Vitamin A : Useful or Dangerous

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vitamin A

Vitamin A has been in news for some time for the wrong reasons. No wonder nutrition experts in India have requested the government to remove Vitamin A from the ‘National Supplement Policy’. We know that healthy food habits provide enough Vitamin A. Hence Vitamin A supplements may lead to excessive Vitamin A also known as hypervitaminosis. Although the complete analysis has been restricted to the general population wherein deficiency may still exist and hence supplement required on case to case basis.

Why we need Vitamin A

We need to remember that Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and is part of many food items which we consume. It is important for normal vision, and proper functioning of organs such as lungs, kidney, heart, etc.

How much to take

There are various factors which determine your need for Vitamin A for healthy body functions. They may vary from just 500mcg for an infant to about 1300mcg for a breastfeeding woman. Hence it is important that before considering any supplement, you must consult a doctor and share your complete health profile.

Food that contains Vitamin A

Vitamin A is basically of two types. Preformed Vitamin A is present in meat, poultry, dairy products or fish. The other form is Pro vitamin A and is found in fruits, vegetables and many other plant based products. Beta-carotene is the name generally given to Pro vitamin A on the labels which you may see on products.

Is Food sufficient

Vitamin A is found naturally in many foods. It is also added in some food items such as milk and cereal. It is not difficult to meet the requirement of Vitamin A from food itself. One can pick and choose the food item depending on their medical condition or requirement. Some of the foods are:-

  1. Organ meats, but generally these items are high in cholesterol.
  2. Fish such as salmon.
  3. Green leafy vegetables such as Broccoli, spinach, lettuce etc
  4. Orange and yellow vegetables carrots, bell pepper, etc
  5. Fruits including mango, apricots etc
  6. Dairy products which is a major source of Vitamin A
  7. Breakfast cereals which are generally further fortified.

Am I getting enough Vitamin A

Most of us generally get enough and hence deficiency is rare. However, certain categories may have more likelihood of being deficient such as:-

  1. Premature infants.
  2. Young children, pregnant women or breastfeeding women.
  3. People suffering from cystic fibrosis.
  4. Other cases of extreme malnutrition.
  5. People who are extremely selective of food items
  6. Super process food consumers.

Effects of Vitamin A on health

  1. Inability to see in low light
  2. Age-related macular degeneration
  3. Measles
  4. Weakness in muscles

Is Vitamin A harmful

Getting too much of Vitamin A is extremely dangerous. It can cause nausea, dizziness, severe headache, illusions, coma and even death. High consumption of vitamin A in pregnant women can lead to birth defects and complications at the time of birth. High consumption can turn your skin yellowish or orangish. Although this does not have direct implication on organ systems but we can consider it as a warning alert.

Vitamin A is also know to interfere or interact with other medication. Hence it is important that before considering any supplement of the same, one must consult a doctor and share complete medical history. It is important to bring forward your dietary habits too so that you can avoid supplements and food containing Vitamin A can be increased. Remember Vitamin A interferes with how body digests nutrients.

Healthy eating is enough

People should try and get most of their nutrients from food and beverages. Food items promote natural absorption. This leads to healthy organ system functioning. You may consider fortified food and dietary supplements if it is not possible to meet the requirement of the food consumed.

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