Everybody knows that vitamins have are important for our body and health. But what are the individual vitamins actually good for? What do they do for our body and how can we best consume them? To answer these questions I will start a new series in which I explain the individual vitamins in detail. Today I’ll start with vitamin A!
Vitamin A includes several chemical compounds, namely retinol, retinal, retinoic and retinyl palmitate. Either we consume vitamin A directly through our diet or our body converts beta carotene (which contains it as a provitamin) to vitamin A.
Vitamin A is important for our vision as it forms the precursor for some visual pigments. As such, vitamin A is relevant to our ability to discern color as well as to perceive light and dark contrast. Vitamin A forms rhodopsin, which is responsible for light-dark vision in the rods of the retina.
A prolonged lack of vitamin A can lead to night blindness in the worst case. Apart from that, a weakened immune system and, as a result, a higher susceptibility to infections are the consequences of a vitamin A deficiency. In addition, vitamin A is important for our fat metabolism and should be increased in protein-rich diets. Apart from that, this vitamin also promotes iron metabolism. Iron can therefore be better absorbed by our body in combination with vitamin A.
Vitamin A itself is only included in animal products. Liver is probably the best source for this vitamin with 36mg/100g. However, smaller amounts are also found in animal fats and thus, for example, in milk, butter and cheese.
The precursor of vitamin A, beta carotene, is found in plant foods. With this provitamin the body can produce Vitamin A if necessary. This can be easily consumed with carrots, peppers and leafy vegetables.
The daily requirement for vitamin A is between 0.8mg (women) and 1mg (men), with an recommended limit of about 3 mg per day. The recommended daily dose of beta-carotene is between 2-4mg. An overdose of beta-carotene has no (known) negative effects, a long-term overdose of vitamin A itself can have the following side effects though:
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Poisoning of the liver
- Reduction of thyroid function
Although vitamin A fulfills some important functions in our body, it is also contained in numerous foods that we should consume anyway. It should therefore be no problem, regardless of the diet, to cover your daily needs for vitamin A. A lack of vitamin A is very uncommon.