Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Along with fighting free radicals, the body needs vitamin A for immune system health. Without it, the body has a harder time fighting off infections and disease. Keep reading to find out how vitamin A to boost immune system health!
Why Take Vitamin A for Immune System Support?
Can vitamin A boost immune system health? Probably. It’s well known that vitamin A deficiency makes it harder for the body to fight off infections. But medical experts still aren’t sure how this vitamin affects the immune system.
The surprising thing about vitamin A is that it can have both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory properties. Research shows the confusing role that vitamin A plays in immune function.
On the one hand, vitamin A increases the production of regulatory T cells, which can dampen the immune response. On the other hand, vitamin A deficiency can increase the risk of death from lung and gastrointestinal infections. Vitamin A has also been shown to trigger an inflammatory response to fight off infection.
Too much vitamin A can turn off your body’s trained immunity. However, low levels of this vitamin make you just as vulnerable to infection. Getting just enough of this vitamin is key to immune system health.
How Else Does Vitamin A Affect the Body?
Along with immune system health, vitamin A plays an important role in other body functions, including:
The body needs vitamin A to maintain vision. When levels are too low, vitamin A can cause visual issues. Retinal, a type of vitamin A, works with a special protein called opsin. Together, they create a light-absorbing molecule called rhodopsin. Rhodopsin plays an important role in your ability to see colors and in low-light situations.
Retinoic acid, a type of vitamin A, keeps skin healthy. It works by aiding in skin cell development.
Some forms of vitamin A are used to treat acne. They work by shrinking sebaceous glands and their ability to secrete oil.
What Happens When Vitamin A Levels are Too Low?
Vitamin A deficiency can cause a number of issues – some more serious than others. Signs and symptoms of low Vitamin A include:
More Frequent Infections
Frequent throat and chest infections may be a sign of vitamin A deficiency. One study involving elderly people found that high levels of vitamin A protected against respiratory infection.
Another study in Ecuador found that vitamin A supplements reduced the number of respiratory infections in underweight children.
Eye problems are common when vitamin A levels are too low. When deficiencies are extreme, it can cause complete blindness. Dry eyes are more common when vitamin A levels are low.
One study found that vitamin A supplements reduced dry eyes by 63% in infants and children with true deficiencies. These results were achieved after 16 months of supplementation.
Vitamin A plays an important role in creating and repairing skin cells. It also fights inflammation caused by certain skin conditions.
Low levels of this vitamin can cause eczema and other skin issues. Vitamin A is now used in the treatment of eczema. In one study, people with chronic eczema took up to 40 mg of alitretinoin (a medication with vitamin A). Those taking the drug saw up to a 53% reduction in symptoms.
Low levels of vitamin A can cause fertility problems. One study found that women with recurrent miscarriages also had low levels of vitamin A.
Rat studies show that females with low vitamin A levels had trouble getting pregnant.
In extreme cases, vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness. Night blindness is a common problem in developing countries where diets are lacking vitamin A.
One study found that vitamin A supplements improved night blindness by 50% over a six-week period.
How Much Vitamin A Do You Need?
The amount of vitamin A you need depends on your age. Daily recommended amounts are as follows:
- 0-6 months of age: 400 mcg for males and females
- 7-12 months of age: 500 mcg for males and females
- 1-3 years of age: 300 mcg for males and females
- 4-8 years of age: 400 mcg for males and females
- 9-13 years of age: 600 mcg for males and females
- 14-51+ years of age: 900 mcg for males and 700 mcg for females
- Pregnant women: 750-770 mcg
- Lactating women: 1,200-1,300 mcg
Sources of Vitamin A
Many foods are naturally rich in vitamin A and other immune-boosting vitamins, including:
- Fortified cereals
Other foods that also contain vitamin A and are the best to boost the immune system include:
- Sweet potato
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so dietary fat is needed to absorb it. Supplements can also help you maintain healthy vitamin A levels.
It’s important to make sure that you get enough vitamin A through your diet or by taking supplements. Healthy vitamin A levels can help prevent infections, protect your vision, and keep your skin looking its best.