A, namely retinol, is vital and is found mostly in animal foods. Here are some animal foods rich in vitamin A:

  1. Oily fish such as Trout and King Mackerel,
  2. Liver (chicken, veal, lamb), which is the richest source of internal organs,
  3. Cod liver oil and fish oils,
  4. Butter contains high levels of vitamin A, and egg yolks are especially rich in retinol.
  5. Milk and milk products; Yoghurt, cream, white cheese and various cheeses are also good sources of vitamin A.

Vegetable Source Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene)

Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A and is converted into vitamin A by the body. Some rich sources for this provitamin A, found mainly in plant foods, are:

  1. Orange vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes,
  2. Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale,
  3. dandelion greens, parsley, chard and brussels sprouts,
  4. Colorful vegetables such as red peppers
  5. Yellow fruits such as oranges contain very high amounts of beta-carotene.

Pay Attention to the Color of Related Vegetables and Fruits!

As a general rule, the darker the color of vegetables and fruits, the higher the beta-carotene content. These plant-derived nutritional values ​​are naturally rich in fat and oil. cholesterol They do not contain. For the absorption of vitamin A from beta-carotene sources, consuming these foods with foods containing fat can increase the absorption rate. This is because beta-carotene is a fat-soluble vitamin and is better absorbed in the presence of fat.

How to Meet Daily Vitamin A Need?

In a healthy diet program, it is essential to meet the body's needs for vitamin A as well as other important vitamins. The best way to do this is to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, fortified dairy products, legumes (dry beans, lentil etc.), and a balanced and regular diet with whole grain products. In addition to the benefits of these nutrients individually, when consumed together, they can create synergy and produce much better results for body health.