Vitamin A was discovered in 1913 and is the first fat-soluble vitamin discovered. It is most often found in food in the form of retinol.
Retinol is found exclusively in foods of animal origin, but some types of fruit and vegetables contain phytonutrients called carotenoids, which our body converts into vitamin A as needed. The best-known such carotenoid is beta-carotene, also called provitamin A.
Important roles of vitamin A in the body:
preservation of eye health (participates in the synthesis of photopigment, which plays a key role in the eye’s adaptation to light),
- immunological function (lack of vitamin A weakens the immune system, which makes us more susceptible to various infections),
- supports cell development (necessary for proper growth and development of all cells),
- reproductive function (necessary for the proper development of the embryo in the uterus).
Foods rich in vitamin A are liver (beef, goose, lamb), milk and milk products (mainly butter and fatty cheeses), fish oil and fatty fish (tuna, salmon), eggs, yellow/orange fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, melon, apricot, peach), dark green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, spinach), tomatoes.
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are hair loss, various skin diseases, dry eyes, poor nail growth, impaired night vision, and increased susceptibility to infections.
The risk group for vitamin A deficiency is vegans and vegetarians since retinol is only found in foods of animal origin. Regardless of the fact that provitamin A is found in many fruits and vegetables, not all of it can be converted into an active form, i.e. retinol.
Most people can get the daily recommended dose of vitamin A through food, and vegans, vegetarians, and people diagnosed with a deficiency are advised to take vitamin A in the form of a dietary supplement.
Since the vitamin is fat-soluble, it is recommended to take it together with a source of fat (butter, olive oil…).