Vitamin A deficiency

November 30, 2008

Carrots?

Nooooooooo!

That’s me as a kid. I liked the color of a carrot and I could choose for a frock. But I would never eat carrots but discard them in my lunch box. A girl with glowing skin told me she mostly survived on salads (mostly carrot salads) as her mother hardly cooked at home. I went crazy over these orange tubers. I would sleep and dream only carrots.

If you do not eat sufficient amount of beta-carotene over the time you end up with vitamin A deficiency, ie., low levels of blood-serum vitamin A. Your body needs regular amounts of beta-carotene to convert it into Vitamin A. We associate carrot to health mainly due to its beta-carotene content. Beta-carotene forms into Vitamin A which is essential for good eye sight and its deficiency is believed to be a cause of night blindness. Night blindness is generally the first symptom of Vitamin A deficiency. Chronic failure to consume enough beta-carotene may lead to permanent loss of vision.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin present in foods like eggs, milk, butter, liver, and fish like herring, sardines and tuna. Though vegetables do not contain Vitamin A, they contain pre-vitamin A, beta-carotene. Orange, green and yellow vegetables are valuable sources of beta-carotene. That is one of the major reasons why doctors recommend eating vegetables like carrots, broccoli and spinach.

Why do you need Vitamin A?

Vitamin A plays a major role in enabling you to see in the night. Vitamin A, alias retinol occur in the rods and cones of the eyes. These are the light-sensitive parts of the eye containing Vitamin A as a component allowing vision in the night or during occasions when there is dim-light. Other than the eye, the human body also needs Vitamin A for its function. The body uses a form of Vitamin A called retinoic acid to regulate the development of tissues. Even the fertilized eggs need vitamin A to develop into a fetus. Hence drinking carrot juice is found to be beneficial for prenatal health as well as that of he mother.An anti-infective vitamin, we need Vitamin A for the proper function of the immune system as well. In all, you require vitamin A for cell growth, healthy tissues, healthy skin and hair. But excess vitamin A or its deficiency can cause birth defects.

Prolonged Vitamin deficiency causes the conjunctiva to dry. The dryness spreads to the cornea making it shriveled and ulcerated. Irreversible blindness may cause as a result of inflammation and infection of the inner eye. Vitamin A deficiency can be prevented by taking enough beta-carotene foods and by ingesting or injecting vitamin supplements. There is also vitamin A therapy to correct Xerophthalamia. However, at the last stage, ulcerations, tissue death and total blindness cannot be corrected.

To prevent this, eat a diet rich in nutrients especially foods like meat, eggs and dairy products. Do not discard carrots, dark-green vegetables or pumpkins at any cost.

-Aparna K V

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