The 5 Benefits of Vitamin A

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There’s no such thing as vitamin A—not really. It’s a blanket term for a group of related compounds like retinoids and carotenoids that your body needs but can’t make itself. Instead, you get these nutrients from the foods you eat. It’s far more beneficial to get vitamin A from the foods you eat, such as carrots and leafy green vegetables, such as dandelion greens, than from taking vitamin supplements. Most people get plenty of retinoids and carotenoids in their daily diet, and overdoing it can cause the same kind of damage as not getting enough.

5 Strong Heart and Blood Flow

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Your body needs vitamin A and retinoids in particular to produce red blood cells. A deficiency of vitamin A can result in anemia or worsen the effects of iron-deficiency anemia. Stem cells normally change into white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets. A mutation in this process causes immature leukemic cells and leads to a particular type of leukemia. Doctors use vitamin A to successfully restore normal blood cell production for some of these leukemia patients.

4 Healthy Growth and Development

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Vitamin A interacts with thyroid hormones and vitamin D to differentiate cells and influence human growth and development. Doctors may prescribe vitamin A supplements to pregnant women who are deficient to encourage the healthy growth of the fetus—but supplements shouldn’t be taken without a doctor’s advice, as an excess of vitamin A may also cause birth defects. As the fetus develops, vitamin A assists in limb development and is essential for growth of healthy ears, eyes and heart. Sufficient vitamin A is also important for mothers who are breast-feeding.

3 Robust Immune System

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Your immune system requires vitamin A to function properly. Your body uses retinoids, the active form of vitamin A acquired by consuming animal products, to produce and maintain white blood cells. White blood cells fight off disease and infection. Beta-carotene, a different form of vitamin A found in fruits and vegetables, is an anti-oxidant that works to protect essential cells from pollutants and toxins. However, you can have too much of a good thing. While a vitamin A deficiency makes you more vulnerable to infection, consuming too much vitamin A, especially by taking vitamin supplements, can make you sick.

2 Clear Skin

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Despite being named for their role in promoting eye health, retinoids also help form and maintain healthy skin cells. Doctors may prescribe topical vitamin A creams for a variety of skin conditions including acne and psoriasis. Vitamin A treatment can also smooth wrinkles in skin, helping reverse the aging process. The skin is your first line of defense against disease, and vitamin A promotes the growth of white blood cells that fight off any bacteria that breaches the skin’s barrier.

1 Sharp Vision

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Your eyes see by absorbing light, which is sensed by the retina and transmitted to the brain for interpretation. Retinoids are essential to this process, and vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in children who live in developing countries. Doctors prescribe vitamin A to treat dry eye, a corneal condition that can lead to blindness. It may also be beneficial in treating other eye disorders such as cataracts, but studies are inconclusive.

Next: 5 Benefits of Vitamin C