Retinols, beta carotenes and carotenoids are the three forms of vitamin A which was the very first vitamin to be discovered as suggested by its name. Most people know that carrots contain vitamin A and compounds that are beneficial to vision. What most people don’t know is that the form of the vitamin that is in carrots is beta carotene which actually is a precursor to vitamin A and requires conversion to the active form, retinol. Vitamin A plays an important role on the immune system because it stimulates the making of white blood cells (WBC) and what they do. It also helps in the maintenance of our endothelial cells and partakes in our ability to rebuild bone. Vitamin A also regulates how our cells grow and divide.
It is important to note because of the importance and many uses of this fat soluble vitamin, many juices, breakfast cereals and dairy products are fortified with Vitamin A. As mentioned above carrots, in addition other orange, yellow and dark leafy vegetables have this vitamin in them as well. Because vitamin A is fat soluble, it dissolves in oil so it accumulates in our fat cells; water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C in contrast does not. This is because water soluble vitamins excesses are excreted since they dissolve in water.
Vitamin A and other fat soluble vitamins can be toxic since they tend to stay in our bodies for a longer period of time so their use should be monitored that way overdosing is avoided; daily intake is not necessary but adequate levels must be maintained by consistently ingesting well balanced meals. Signs/symptoms to look out for vitamin A toxicity which occurs with prolonged overdosing of the nutrient are nausea, vomiting, weight loss (which may lead to anorexia) due to pain in the GI tract, drying, scaling, cracking and bleeding of the mouth and scalp problems such as hair loss and itching. More serious reasons why overdosing of Vitamin A should be avoided is because toxicity of it may cause enlargement of the spleen and/or liver, amenorrhea, and transient hydrocephalus. For this reason, multivitamins are ill-advised for healthy individuals who are knowledgeable about their health and ensure they meet their needs with diet. For example, a healthy person who eats well and takes good care of him/herself does not have a need for a multivitamin because they run the risk of overdosing on fat soluble vitamins that they’re already meeting the requirement of. Multivitamins should be recommended to those who need to supplement their vitamin intake if they are not getting the proper amounts from their diet. If they’re deficient in a certain nutrient, more emphasis should be placed on that particular one when selecting a multivitamin.