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What Is Vitamin A?

May. 27, 2021
 

What Is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin naturally present in many foods. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the normal work of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.

What food can provide vitamin A?

Vitamin A is naturally present in many foods and is added to some foods, such as milk and cereals. You can get the recommended amount of vitamin A by eating a variety of foods, including the following:

Beef liver and other organ meats (but these foods are also high in cholesterol, so you have to limit your intake).

Some kinds of fish, such as salmon.

Green leafy vegetables and other green, orange, and yellow vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and pumpkins.

Fruits include cantaloupe, apricot, and mango.

Dairy products are the main source of vitamin A for Americans.

Fortified cereal breakfast.

Am I getting enough vitamin A?

Most Americans get enough vitamin A from the food they eat, and vitamin A deficiency is rare. However, some people are more likely to have difficulty getting enough vitamin A than others:

Premature babies, usually have low vitamin A levels in the first year.

Babies, young children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women in developing countries.

Patients with cystic fibrosis.

What happens if I don't get enough vitamin A?

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States, but it is common in many developing countries. The most common symptom of vitamin A deficiency in children and pregnant women is an eye disease called dry eye. Dry eye refers to the inability to see things in dim light, and if left untreated, it may lead to blindness.

What are the effects of vitamin A on health?

Scientists are studying vitamin A to understand how it affects health. The following are some examples shown in this study.

Cancer

People who eat a lot of foods containing carotene may have a lower risk of certain cancers, such as lung or prostate cancer. But research to date has not shown that vitamin A or beta-carotene supplements can help prevent cancer or reduce the chance of dying from this disease. In fact, studies have shown that smokers taking high doses of beta-carotene supplements can increase the risk of lung cancer.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the loss of central vision with age, is one of the most common causes of vision loss in the elderly. In people with advanced AMD, a supplement containing antioxidants, zinc, and copper (with or without -carotene) has shown promise to slow down the rate of vision loss.

Measles

When children who lack vitamin A (which is rare in North America) get measles, the disease tends to be more serious. In these children, taking high-dose vitamin A supplements can shorten fever and diarrhea caused by measles. These supplements can also reduce the risk of death for children suffering from measles living in developing countries where vitamin A deficiency is widespread.

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Vitamin A