As we get older, it becomes especially important that our diets are full of a wide range of nutrients that support longevity. Vitamin A, for example, is needed for us to keep generating new tissues as well as repair cells like those in the eyes. However, it’s possible that we can become deficient in vitamin A if we’re not consuming enough of certain foods. Below, check out how vitamin A deficiency can affect your hair, skin, and vision, other symptoms to look out for, and how you can boost your levels naturally.
Vitamin A Deficiency and Hair Loss
Vitamin A is a group of fat-soluble antioxidant vitamins that are naturally occurring in many foods. It plays an important role in our vision, reproduction, and immune health, and aids the function of vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and lungs.
There are two different types of vitamin A — preformed vitamin A (also known as retinol), which is found in animal products like meat, poultry, eggs, and fish, and provitamin A, which comes from fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin A also helps us form new tissues, which is why it’s so essential for growing healthy skin and hair. Hair is the fastest growing tissue in the body, and some research suggests that vitamin A deficiency can lead to hair loss. Not only that, but the nutrient also helps with sebum (or oil) production on the scalp, which keeps the follicles moist so hair can grow in thick and healthy.
And just as it’s required in the development of new strands, vitamin A is also needed for the creation and repair of skin cells. Just as well, research suggests that vitamin A may work to fight the inflammation associated with chronic skin conditions like eczema. Several studies have shown that treatment with alitretinoin, a prescription medication containing vitamin A, is an effective treatment for dry, flaky skin characteristic of eczema. In fact, one 12-week study found that treatment with the drug resulted in a 53 percent reduction in eczema symptoms in subjects. Pretty impressive!
Vitamin A and Vision Loss
Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for eye health, too. It’s found in the mucous membranes on the surface of the eye, and it helps protect the cornea from bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A is also involved in helping us see in low light.
Eye problems like dry eyes and night blindness have been associated with a vitamin A deficiency. What’s more, some research suggests that a diet low in this nutrient may lead to macular degeneration, or age-related vision loss.
Other Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
If you suspect that you might be lacking enough vitamin A, look out for other signs of deficiency including acne and other inflammatory skin conditions, slow wound healing, and frequent chest or throat infections. If you suspect that you might be deficient, talk to your doctor immediately.
How Much Vitamin A Do You Need?
If you think you might be deficient, ask yourself how much vitamin A you’re actually consuming. The recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin A is 700 micrograms (mcg) for adult women (900 mcg for adult men). For reference, a whole baked sweet potato contains 1,403 mcg of vitamin A, while a three-ounce serving of beef liver (organ meats are super high in the nutrient) contains a whopping 6,582 mcg. Other foods high in vitamin A include carrots, red peppers, spinach, and pumpkin. You can check out their daily values, and other foods high in vitamin A, here.
The best way to increase your levels of vitamin A is by adding the above mentioned foods to your diet, as it’s generally not recommended that you take it as a supplement. Supplementing with too much vitamin A has actually been associated with dizziness, nausea, mouth ulcers, bone thinning, liver damage, and a condition called hypervitaminosis A, or vitamin A toxicity.
All in all, vitamin A is an essential nutrient that we need to consume for healthy aging. If you’re doing your best to preserve your vision, improve the quality of your skin, and fight hair loss, increasing your intake can aid you along the way!