According to Shakespeare eyes are the windows of the soul. And the health of these eyes is largely dependent on Vitamin A. Also known as retinol, vitamin A in appropriate quantities is required for the human body to prevent eye problems such as night blindness, xerophthalmia or dry eye, cataract development, and reduces the risk caused by measles or diarrhea.
How Prevalent is Vitamin A Deficiency?
Vitamin A being a micronutrient, which is not naturalized synthesized by the human body, has to be supplemented through diet. Having a balanced diet is a challenge for many people because of many reasons such as their economic conditions, or lack of time to focus on meals, to mention a few. In India alone, 35.3 million children under five years suffer from vitamin A deficiency. The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency rises from 10.2% in children to 18% of preschool kids, 22% among school-age children and 16% among adolescents. If the pregnant or nursing women have vitamin A deficiency, the children they carry or nurse end up with vitamin A deficiency as well. Among the Indian women of the reproductive age group, 3.8% of them have been found to have vitamin A deficiency.
Global statistics aren’t encouraging either. Globally, 19 million pregnant women have vitamin A deficiency of which 9.8 million suffer from night blindness. While 127 million children under five years have vitamin A deficiency, the rate almost doubles in preschoolers at 250 million. About 250000-500000 such children become blind every year and 50% of such children lose their lives within a year.
Vitamin A deficiency can be managed either by consuming it through natural or artificial sources.
Natural Sources of Vitamin A
Red chillies, and greens such as drumstick, agathi, colocasia, ponnaganni, curry, mint, and amaranth leaves, carrots, pumpkin are all great natural sources of Vitamin A. Including one of these regularly in one’s diet can help avoid vitamin A deficiency.
Artificial Sources of Vitamin A
As a stand-alone supplement, vitamin A is found in retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate. In some supplements it is in the form of beta-carotene, while in others it is in the preformed state. Labels found on the bottles of supplements will indicate the form in which the vitamin is present and its quantity as well. Vitamin A can also be consumed as part of multivitamins and such supplements usually contain 750–3,000 mcg RAE (2,500–10,000 IU) vitamin A, mostly as both retinol and beta-carotene.
All vitamins must be consumed in appropriate quantities. While for adults 19 years and older, required dietary allowance is 900 mcg, for men it should be 3,000 IU, and 2,333 for women.
Hypervitaminosis A or Vitamin A Excess
Vitamin A being a fat soluble micronutrient, tends to accumulate in the liver, if artificial supplements are taken in excess. The term micro nutrient itself indicates that human body, need them in minor quantities. There is hardly any chance of vitamin A over usage when it is consumed through natural diet. However, if people are taking supplements, then they should not cross the tolerable upper intake level for their gender, age, and so on. The upper level for vitamin A from retinol is 3,000 micrograms of preformed vitamin A. Hypervitaminosis A can cause mild to severe symptoms depending on the over dosage. Take care to keep such supplements away from children to avoid unintentional and accidental consumption.
Since Vitamin A is available in many natural resources, unless specifically prescribed by your doctor, stick to consuming it through its natural forms in fruits, vegetables, and greens.