Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Significant Functions of Vitamin A

Vitamin A, also referred to as retinol, is an essential nutrient required in a small quantity in order to ensure normal and healthy functioning of different bodily systems including vision, growth and development, safeguarding of epithelial cellular integrity, improved immune function, and reproduction. Essentially, the functions of vitamin A in the human body system can be categorized under two distinct segments – (1) vision and (2) rest of the body. In this article, we will shade light on these segments in order to find out the significant functions of vitamin A in human body.

Maintenance of Visual Cycle

The maintenance of visual cycle within the retina located in the eye is one of the most significant functions of vitamin A. Vitamin A is carried to the ocular tissue as well as to the retina. The production of the visual pigmentation, known as rhodopsin, is greatly influenced in the presence of vitamin A. In fact, the absence of vitamin A obstructs the photochemical reactions responsible for seeing objects in the dim light, hence causing night-blindness. In fact, night-blindness indicates there is strong deficiency in vitamin A supply in the system.

Integration of Epithelial Cells

The growth and development of epithelial cells through the body is strongly influenced by the presence of vitamin A. Without the presence of vitamin A, the growth and development of epithelial cells is highly disrupted. This is one of the most critical functions of vitamin A. When vitamin A deficiency (VAD) occurs, it leads to the reduction of goblet cells production in the epithelial tissues, resulting in a decrease in mucous secretion. Both the decreased level of mucous secretion and inadequate cellular integrity leads the body to become vulnerable towards different pathogenic health conditions.

Deficiency of Vitamin A

Since too many overlapping conditions are possible, the diagnosis of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is difficult. However, the significance of different functions of vitamin A is unquestionable. As defined by World Health Organization, VAD may be associated with irreversible blindness, poor reproductive health, vulnerability to anemia, slow bodily growth and development, and non-specific symptoms contributing to high rate of mortality. However, it is very difficult to identify whether there is any deficiency caused by vitamin A only, since all of these symptoms may be associated with other inherent problems as well.

As we can understand from the above discussion that vitamin A plays a significant role in human health system. So, it is better to consider a diet rich with valuable nutrients in order to keep various health complications at bay.

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