Glasses might be the defining feature of Harry Potter, but most of us would be better off without them.
Decreasing productivity in school and at work is largely attributed to an impaired vision compromising the concentration and quality of work. A healthy eye sight is a blessing we take for granted until panic strikes at the first sign of a hazy vision and blinding headaches. A nuisance of age, hereditary, accidental, or a product of technological overflow, weak eyesight is a liability that is hard to live with.
Telling you that carrots help you see better wasn’t just a ruse your mother used to get you to finish your veggies at dinner. What you eat today goes a long way towards defining your tomorrow. Next time you see someone squinting for a better look, try telling them the benefits of Vitamin A for their eyesight.
Overview Of Carotenoids
Carotenoids are one of the most viable types of Vitamin A, only found in plant-based diets. When compared with retinoid, the Vitamin A found in Animal based foods, both the sources enhance immune function. However, carotenoids promise better antioxidant protection and play a significant role in the protection of our vision.
Beta-Carotene is a natural pigment which gives the characteristic yellow and orange color to vegetables and plants. A healthy Vitamin-A rich diet, cemented by Vitamin A supplements, is all that you need to boost your eye health. Since our bodies convert the consumed beta-carotene into vitamin A, Beta carotene is also known as a Vitamin A precursor. The benefits of vitamin A include strengthening the eyesight and improving eye health, ensuring healthy mucous membranes and skin, and fortifying the immune system.
While excess of vitamin A can be toxic, your body only converts as much Beta Carotene as it needs into vitamin A. This makes it one of the safest sources of Vitamin A. For decades, Beta Carotene has been established as the best way to meet the Vitamin A requirements of your body. This is especially true for pregnant women, where an overdose of vitamin A may potentially harm the fetus and result in malformations, such as a cleft lip and palate, facial dis-figuration, or tiny ear canals. In addition, since Retinol is only found in animal sources, those following the vegan or vegetarian way of life choose Beta Carotene as their primary source of Vitamin A.
The health benefits of Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) are commonly known. The strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Beta Carotene are widely recognized. Additionally, specific carotenoids play special roles in maintaining your eye health.
For instance, the only carotenoids found inside the retina of the human eye are the zeaxanthin and xanthophylls lutein. If you are only focusing on the benefits of Vitamin A pertaining to the eye health, you should eat foods that are not only rich in Beta Carotene, but also these two specific carotenoids forms of the vitamin. Swiss chard, Kale, and Spinach are some excellent sources loaded with zeaxanthin and xanthophylls lutein.
Vitamin A is indispensable to maintaining your health and contributes in a plethora of ways. Some of the benefits of vitamin A are:
- It’s strong antioxidant properties prevents certain fatal diseases.
- It is critical to a good night vision
- It ensures a healthy development of nails, hair, bone, and teeth
- Maintaining the integrity of Eyes and skin cells.
- It promotes regulation of the immune system and strengthens it.
The Benefits Of Vitamin A In Supporting Overall Health
Four different types of photo pigments are incorporated within the human retina, which serve as stores of Vitamin A compounds. One such pigment, Rhodopsin, can be found in the rod cells of the retina. Rhodopsin enables the rod cells to detect even trace amounts of light, thus supporting nighttime vision and enables the eye to adapt to low light conditions.According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a deficiency in vitamin A can lead to night blindness.
Vitamin A also participates in the synthesis of Rhodopsin and the series of chemical reactions that lead to visual excitation caused by the rod cells being triggered by light. The other three pigments found within the retina, collectively called iodopsins, are responsible for daytime vision and are located in the cone cells of the retina.
Additionally, Research has also proven that a combination of lutein and vitamin A may enhance vision and delay blindness in people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP). A four year study, recently conducted by researchers from prominent universities around the U.S, proved that when patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa were administered daily supplements of lutein (12 mg), and vitamin A (15,000 IU), they experienced a slower loss of peripheral vision than individuals who were not given the supplement.
Prevention Of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration causes the deterioration of the eye macula, the part of the eye responsible for color contrast and sharp vision. Causing blurred vision and blind spots, macular degeneration can lead to a permanent loss of sight down the road. Beta-carotene rich foods, such as carrots and kale, convert into Vitamin A inside the body and promote a healthy vision.
The most redeeming health benefit of vitamin A perhaps is the improvement of night vision. Vitamin A allows the brain to convert the light from the surrounding in to a signal that allows us to see things, even under low light. A deficiency of Vitamin A leads to night blindness or over dry eyes.
