Vitamin A and the Carotenoids

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vitamin a

Vitamin A and the Carotenoids

Vitamin A prevents night blindness and other eye problems, as well as some skin disorders, like acne.

It helps immunity, may help to heal ulcers, and is needed for the maintenance and repair of skin and mucous membranes.

It’s important in the formation of bones and teeth, helps with fat storage, and protects against colds, flu, and infections of your kidneys, bladder, lungs, and mucous membranes.

Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect your cells against cancer and other disease and is necessary for new cell growth.

It guards against heart disease and stroke, and lowers cholesterol levels.

People receiving radiation treatment for cervical cancer, prostate cancer, or colorectal cancer have benefited from taking oral vitamin A.

Radiation-induced ulcers can be a problem with these treatment programs, and a vitamin A megadose (100,000 IU daily) significantly reduced symptoms in 88% of people undergoing these regimens.

This important vitamin also slows the aging process.

Your body can’t use protein without vitamin A.

Vitamin A is a well-known wrinkle eliminator.

Applied topically, vitamin A reduces fine lines in your skin and helps fade age spots.

A deficiency of vitamin A can cause dry hair and/or skin, dryness of your conjunctiva and cornea, poor growth, and/or night blindness.

Other possible results of vitamin A deficiency include abscesses in your ears; insomnia; fatigue; reproductive difficulties; sinusitis, pneumonia, frequent colds and other respiratory infections; skin disorders, including acne; and weight loss.

The carotenoids are a class of compounds related to vitamin A.

In some cases, they can act as precursors of vitamin A; some act as antioxidants or have other important functions.

The best-known subclass of the carotenoids is the carotenes, of which beta-carotene is the best known.

When food or supplements containing beta-carotene are consumed, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in your liver.

Beta-carotene appears to help with cancer prevention by neutralizing free radicals.

Evidence suggests greater consumption of lutein (another carotenoid) reduces the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

High lutein consumption has also been reported to decrease the incidence of prostate cancer.

Taking large amounts of vitamin A, more than 100,000 IU daily, over long periods can be toxic to your body, mainly to your liver.

Toxic levels of vitamin A are associated with abdominal pain, amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation), enlargement of your liver and/or spleen, gastrointestinal disturbances, hair loss, itching, joint pain, nausea and vomiting, water on the brain, elevated liver enzymes, and small cracks on your lips and at the corners of your mouth.

Excessive intake of vitamin A during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, including cleft palate and heart defects.

It’s better to take beta-carotene during pregnancy.

You can’t overdose on beta-carotene, although if you take too much, your skin may turn slightly yellow-orange in color.

Beta-carotene doesn’t have the same effect as vitamin A in your body and isn’t harmful in larger amounts unless your liver can’t convert beta-carotene into vitamin A.

There’s mixed evidence as to whether too much vitamin A may increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Women who are worried about osteoporosis should consult a health care provider before taking vitamin A.

It’s important to take only natural beta-carotene or a natural carotenoid complex.


Vitamin A is found in animal livers, fish liver oils, and green and yellow fruits and vegetables.

Foods include apricots, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, dandelion greens, dulse (a red seaweed), fish liver and fish liver oil, garlic, kale, mustard greens, papayas, peaches, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, spirulina, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, turnip greens, watercress, and yellow squash.

Herbs include alfalfa, borage leaves, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, kelp, lemongrass, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, sage, uva ursi, violet leaves, watercress, and yellow dock.


Antibiotics, laxatives, and some cholesterol-lowering drugs interfere with the absorption of vitamin A.


If you have liver disease, don’t take a daily dose of over 10,000 IU of vitamin A in pill form, or any amount of cod liver oil.

If you’re pregnant, don’t take more than 10,000 IU of vitamin A daily because of reported problems in fetal development.

Children shouldn’t take more than 18,000 IU of vitamin A on a daily basis for over 1 month.

For most people, beta-carotene is the best source of vitamin A because it’s converted by your liver into only the amount of vitamin A your body actually needs.

But, if you have diabetes or hypothyroidism, there’s a good possibility your body can’t convert beta-carotene into vitamin A.

Consuming large amounts of beta-carotene may therefore place unnecessary stress on your liver.

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Dick and Lenay

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