What is Vitamin A

What do I need it for

What is Vitamin A? It is one of 13 different substances that have been identified as vital to the human body. It was known that small amounts of trace elements, so called vital amines, were necessary beyond the basic fat, protein, and carbohydrates to keep people healthy. The first fat-soluble substance was isolated from egg yolk in 1913 and named “Fat Soluble substance A”. When it was pointed out that this was probably one of the vital amines the name was changed and eventually shortened to Vitamin A.

Fat Soluble? What is fat soluble?

Vitamin A or retinol along with Vitamins D, E, and K need a small amount of fat to be digested and used properly. Vitamin A and other fat soluble vitamins are stored in your bodies liver and fat tissue for use later. You do not need to ingest as much of this type of vitamin because under normal circumstances you’ll have an ample supply available. This is unlike water soluble vitamins which need to be replenished on a regular basis because they are not stored by the body.

What does the body use Vitamin A for?

Vitamin A is useful in a range of ways in the body. Your eyes use Vitamin A to make retinal, a substance is necessary for your eyes to adjust from heavily lighted areas to dimly lit ones. A lack of Vitamin A can impair your night vision and is one of the first signs of Vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin A is used in your brain to enhance learning. Studies done have shown that mice denied Vitamin A suffer from an inability to learn. When put into a body of water a mouse will swim but doesn’t like to. If you place a platform in the body of water as soon as a mouse hit’s the platform it will climb onto it. If you repeat this process for a few days the mouse will learn where the platform is and the time it takes the mouse to get to it shortens each time. A mouse with a retinal or Vitamin A deficiency will never learn where the platform is and continue to swim around until it bumps into it.

It is also involved in forming epithelial tissue. These are the tissues that line structures of the inside of the body. It is also found in glands and lies on top of connective tissue. The cornea is made of epithelial tissue as well and lack of sufficient Vitamin A results in ulcerations of the cornea and eventually irreversible blindness.

It plays a role in the formation of bone and soft tissue as well as tooth enamel. If present in sufficient amounts it assists in the spacing of teeth as well. It even has a responsibility in the bodies production of thyroid hormones.

 The National Research Council has stated that a diet rich in Vitamin A could help your body combat stress and could reduce the potential risks of acquiring certain types of cancer.

OK I need Vitamin A. How do I get it?

Diets that are loaded with animal products like the European and North American diets generally don’t have a lack of Vitamin A. Even if you don’t receive quite enough Vitamin A, the human body can synthesize it from Beta Carotene although synthesis isn’t as efficient for the body as the direct ingestion. We get Beta Carotene from the fat soluble pigments in orange, dark yellow, or green vegetables. The real key is if the body is absorbing the Vitamin A properly. As a fat soluble vitamin you need to ingest some fat with it to maximize the benefits. Certain prescriptions and over the counter medications such as antacids have adverse effects on the assimilation of Vitamin A. Even alcohol can have a negative impact on this function.

So I need Vitamin A supplements to make sure I’m getting enough.

The amount of Vitamin A you need changes with your age and body weight. Vitamin A deficiency is the 3 third most common of all vitamin issues in the world but this is mostly in lesser developed countries. A good well rounded multi-vitamin certainly won’t hurt you when you take them as directed but since your body stores Vitamin A an overabundance is much more likely which can quickly lead to a toxic reaction. If you are a pregnant women or nursing mother it is especially important to seek your physicians advice because ingesting too much Vitamin A which can lead to birth defects and developmental problems. Beta Carotene is a great option here because your body will convert what it needs to Vitamin A and stop there so toxicity isn’t a problem.