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Vitamin A

What Is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A, or retinol, is a fat-soluble vitamin that has many functions for your body.  Most commonly, Vitamin A is known for it's abilities in aiding eye health. However, it also plays an important role in bone growth, tooth development, reproduction, cell division, gene expression, and regulation of the immune system. Many organs rely on retinol to stay moist (eyes, skins, mucus in your nose lungs etc). Retinol also plays a role in prevention of certain cancers though it's antioxidant properties. Most people can get a sufficient amount of retinol through food sources. These include dairy products, fish and liver. Some foods of plant origin contain the antioxidant, betacarotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. These include fruits and vegetables, especially those that are orange or dark green in color. Carrots, pumpkin and dark leafy greens are great sources of this.  The recommended daily allowance for retinol is 900 mcg/ day for adult males and 700 mcg/day for adult females.

What Are Vitamin A Deficiencies?

Deficiencies in this vitamin is rare in the US, however the resulting disease is known as Xerophthalmia. This condition is more common in country were malnutrition is more prevalent. Because retinol is stored  in the liver, it can take up to 2 years for symptoms to surface.  Some signs of low or deficient levels of retinol include night blindness and very dry, rough skin. Some other signs include decreased resistance to infections, faulty tooth development, and slower bone growth.

Can I Have Too Much Vitamin A?

In the US, Vitamin A toxicity is the more prevalent issue. It is recommended to limit your intake of vitamin A to under 3000mcg. With food alone this will be a difficult to reach, however some multi-vitamins contain large doses. Due to this it is important to look at the labels and make sure you are getting sufficient doses of each vitamin. Symptoms of Retinol toxicity include dry, itchy skin, headache, nausea, and loss of appetite. Signs of severe overuse over a short period of time include dizziness, blurred vision and slowed growth.  

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