Vitamin A Deficiency --Symptoms
and Top 10 Foods That Help
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May 9, 2010, last updated February 3, 2015
By  Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist





Having trouble seeing at night? Are you starting to forget
things? Or, are you
breathing too fast? Well, the culprit
could be Vitamin A.  About 50% of all women may have
Vitamin A deficiency, according to a 2009 study from
Newcastle University in England. What is Vitamin A?  Why
does your body need Vitamin A? Its most well-known role is
protecting effective eyesight, specifically night vision. But
does Vitamin A help you in other, less well-known ways?

What Is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A, also known as retinol and retanoic acid,  is an
organic compound which is essential to your body's normal
functioning and good health. Your body cannot make
Vitamin A. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, meaning that it dissolves
in fat, as opposed to being water-soluble. What this means
as practical matter is that people who are on a "no-fat or
low-fat" diet may have trouble digesting Vitamin A, although
most of us get more than enough fat in our normal diets to
dissolve Vitamin A. In fact, it may seem counter-intuitive, but
too much fat in your diet can actually lead to Vitamin A
deficiency.

Vitamin A helps you see in the dark. In fact, the ancient
Egyptians were the first to discover that feeding people liver
helped to cure night blindness.

But Vitamin A does more than help you see in the dark.

  • Vitamin A  maintains healthy skin.

  • Vitamin A helps form bone and teeth.

  • Vitamin A  helps the body fight infections by stimulating
    the immune system and it regulates cell growth and
    division.

  • Vitamin A also plays a part in effective fat storage.

  • Vitamin A aids the digestive and urinary system.

  • Vitamin A even helps you to think. A 2000 study from
    the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California
    found that removing Vitamin A from the diet reduced
    chemical impulses in the brain which help learning and
    memory. Mice were given a normal diet or one lacking
    in Vitamin A and their brains examined to measure their
    learning ability. When Vitamin A was added back into
    their diets, the learning impairment was reversed.

Recommended Daily Levels of Vitamin A

How much Vitamin A should you get everyday? The Food
and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine currently
recommends a daily intake of 900 micrograms of Vitamin A
for men (equivalent to 3,000 IU) and 700 micrograms for
women (equivalent to 2,333 IU). The upper limit for Vitamin
A intake is 3,000 micrograms, but this should only be taken
under medical supervision as high levels of Vitamin A can be
toxic.

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the developed world.
However, if you drink a lot of alcohol, if your diet is full of
fat, if you live in a polluted area or you have
diabetes you
increase the risk of developing a deficiency.

What are the signs of a Vitamin A deficiency? First signs can
be a difficulty in adjusting your vision when entering a dark
room from bright sunshine, or an inability to focus on the
road after the glare of car headlights.

Other symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency include dry and
itchy
eyes, dry skin and hair (which in extreme cases can lead to
hair loss ), acne, insomnia and fatigue. Left unchecked,
Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, impaired
hearing and
loss of taste, growth retardation and reduced
male fertility.

Pregnant women with Vitamin A deficiency risk damaging
their baby. Studies have found that pregnant women who do
not take the recommended amount of Vitamin A risk have
babies with a much higher risk of congenital diaphragmatic
hernias. In fact, a 2013 study from Sophia Children's
Hospital in the Netherlands found that pregnant women who
take less than 800 micrograms of Vitamin A a day have
babies with more than 7 times greater risk of this hernial
defect.

So,  although Vitamin A deficiency is uncommon, it’s
important to keep an eye on your intake.

Top 10 Foods That Help

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Your body needs fat-
soluble vitamins to function properly but you don’t need to
get them everyday. The body stores Vitamin A in the liver
and fatty tissues when it doesn’t immediately need it.
However, you should keep your stores replenished and in
most cases you should be able to get all the Vitamin A you
need from a healthy balanced diet. A 2000 study from the
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that
people mainly got their Vitamin A from milk, margarine, eggs,
beef liver, fortified cereals, carrots, cantaloupe melons,
sweet potatoes, and spinach.

Here is a list of the Top 10 Foods that help to combat Vitamin
A deficiency:


























1.
Liver
Liver is one of the richest sources of Vitamin A. This makes
sense because Vitamin A is mainly stored in the livers of
humans and animals. It’s so rich, you don’t need to eat it
everyday. Experts recommend a portion of liver once a
week, and less if you are taking Vitamin A supplements. You
can also get your liver dose in pâtés and spreads.

2.
Eggs
Eggs are a good provider of Vitamin A though if you are
sticking to egg whites to cut your fat or cholesterol you will
be missing out. The egg yolk contains nearly 100% of the
egg’s total Vitamin A provision.

3.
Milk and Dairy Products
Whole milk is better as it contains more Vitamin A than semi-
skimmed and skim. Vitamin A is dissolved within the milk fat
which is skimmed off when producing these low fat versions.

Vitamin A found in dairy products is called ‘preformed’
Vitamin A. It is more effective to get your Vitamin A in this
form rather than Vitamin A converted from beta-carotene
when you eat certain vegetables and fruits.

