Vitamin A is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that's responsible for maintaining your eyesight, immune system, and the growth of cells (including new hair).
There are two forms of vitamin A: provitamin A and preformed vitamin A.
Provitamin A comes from plant foods (for example, carrots have beta carotene) and are known as carotenoids. Your body has to convert them to vitamin A, which can sometimes be a challenge.
Preformed vitamin A can be used directly. It's usually found in animal products and is also called retinol, retinal or retinoic acid.
Keep reading for some of the many benefits of vitamin A!
1. Improves Acne
Vitamin A-based skincare is becoming increasingly popular. Retinol is pure vitamin A that is often used topically, and isotretinoin (such as Accutane) is an oral retinoid used to treat severe acne.
The reason it's so effective is because it reduces inflammation, which is an underlying cause of acne. It helps treat and prevent acne lesions.
It can also increase skin cell growth to heal scarring, protect against environmental damage, and compliment antibiotic acne treatment.
Too much vitamin A can be toxic and vitamin A can interfere with medications, so it's important to check with your doctor before using it as an acne treatment. When using topical vitamin A, always wear sunscreen!
2. Slows Skin Aging
The antioxidant effect of vitamin A that helps treat acne can help with skin aging as well, by preventing free radical damage.
Topical use of retinol has been shown to reduce wrinkles. It increases collagen production and water retention.
Studies have shown that those with higher vitamin A concentration in their skin have a younger appearance, and those with less vitamin A look older.
3. Helps with Hair Growth
Hair grows the fastest of all tissues in the body, and vitamin A is used for cell and tissue growth.
It also keeps your hair healthy. Vitamin A keeps the sebaceous glands working properly, which produce sebum to keep your hair moisturized.
Rats fed a diet deficient in vitamin A began to experience dramatic hair loss. It's important to note that too much vitamin A can also cause hair loss, so you should take 10,000 IU per day or less for ideal hair growth.
4. Protects your Eyes
Vitamin A protects your eyes from night blindness and age-related macular degeneration.
Night blindness, or nyctalopia, is the first sign of gradually worsening vitamin A deficiency. Those with night blindness can see normally during daytime, but can't see under low levels of light.
Age-related macular degeneration is another vision-related side effect of low vitamin A. It's the leading cause of blindness in the world.
A large study was performed on those over 50 who are beginning to experience eyesight deterioration. They found that when given an antioxidant multivitamin that included vitamin A, the risk of advanced macular degeneration decreased by 25%.
5. Improves Your Immune System
Vitamin A helps your immune system perform optimally so you stay healthy.
The risk of dying from infectious diseases like malaria is decreased when Vitamin A deficiencies are corrected.
Sources of Vitamin A
The best sources of vitamin A are retinoids, because those can be absorbed directly into the body. The easiest way to consume it is to take a supplement, like Why Not Natural's liquid vitamin A.
The best food sources of Vitamin A are animal products. Vitamin A is stored in the liver, so any animal form of liver will be extremely high in retinol. Beef liver, lamb liver, and even cod liver oil are excellent sources.
You should use caution when consuming liver if you are pregnant or supplementing. It's recommended to consume liver less than once per week when pregnant.
Provitamin A sources
The reason we discourage provitamin A as a source of vitamin A is because it's not always easy for the body to convert plant sources to vitamin A.
Provitamin A is converted to vitamin A at a rate of 5-65%. If you are experiencing signs of deficiency, there could be an underlying issue preventing you from absorbing carotenoids (another name for provitamin A from plants) such as compromised gut health.
Good sources of carotenoids include bright red and orange vegetables as well as leafy greens. Sweet potatoes, carrots, red bell peppers, and spinach are all good sources.