Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin. It is also known as retinol because it generates the pigments in the retina.
Vitamin A promotes good vision, especially in dim light. It may also be required for reproduction and breast-feeding.
Retinol is an active type of vitamin A. It is found in animal liver,whole milk and some fortified foods.
Carotenoids are dark colored dyes found in plant foods that can turn into a form of vitamin A. One such carotenoid is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by unstable substances called free radicals. Free radicals are believed to contribute to certain chronic diseases and play a role in the degenerative processes seen in aging.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A is 5,000 international units (IU) for adults and 1,000-3,000 IU for children.
Vitamin A comes from animal sources, such as eggs, meat, milk, cheese, cream, liver, kidney, cod, and halibut fish oil. However, all of these sources -- except for skim milk that has been fortified with Vitamin A -- are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Sources of beta-carotene are carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, apricots, broccoli, spinach, and most dark green, leafy vegetables. The more intense the color of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the beta-carotene content. These vegetable sources of beta-carotene are free of fat and cholesterol.
The body regulates the conversion of beta-carotene to Vitamin A based on its needs.
If you don't get enough vitamin A, you are more susceptible to infectious diseases and vision problems.
If you get too much vitamin A, you can become sick. Large doses of vitamin A can also cause birth defects. Acute vitamin A poisoning usually occurs when an adult takes several hundred thousand IU. Symptoms of chronic vitamin A poisoning may occur in adults who regularly take more than 25,000 IU a day. Babies and children are more sensitive and can become sick after taking smaller doses of vitamin A or vitamin A-containing products such as retinol (found in skin creams).
See Hypervitaminosis A.
Increased amounts of beta-carotene can turn the color of skin to yellow or orange. The skin color returns to normal once the increased intake of beta-carotene is reduced.
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide pyramid.
Other useful Vitamin information: Vitamin C | Vitamin B-5 | Vitamin B-3
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