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What Does Vitamin A Do?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Retinol (an alcohol) and retinal (an aldehyde) are often referred to as preformed vitamin A. Vitamin A is absorbed by the body in the form of retinol. Nutrients called carotenoids are converted into vitamin A in the body and therefore have vitamin A "activity". Beta-carotene is the best known pro-vitamin A carotene and is converted in the liver to retinol. Vitamin A is perhaps most well known for its importance to our vision, but is also very important to other body systems and functions.

Some of the functions are:

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  • Vitamin A promotes good vision, especially in low light. The cells in our eyes that perceive light and color require vitamin A to function properly.

  • Vitamin A helps form and maintains healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin.

  • It maintains the surface linings of your eye and your respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts. When those linings break down, bacteria can enter your body and cause infection.

  • Vitamin A is also an essential nutrient for the functioning of a healthy immune system. It protects and supports cell membranes to help fight infection and increases white blood cell activity.

  • Vitamin A is also a potent antioxidant, which can inhibit the activity of free radicals.

Vitamin A deficiency results in vision problems like night blindness and at the end blindness. It also causes extremely dry skin, dry hair, sloughing off of skin, and broken fingernails.

High levels of vitamin A taken during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects, including heart and nervous system abnormalities, especially during the first trimester.

The best foods for vitamin A are animal sources, such as eggs, meat, milk, cheese, cream, liver, kidney, cod, and halibut fish oil. Beta-carotene are found in carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, pink grapefruit, apricots, broccoli, spinach, and most dark green, leafy vegetables.

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