Main Health Benefits of Vitamin A
1. Protects Eye Health
Vitamin A is a critical part of the rhodopsin molecule, which is activated when light shines on the retina, and it sends a signal to the brain, which results in vision. Beta carotene, the form of vitamin A found in plants, plays a role in preventing macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness.
In a study sponsored by the National Eye Institute, as an Age-Related Eye Disease Study, people at high risk for the disease who took a daily multiple vitamin that included vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and copper, had a 25 percent reduced risk of advanced macular degeneration during a six-year period.
Studies also show that vitamin A eye drops are effective for the treatment of dry eyes. One study found that over-the-counter lubricating eye drops containing vitamin A were as effective for the treatment of dry eye syndrome as more expensive prescription eye drops formulated for dry eye relief.
Another study was done in early 2011, by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York; they found that a synthetic, altered form of vitamin A might be able to slow the progression of Stargardt’s disease, an inherited eye disease that causes severe vision loss in young people.
2. Provides Immune Support
Several immune system functions are dependent on sufficient vitamin A, which is why it is known as an important immune booting vitamin. Genes involved in immune responses are regulated by Vitamin A, which means it is essential for fighting serious conditions like cancer and autoimmune diseases, but also illnesses like the flu or common colds.
Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant that can help boost the immune system and prevent a variety of chronic illnesses. Vitamin A can especially help the immunity of children. A study done in London found that vitamin A supplements reduced child mortality by 24 % in low and middle-income countries. The study also found that vitamin A deficiency in children increased their vulnerability to infections like diarrhea and measles.
Another study conducted by the Colombian health-related social security system gave 100,000 children vitamin A supplements, who typically weren’t taking any. They found that there was an estimated savings in medical costs, of $ 340,306,917 due to the number of events involving diarrhea (4,268) and malaria (76), and hospitalization, that were reduced due to the supplementation. This study concluded that it would be cost effective to use vitamin A supplements for the treatment of these medical issues in children.( 1)
3. Fights Inflammation
Vitamin A has antioxidant properties that neutralize free radicals in the body that cause tissue and cellular damage. Vitamin A can prevent the cells from becoming overactive. When the immune system overreacts to food proteins, this is what creates food allergies and eventually inflammation. Vitamin A intake can help to lower the risk of certain types of food allergies because it helps to prevent this dangerous overreaction.
Reduced levels of inflammation are also correlated with a lower risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
4. Supports Skin Health and Cell Growth
Vitamin A is necessary for wound healing and skin re-growth. It is needed to support all of the epithelial (skin) cells both internally and externally and is a powerful aid in fighting skin cancer. Vitamin is needed to form glycoproteins, a combination of sugar and protein, which help the cells bind together forming soft tissues.
A deficiency of vitamin A can lead to a poor complexion, as indicated by studies that prove that vitamin A can fight acne and improve overall skin health. Vitamin A keeps the lines and wrinkles in your skin away by producing more collagen, which is responsible for keeping the skin looking young. Vitamin A can also contribute to healthy hair.
5. Helps Prevent Cancer
According to a study conducted at the University of York, vitamin A intake could help treat several forms of cancer thanks to the vitamin’s ability to control malignant cells in the body. It is currently understood that retinoic acid plays important roles in cell development and differentiation as well as cancer treatment.
Lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, oral, and skin cancers have been demonstrated to be suppressed by retinoic acid. Another study collected numerous references demonstrating the findings of retinoic acid in melanoma, hepatoma, lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. Researchers found new evidence indicating that the molecular mechanisms in retinoic acid may control cancer cells’ fates.
Since high doses of retinoic acid may lead to cytotoxicity, meaning it can be toxic to cells, so it is probably best utilized as a potential supplement in one’s daily diet to prevent or suppress cancer progression.(2)
Keep in mind it is always best to get vitamin A from natural sources, like food, and not to overload on vitamin A supplements in hopes of preventing disease, as more is not necessarily better.