Vitamin A

Vitamin A, It’s Functions, Deficiency Symptoms & Food Sources for Vegans

Vitamin A.

What comes to your mind?

“Good for Eyes”

Yes. But there’s more to the crucial nutrient, read along to learn it all !

FUNCTIONS - Roles it Plays

Vitamin A is crucial for eye health and we all know about it, yet there’s more to vitamin A than just eye health. Vitamin A also regulates thyroid hormone metabolism and much more. Let’s dive into learning about the roles that vitamin A has to play for you!

  • Role in Thyroid Function
  • Perhaps the most overlooked role of Vitamin A is its role in thyroid gland’s functioning.[1] This is played by regulating the levels of thyroid hormones and so, alongside selenium and iodine, it’s important to include vitamin A as well in the thyroid gland’s toolbox of nutrients!

  • Role in Tissue Health
  • Vitamin A keeps the body’s tissues intact, including everything from the skin, lining of the lungs, the gut, bladder and the eye. Vitamin A also supports rejuvenation of the skin by promoting regular replacement with new skin cells.[2] This is why many topical skin products contain retinol (vitamin A).

  • Role in Immune Function
  • Vitamin A is an anti-inflammatory vitamin. It regulates our body’s immune responses and helps fight infection. This is why one of the signs of Vitamin A deficiency is falling sick more often.[3]

  • Role in Reproductive Health 
  • Vitamin A is important for development of the embryo in pregnant women and the development of sperm in men. This is why another sign of vitamin A deficiency are fertility issues.[4]

    Symptoms to Check for Deficiency - Oops! Are you falling short?

    • Poor vision at night
    • Dry eyes
    • White spots in the eyes
    • Getting Sick Often
    • Fertility Issues

    SOURCES - Where to get it from?

    Vitamin A can be obtained from food in two forms - 

    1. As its precursor form i.e as carotene. Carotene is found in both plant and animal foods. 6 parts of carotene makes up 1 part of vitamin A in our body. (So next time you spot a sweet potato or pumpkin, think vitamin A!)
    2. As retinol, it’s true form. Retinol is only found in animal foods. Eventually, all retinol will be converted to carotene in your body.

    Thus, consuming fruits and vegetables of different colours, especially orange and yellow is crucial to get enough carotene that meets your vitamin A needs. This becomes especially important for vegans as they do not have access to retinol in their diet. 

    Daily needs of vitamin A for an adult are between 800µg to 1000µg as of ICMR RDA 2020.

    Plant Foods:

    • Mangoes
    • Papaya
    • Carrots
    • Sweet potatoes 
    • Pumpkin
    • Yellow Maize 
    • Spinach
    • Apricot
    • Peas

    In conclusion:

    Vitamin A is an essential vitamin. A diet heavily based on local carbohydrate sources such as  rice, wheat, millet and sorghum is very low in vitamin A. Thus, it's important to add in variety and ensure intake of plenty of fruits and vegetables to avoid deficiency.