You know all about Vitamin C…
And you probably know Vitamin D and Vitamin E…
But how well do you know Vitamin A? If you’re thinking about beta carotene, you’re on the right track. Beta carotene is a carotenoid that readily converts to Vitamin A inside of the body. However, that’s the tip of the iceberg for this important nutrient. Vitamin A is essential for new cell growth and healthy tissue.**
The history of Vitamin A
Interestingly, the discovery and characterization of Vitamin A extends along a 130-year time span. It began in 1816 when physiologist François Magendie experimented with nutritional deprivation in dogs. These experiments resulted in corneal ulcers and matched the conditions of nutritional deficits in infants in Paris. It wasn’t until the 1880s that Russian chemist Nikolay Ivanovich Lunin proposed that an unknown substance in milk delivered essential nutrition.
Wilhelm Stepp, considered the “founder of the science of vitamins” in Germany, discovered that this essential mystery nutrient was fat-soluble in 1911. But it wasn’t until 1920 that this substance was called Vitamin A. This trail of discovery led to Vitamin A becoming the first recognized fat-soluble vitamin. Finally, in 1932, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Karrer established its chemical structure. Studies on Vitamin A synthesis and its impact on human health continued well into the 1990s.
Vitamin A health benefits
Supports eye health**
Remember when your parents told you to eat carrots because they’re good for your eyesight? It’s the Vitamin A in carrots that plays a role in eye health.
Retinol from Vitamin A is used to form rhodopsin, an important part of the retina that provides information about color and visual images.**
It also supports the integrity of the eye by helping to form a barrier against foreign substances.** In other words, Vitamin A is essential for good vision and eye health!**
Supports a healthy immune system**
Vitamin A probably doesn’t come to mind when you think about immune health since Vitamin C hogs the spotlight. But Vitamin A is also good for the immune system.** It contributes to immune health by supporting the integrity of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts.**
Vitamin A is also believed to help regulate important immune response elements, including immunoglobulin production, lymphocyte, and interleukin production.**
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Supports healthy skin**
If you love diving into the ingredients in your favorite face cream, you may have seen Vitamin A in the form of retinol on the list. Vitamin A is the general name for substances that include retinol and retinal. It is essential for healthy skin.** That’s one reason you will find retinol skin creams and retinol soaps in the beauty aisle!
Since free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which may cause premature aging, selecting a skincare product with Vitamin A can be beneficial.** Vitamin A promotes antioxidant health, which is not only good for your skin but also good for overall wellness.**
Vitamin A in foods
Vitamin A is naturally found in many foods. Dairy products are the major source of Vitamin A for most Americans. However, if you don’t consume dairy products, many other foods contain Vitamin A, including:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Orange and yellow vegetables (carrots, squash, peppers)
- Orange fruits (apricots, mangos, cantaloupe)
- Salmon and cod
- Organ meats, such as beef liver
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin A in supplements
Supplements support maintaining Vitamin A in the body. There are many ways to increase intake with supplements, including:
Many multivitamins also contain Vitamin A.
If you want to increase your intake of Vitamin A, the best way to do it is to eat a balanced diet. When adding supplements to your routine, it is important to discuss it with your physician to figure out if Vitamin A supplements are right for you.