Vitamin A is a vital fat-soluble nutrient and antioxidant that can prevent night blindness, maintain healthy skin, and confer protection against cancer and other diseases. Vitamin A is commonly found in two forms; as preformed vitamin A, also referred to as retinol, and as provitamin A, or beta carotene.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to Xerophthalmia or night blindness, a deficiency disease that most commonly affects children in third-world countries. Early signs of Vitamin A deficiency are gradual loss of night vision, roughened skin and defective formation of bones and teeth. If left untreated Xerophthalmia can result in complete blindness.
In addition to promoting good vision, other recognized major benefits of vitamin A include its ability to protect the heart and cardiovascular system, boost the immune system, speed recovery from respiratory infections, promote wound healing, slow down the aging process, and prevent and possibly reverse the course of certain forms of cancer. Vitamin A also plays an important role in maintain healthy skin. Most current popular acne and psoriasis treatments on the market, such as Retinol and Accutane, are based on vitamin A or its derivatives.
Retinol is derived from animal sources, primarily fish liver oils, and is easily destroyed by exposure to heat, light, and oxygen. When examining your vitamin formula to determine Vitamin A levels expect to see vitamin A referred to in its palmitate or acetate forms, which are preferred by manufacturers.
The Recommended Daily Intake of vitamin A is 5,000 International Units or 1,000 Retinol Units. As a supplement, vitamin-A is available in capsules ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 iu or International Units. Excessive intake of vitamin A can lead to dangerous toxic symptoms, including hair loss, nausea, scaly skin, bone pain, fatigue, blurred vision, and liver enlargement. For this reason many prefer to take Beta Carotene, also referred to as provitamin A, which offers all the proven benefits of vitamin A with none of the adverse side effects.