Eye sight can be protected by dosing up on vital minerals and Vitamin A. A research proved that people in an experimental group who were administered 80 mg of zinc, 25,000 IU of beta carotene, 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E, and 500 mg of vitamin C had a 25% lower risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than people who were not given these supplements.
Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of blindness. If you are above 55 years of age, you should consult with your eye doctor about your risks of developing AMD, and whether you should take these minerals and vitamins to ensure the health of your eye.
Antioxidant, Immune-Enhancing, And Anti-Inflammatory Activity
Carotenoids have been the focus of massive research in the recent years as potential anti-aging and anti cancerous compounds. These commendable functions of Carotenoids have been largely attributed to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. While only a handful of carotenoids can actually be converted into retinoid, all carotenoids offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
Promoting Proper Cell Communication
Carotenoids have proven their ability to trigger proper cell-to-cell communication, in addition to their immune-enhancing and antioxidant activity. Researchers have reached a conclusion that improper cell communication may be the leading cause of cell overgrowth, a condition that translates into cancer in the long run. Carotenoids may have a significant part to play in the prevention of cancer, especially by enabling proper communication between cells.
Carotenoids are also believed to participate in female reproduction. While the exact role played by carotenoids has not been identified yet, it has been proven that corpus luteum contains a high quantity of Beta-Carotene, which goes to suggest that Vitamin A serves important purposes in the reproductive processes.
Cell Growth Support
Vitamin A is essential for ensuring normal cell development and growth. While the actual mechanisms employed by Vitamin A in promoting a healthy cell development and growth are still hazy, it is known that vitamin A is vital for the synthesis of many glycoproteins, which are responsible for controlling cell differentiation, cell growth, and cellular adhesion (the ability of cells to attach to one another). For instance, the production of red blood cells within our bone marrow required vitamin A, through a process known as hematopoiesis.
Support Of The Inflammatory And Immune Systems
Vitamin A has a significant part to play throughout our bodies, especially in our digestive tracts, in support of the inflammatory and immune functions. Every day, we expose our digestive tracts to potentially unwelcome micro-organisms (like some types of bacteria), and harmful substances, such as lingering pesticide residues in food. Our inflammatory and immune systems are designed to keep us safe from these harmful events.
Health benefits of vitamin A also include the treatment or prevention of the following health conditions:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- Angina pectoris
- Cervical cancer
- Chlamydial infection
- Vaginal candidiasis
- Cervical dysplasia
- Laryngeal cancer (cancer of the larynx)
- Heart disease
- Male and female infertility
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Skin cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Vitamin A High Foods
Vegetables and fruits are the primary source of beta-carotene. This can be gauged from the fact that a single cup of raw carrots incorporates about 9,135 mg of beta-carotene. Since Beta carotene is one of many useful carotenoids, it is prudent to eat a wide array of fresh produce to add a full spectrum of these beneficial nutrients into your daily meals. If you truly want to reap the benefits of Vitamin A, here are some of the best foods with Vitamin A:
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
- Red bell peppers
- Goji berries
- Orange bell peppers
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Winter squash
- Bok Choy
- Bell peppers
- Chili peppers
- Sea vegetables
- Grapefruit (pink/red)
- green super food powders (wheatgrass, chlorella, alfalfa grass and spirulina blends)
- Brussels sprouts
How Much Vitamin A Is Safe?
While many people are far from achieving Vitamin A sufficiency, it is not uncommon to consume too much of vitamin A from supplements and diet combined. The maximum dose which is considered safe is 3,000 micrograms of preformed vitamin A, which is thrice the current recommended daily level. However, research has proven that such high doses of vitamin A might lead to birth defects and enhance the risks of a hip fracture. Since Vitamin A might also interfere with the actions of Vitamin D, it is another reason to avoid overdosing.
Since Vitamin A is a lipid soluble vitamin, it taken stored inside the body fat when taken in excess. This results in a host of overdose symptoms, including:
- vomiting and Nausea
- pain in the joints and bones
- dry skin
- loss of appetite
However, even at high levels of intake, beta-carotene is not toxic as compared to the preformed vitamin A (Retinol). Additionally, there is no need to monitor intake as your body can convert the required beta-carotene into Vitamin A, as needed. Therefore, it is absolutely vital to opt for a multi vitamin supplement that has majority of its Vitamin A in the form of Beta carotene to reap the maximum benefits of Vitamin A.