Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. The diet we consume contains two different types of Vitamin A. That which is found in animal products is preformed Vitamin A and the other found in plant foods is pro-vitamin A. Dietary supplements containing Vitamin A are also available usually in the form of retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate.

What is Vitamin A and how is it important?
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which comprises of retinol, retinal, retinoic acid and many pro-Vitamin A carotenoids. Vitamin A is naturally present in many foods. Vitamin A is vital for proper vision, reproduction system and for the immune system. The lungs, kidneys, and other organs work efficiently because of Vitamin A. Besides being helpful for our organs it also helps in regulating genes and produces red blood cells.
Which various forms of Vitamin A are essential for the body?
  • Retinoic acid- It is an important growth factor which is required to regulate genes
  • Retinol- It is a form of Vitamin A which can be stored by the body and converted to retinal when ever needed
  • Retinal: It is an important metabolite of Vitamin A which is essential for promoting good vision
  • The corotenoid, beta-carotene is an antioxidant and protects the cells from damage caused by free radicals

How much of Vitamin A is essential for the body?

The essential amount of Vitamin A which the body needs basically depends on the individual’s age and reproductive status. The amount of Vitamin A which an adult needs is:

  • 0.7 mg a day for men is normally required

  • 0.6 mg a day for women is normally required

  • A daily diet provides all the Vitamin A which is required for an individual. Vitamin A is stored for future use if the body does not require it immediately, which means that Vitamin A need not be ingested every day.
What are the natural sources of Vitamin A?

There are two variants of Vitamin A, the first is found in meat, poultry and dairy products, whereas the second type pro-Vitamin A, is found in vegetables, fruits and other plant based products. The natural sources of Vitamin A are as follows:

  • Beef liver and other organ meats

  • Some types of fish, for eg: salmon

  • Green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables like broccoli, carrots and squash

  • Dairy products like cheese, eggs and yoghurt

  • Breakfast cereals

What are the symptoms associated due to lack of Vitamin A?
  • Vitamin A assists the eye’s light sensitive parts which enables us to see in the dim light or even during the night. But a deficiency in Vitamin A makes it difficult to see during the night. Our eyes may also become thick, lustreless or dry. Severe Vitamin A deficiency can result in total blindness.

  • Vitamin A deficiency also affects our skin, which may become dry, scaly and rough. Broken nails and dry hair can result too.
Which diseases are caused due to lack of Vitamin A?

The diseases which are caused due to lack of Vitamin A are:

    • Night Blindness: In the initial stages of Vitamin A deficiency, an individual is unable to see well in dim light; but in the advanced stages, an individual is unable to see objects in dim light or during the night

    • Xerosis Conjunctiva: Due to Vitamin A deficiency, the conjunctiva gets dried, wrinkled and pigmented. Due to the pigmentation, the conjunctiva gets a smoky appearance.

    • Xerosis Cornea: When the conjunctiva gets affected, then the dryness gradually spreads to the cornea, resulting in a hazy and lustreless appearance

    • Keratomalacia: If xerosis of the cornea and conjunctiva are not treated, it may result in a condition known as Keratomalacia

    • Follicullar Hyperkeratosis: Due to Vitamin A deficiency, the skin gets rough and dry


Why is Vitamin A vital during Pregnancy?
Vitamin A, being a fat-soluble vitamin gets stored in the liver, which is important for the baby’s embryonic growth-which includes the development of the eyes, bones, kidneys, lungs, the heart, and also the circulatory, respiratory and the central nervous system. Vitamin A also promotes fat metabolism and helps with infection resistance. It is also equally important for breast feeding mothers.
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