In order to tell you what vitamin A is, I have to explain what a vitamin is. Vitamins are chemicals that the body needs in order to process foods, keep energy – pretty much all life process. Vitamin deficiencies can result in diseases and/or other, not-so-normal conditions. However, vitamins are not minerals, mineral salts, fats, or carbohydrates – no, vitamins are something much deeper, but their exact purpose is not quite understood yet. A diet must include all the important vitamins, that is to say, all of them, in order for the body to live healthy and happy. Without certain vitamins, we would certainly die.
Vitamin A is named Vitamin A because it was the first vitamin to be found by scientists. The original term in 1913 was “fat soluble A” (but later, as research showed what it really was, the name changed to “Vitamin A” in 1930). It is a name for a bunch of related compounds (retinoic acid, retinal, and retinol) that perform certain functions in the body. Since we cannot make our own Vitamin A, we have to include it in our diets in order to develop and function properly.
The more technical side of Vitamin A, the chemical compound, is made of carbon atoms, hydrogen, and one or more oxygen molecules. The more visible side, however, shows us that we need to get Vitamin A from either animals by way of products (milk and eggs, maybe some liver) or through enriched foods, such as Vitamin A fortified cereal and margarine. Plants do not contain real Vitamin A, although they do carry Vitamina A carotenoids – like beta-carotene, which our bodies can make into Vitamina A through a conversion process. Some examples of vegetables and fruits that have carotenoids are spinach, red bell pepper, papaya, apricot, romaine lettuce, sweet potato, carrot, mango, tomato, and broccoli – there are many more to list.
Vitamin A is very important for the normal functioning of our bodies for everyday life. I won’t go into too much detail, but our eyes use Vitamin A alongside a protein named ‘rhodopsin’ to be able to see. Through the process of seeing the light bouncing off of objects, and our retinas trasnferring the images back to our brains, Vitamin A plays an important role for us to see.
Vitamin A makes a profound difference on the growth of cells in our bodies. Vitamin A is responsible (partly, at least) for the forming of healthy cells that cover surfaces in the body, inside and out, including skin, lining on the cornea of the eye (mucus membrane) and the lining on the gastrointestinal tract. Maintenance on these cells (meaning, keeping up on the intake of Vitamin A so that the Vitamin can do its job) helps to protect the body from invasive microorganisms – by providing a barrier.
Vitamina A is also very helpful in other bodily functions and the development of fetuses, too. So now that you know about Vitamin A, and how easy it is to obtain this wonderful device that helps to fight against illness, you should go grab yourself a carrot.