How Does Vitamin A Help the Body?

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient which is consumed in the diet through food. Vitamin A is also known as retinol, which indicates the primary role of the vitamin – ensuring the retina within your eyes keeps healthy. It has many other health benefits too, and is vital in helping the body fight infections. 

Benefits of Vitamin A

There are numerous benefits associated with vitamin A. It’s essential that you get enough of this vitamin in your diet, to reap the rewards! We’ve listed some of the main benefits of vitamin A below: 

Eye Health

Vitamin A helps to aid a person’s basic vision – a person with an ample amount of vitamin A is able to see more easily by dim light. A person deficient in vitamin A will likely lack sufficient rhodopsin. This is found in the retina of the eye. A person lacking in rhodopsin will struggle to see when light is dim. Due to this, vitamin A also negates the impact of age-related damage on eyesight.

Skin Health 

A deficiency in vitamin A makes a person more likely to develop skin disorders. This is largely due to vitamin A aiding in the body’s ability to remove dead skin cells. If the body is not able to do this, pores become blocked and skin will become itchy and irritated. In more serious cases, a person can develop acne, impacting a person’s self-esteem and even leading to mental health disorders. Due to this, it is not uncommon for medications to treat poor skin health to be rich in vitamin A. 

Lower Risk of Cancer

Research for this is still in its infancy. But studies carried out in recent years on vitamin A indicate regular consumption of this vitamin on a daily basis can mean a person has a decreased risk of cancers such as lung and bladder cancer. This is due to it aiding in the development of cells in the body.

Immune System 

Vitamin A helps the body fight against infections and disease and therefore strengthens the immune system, this is due to aiding in the development of white blood cells that fight infections and diseases. A person suffering from a deficiency is more likely to develop serious illnesses and take longer to recover.

Bone Health

While you may assume it would be calcium, Vitamin A is actually one of the main nutrients needed by the body to maintain healthy bones. Research indicates that a person with low levels of vitamin A is much more likely to develop fractures and bone breaks. An adolescent still developing will require vitamin A in order to grow and develop stronger bones. It is important to consider that other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D are also important contributors to the overall condition of a person’s bones, therefore sufficient levels of all of these are required for overall bone health.

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency 

Most people are easily able to get enough vitamin A in their diet. But there are a few exceptions, and certain groups of people, such as children, infants, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, are more at risk. If you see the following signs, you may have a vitamin A deficiency:

  • Dry skin and eyes
  • Acne and bad skin
  • Unable to see at all in reduced light
  • Delayed growth in children
  • Infertility 
  • Chest and throat infections 
  • Wounds not healing well

Most developed countries won’t see a high rate of vitamin A deficiency, but in developing nations it is more common. So if you’re an adult living in the UK, unless you’re trying for a baby or have recently given birth, the chances of having low levels of vitamin A are slim. 

Taking Too Much Vitamin A

While you’re unlikely to be deficient in vitamin A, there is a higher probability that you’ll ingest too much. According to the NHS, if you have on average 1.5mg of vitamin A a day over the course of many years, you could be putting your bones at risk. They may be more likely to fracture as you get older. 

The main cause of too much vitamin A in the diet is eating things that have high levels of the vitamin, such as liver or liver pâté, while also taking supplements or multivitamins. It’s therefore important to take your diet into consideration before taking supplements.

Vitamin A in the Diet

The recommended daily intake of vitamin A is 900mcg per day for a man and 700mcg per day for a woman. This is easily achievable through eating a balanced diet rich in vitamin A. Foods such as dairy products, eggs and some oily fish are good examples of this. A person struggling to meet these daily amounts over a long period can consider taking supplements but should also seek medical guidance and advice while considering the level of supplement to take.