Since childhood, most of us are probably told how essential carrots are for good eyesight. And this is a fact, vitamin A in carrots (and in many other fruits and vegetables) is crucial for night-time vision. However, vitamin A has several other benefits, various forms, and multiple sources.
SO, WHAT ARE THE OTHER BENEFITS OF VITAMIN A?
I: MAINTAINS SKIN HEALTH
Protects against UV damage
Beta-carotene is a nutrient that the body converts to vitamin A. In addition to its conversion to vitamin A, beta-carotene is also an antioxidant. Exposure to UV induces harmful changes to the skin cells and DNA. Antioxidants are substances that protect against these dangerous changes. Hence, consuming beta-carotene and vitamin A-rich foods boosts the antioxidants levels in the body.
Retinyl esters, a storage form of vitamin A, are present in the superficial skin layer (epidermis). This form of vitamin A exerts a photoprotective effect as it absorbs UVB radiation from the sun.
Slows skin aging and smooths wrinkles
Frequent and unprotected exposure to sunlight results in premature aging of the skin; wrinkles begin to form, spotty pigmentation develops, the skin texture becomes rough, and there will be a loss of skin tone. This slow, insidious process is known as photoaging. The UV radiation degrades the collagen in the skin, accelerating skin aging and bringing about a myriad of changes over time. Topical retinoic acid prevents and treats photoaged skin. Vitamin A will stimulate new collagen formation, increasing the dermal collagen content. As a result the wrinkles smooth out, the skin texture becomes even, and the skin elasticity increases. What’s more, these positive changes will reduce poor wound healing and ulcer formation on elderly skin.
Acne is a common and exasperating skin condition that most of us have probably dealt with at some point in our lives. Or some of us may even be struggling with it, despite leaving behind our youthful days. Because you see, acne is not only a burden that comes with puberty, but it may also resurface in adulthood. Topical tretinoin gel or cream treats acne effectively. For severe acne, oral isotretinoin may be necessary. Vitamin A treats acne by reducing the inflammatory processes involved in the formation of acne. Furthermore, it decreases sebum oil production thereby, preventing clogging of the pores.
Evens skin tone
Vitamin A helps shed old and pigmented skin layers. It aids the turnover and differentiation of skin cells. This process discards the old rough skin layer and allows the healthy skin cells to surface to the top.
Promotes wound healing
Poor wound healing occurs when the skin is fragile. Skin fragility occurs when there is a reduction in the thickness of the skin and blood flow.
Treats other skin conditions
Retinoids can help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis. And vitamin A deficiency is known to be associated with follicular hyperkeratosis, a skin condition in which there is excess keratin in hair follicles on the skin. Thus, supplementing with vitamin A can reduce the occurrence of follicular hyperkeratosis, resulting in smoother skin.
II: LOWERS THE RISK OF CANCER
Vitamin A not only plays a role in lowering the risk of cancer, but it also aids in the treatment of cancer. Research demonstrates that natural and synthetic retinoids inhibit the growth and development of different types of tumors. These tumors include skin, breast, oral cavity, lung, liver, gastrointestinal, prostatic, and bladder cancers.
A noteworthy use of oral isotretinoin is that it acts as a chemotherapeutic agent in the treatment of specific leukemia, known as acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). The genetic aberration in this type of leukemia damages the DNA of blood cells. A high concentration of vitamin A will prevent the formation of this aberration and will degrade the detrimental products that arise from this anomaly. A high concentration of vitamin A is very effective in treating patients with APL and; also leads to complete remission.
Additional research reveals that increasing dietary intake of vitamin A lowers the risk of lung and ovarian cancer.
Vitamin A regulates various immune responses; however, it is most important in maintaining the gut microbiota. The deficiency in vitamin A can result in a less diverse gut microbial environment. Consequently, this increases the risk of gut infections and digestive issues. Vitamin A, along with vitamin D, regulates the gut barrier, preventing the entry of infectious organisms into the bloodstream and inducing an appropriate immune response.
Furthermore, children who are deficient in vitamin A are also more susceptible to respiratory or diarrheal infections.
SOURCES OF VITAMIN A
There are two primary sources of vitamin A, animal or plant. Animal sources contain an active form of vitamin A, whereas plant sources contain carotenoids, which the body converts to retinol.
Animal sources include:
- milk, cheese
- organ meats such as liver
- fatty fish
Plant sources include:
- dark leafy vegetables: broccoli, spinach
- pumpkin, squash, cantaloupe
- carrots, sweet potatoes
- apricots, mangoes
- red peppers
Alimentation is key when it comes to skin health. you are what you eat after all.
So, you see, apart from making sure that we can see in low light, vitamin A has many other benefits, particularly for our skin. Among many other vitamins, vitamin A typically does not get the spotlight that it deserves. Famous for its night vision advantage, the other equally significant benefits of vitamin A get overlooked. Thus, it is now time to shine the light on the other assets of vitamin A.