Many women suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. A 2009 study
from Newcastle University, England, found nearly 50% of
women could be suffering from a lack of Vitamin A due to a
genetic variation that reduces the ability to produce
sufficient amounts of Vitamin A from beta-carotene. The
study of 62 women found 47 percent had the genetic
variation, meaning if they ate most of their Vitamin A from
vegetables they wouldn’t reach the optimum levels required.

4.
Cheese
You can get Vitamin A from cheese as it is present in the milk
used to make it. The amount of Vitamin A depends on the fat
content of the cheese but one portion (30g) of regular
cheddar will meet around a fifth of your daily Vitamin A
requirement.   

5.
Carrots
The carrot gets its characteristic color from beta-carotene
and, as explained above, beta-carotene as a form of Vitamin
A is less effectively absorbed than Vitamin A from animal
products. However, you shouldn’t rule out carrots and other
orange vegetables like pumpkin and butternut squash in
your optimum Vitamin A diet. Just one handful of baby
carrots, or a glass of fresh carrot juice, boosts your levels
sufficiently.

6.
Dark green and leafy vegetables
These juicy greens also contain beta-carotene which is
converted to Vitamin A. Choose turnip greens, spinach, bok
choy, mustard greens and romaine lettuce. You should be
careful when preparing these vegetables as Vitamin A can be
lost through preparation and storage. Eat raw vegetables
where possible and steam or bake rather than fry as some
Vitamin A is lost in the frying pan.  

7.
Yellow fruits
In addition to green and leafy vegetables, boost your
Vitamin A intake with brightly-hued yellow and orange fruits.

Think of cantaloupe melon, apricots, papaya, mango and
peach. A cup of one of these fruits is enough. Store fruit out
of bright light and high temperatures and be careful not to
soak fruits in too much water as this can destroy Vitamin A.

8.
Oily fish
Try mackerel, anchovies, herring, smoked kippers, pilchards,
salmon, sardines, trout, fresh tuna, whitebait and the more
exotic swordfish to meet your Vitamin A needs. Watch out if
you also take fish oil supplements as these are high in
Vitamin A and too much Vitamin A over many years can be
harmful.

Why is
too much fish oil harmful? Taking fish oil supplements
as well as eating oily fish or liver more than once a week can
put you at greater risk for sufffering a hip fracture later in
life.

A 2002 Nurses Health Study in 2002 of 72,337
postmenopausal women over a period of 18 years found
that  women who consumed at least 3000 mcg of retinol a
day were 48 percent more likely to have a hip fracture
compared to women whose daily intake was less than 1250
mcg (4125 IU).

Why does excessive fish oil put you in danger of hip
fractures? The reason that extra fish oil puts you at risk is
that fish oil contains a form of Vitamin A called retinol, which
interferes with your body's ability to use Vitamin D to absorb
calcium.  Hence, your bones do not get the calcium they need
and become fragile.  

Since fish oil supplements are high in retinol, if you take fish
oil and also eat significant amonts of  Vitamin A-rich foods, it
can can push you over the safe limit for retinol.


9.
Cereals and Other Fortified Foods
Vitamin A is added to certain foods to replace it when the fat
is taken out. Low-fat and skim milks may have added Vitamin
A, as do fortified margarine and low-fat spreads. Vitamin A is
added to breakfast cereals, juices, yoghurts and ready
meals. Check the packaging to make sure.   

10.
Herbs
Vitamin A is also present in small amounts in alfalfa, borage,
burdock, cayenne, fennel, kelp, lemongrass, nettle, paprika,
parsley, peppermint, plantain and watercress. As you’re
unlikely to consume these in high quantities, you’re better
off getting your Vitamin A from dairy products, liver or beta-
carotene vegetables.

11.
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes give you 270% of the daily recommended
value of Vitamin A in an 8 ounce serving.




Related:
Vitamin D Deficiency -What Are the Signs and Health
Dangers? /What to Eat to Keep your Eyes Healthy / Does
Drinking Coffee Affect Diabetes? / Ideal Breakfast for
Diabetics /
Foods That Lower Cholesterol / Foods That Keep Blood
Sugar Lower / Ideal Diet to Reduce Fibroid Tumors / Pelvic
Cancer-Symptoms and Treatments /How to Lose Weight
After Menopause/Best Breakfast to Fight Arthritis/ Health
Dangers of Milk / Lose Weight by Lowering Thermostat /
Lose Belly Fat After the Baby/ Foods That Shrink Your
Waist/ Drinking Cold Water Burns Calories / Six Pack Abs-A
Guided Tour /Top 10 Foods That Fight Anemia / How Much
Is Too Much Salt? /Sugar-The Disease Connection / Are Diet
Sodas Bad for Your Health? / Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics /
Ideal Breakfast for Arthritis /Healing Foods Links /  Foods
That Shrink Your Waist / Foods That Lower Cholesterol/
VLDL-
The Other Cholesterol/ Foods That Reduce Blood
Pressure

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