The benefits of vitamin A to the human body are numerous as it plays an essential role in many of the body's functions.
The Importance of Vitamin A
Vitamin A, which is found in both animal and plant sources, provides the body with essential nutrients needed in order to maintain healthy bodily functions. These functions include:
- Helps vision and aids against night blindness
- Necessary for the proper development and reproduction of embryonic cells
- Cell division and differentiation
- Gene transcription
- formation of red blood cells, known as haematopoiesis
- Bone growth and development
- Strengthen the immune system
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Reduce the risk of cancer
- Reduce the effects of a stroke
- Maintain normal skin health
- Keeps mucus membranes moist
- Acts as an antioxidant
Vitamin A and Vision
The correlation between vitamin A and vision is the best known and the most understood role of this vital vitamin. Have you ever heard the old saying Carrots help you see better? Most everyone has heard that popular saying or a variation of it, such as If you eat your carrots you will be able to see in the dark. These sayings are based on the fact that carrots are an excellent source of provitamin A carotenoid which is a very important nutrient for good vision.The provitamin A carotenoid is converted by the body into retinol, which is then oxidized into retinal. It is the retinal that that is a necessary for good vision. Without the proper amount of retinal vision becomes impaired making it difficult to see in low light. The resulting condition is known as night blindness.
The Immune System and Vitamin A
Commonly referred to as the anti-infective vitamin, vitamin A is required for the immune system to function normally. This essential vitamin helps to regulate the immune system and aids in the prevention and fighting of infections by producing white blood cells. The job of the white blood cells is to destroy the dangerous and harmful viruses and bacteria that attack the body. Researchers believe that vitamin A helps a certain kind of white blood cell, known as lymphocytes, to be more effective in fighting off infections.
Vitamin A also helps the immune system by keeping the mucus membranes and the skin moist and healthy. When these cells are moist, they are also resistant to cell damage, or infection, caused by viruses and bacteria.
Although vitamin A from animal sources is fat soluble and stored in the body's liver and fatty tissues, research has shown that acute infections may cause the amount of stored vitamin A to be depleted. This means that the body requires more vitamin A when there is an infection.
Vitamin A and Cancer
In keeping the cells healthy, vitamin A fights against cancer by inhibiting DNA production of cancerous cells. It also slows the growth of tumors in cancers that are already established.
Researchers also believe that vitamin A may stop the division of leukemia cells. It may also prevent or possibly be used to treat skin cancers by applying it topically or taking it orally.
The Importance of Vitamin A in Cell Division and Differentiation
Researchers are not certain of how vitamin A works in the processes of cell division and differentiation. However, they are certain that it plays a necessary and critical role in these processes.
Cell division occurs when the nucleus of the cell splits and the cell's DNA is an exact replica of the original. Cell differentiation is the process that allows a cell to change into a specialized type of cell. It is then able to perform a specific function in the body.