15 Important Vitamin A Or Retinol Benefits

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

Vitamin A is a very important nutrient and is also known by the name retinol. It helps in strengthening the body’s immunity to fight infections and keeps your eyes and skin moist. Retinol is very often associated with lower risks of cancers as well.

Vitamin A or retinol is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in ensuring healthy eyes and bone development. Its deficiency is the most common cause of blindness among children. It can prevent night blindness and dry eyes, while also ensuring clear vision.

Table of Contents

Important Sources of Vitamin A

Cod liver oil, cream, egg yolk, beef liver, cheddar cheese, fortified milk, and butter products are rich sources of vitamin A. Clare Gilbert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in her extensive research on vitamin A, suggests that yellow or orange-colored fruits and vegetables, like yellow maize, that contain the pigment carotene are also great sources. Be sure to include food items such as sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, spinach, mango, pumpkin, tomato, oatmeal, apricot, peach, peas, papaya, and collard greens in your daily diet to ensure a regular supply of vitamin A. [17]

Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms

The major deficiency symptoms of vitamin A include keratinization of the skin, night blindness, a burning sensation or itching in the eyes, inflammation of the eyelids, xerophthalmia (dryness of the conjunctiva), dull lusterless hair, dandruff, brittle nails that break easily, sexual disorders, and precancerous changes in the body tissues. A deficiency of this vitamin may also result in fatigue, insomnia, and depression. [18]

Health Benefits of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for a healthy body and it has many beneficial properties, including those listed below.

Strengthens Immunity

Vitamin A enhances the body’s immunity against infections by increasing the lymphocytic responses against disease-causing antigens. It keeps the mucous membranes moist to ensure better immunity and also enhances the activity of white blood cells. It not only prevents germs from entering your body but also helps fight the infections once the germs gain entry into the body, thereby ensuring double core protection. [19]

Improves Vision

Vitamin A can aid in improving vision. It enables your eyes to adjust to light changes, keeps them moist, and also improves night vision. It can prevent many conditions like dry eyes and night blindness by increasing the adaptability of the human eye to both bright light and darkness. Retinol helps in the formation of visual purple in the eyes, which can improve the eyes and ensure a healthy retina. It can also significantly cut down the risk of cataract and macular degeneration, which is commonly associated with aging. It is also thought to be beneficial for people suffering from glaucoma. [20]

Fresh carrot with leaves tied on a jar of carrot juice on a yellow background

Carrot juice packs a nutrient-rich punch. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Skin Care

Vitamin A helps keep your body free from free radicals and toxins, which might damage your skin. It helps keep the skin soft and supple by ensuring moisture retention, thereby preventing dryness, keratinization, and skin conditions like psoriasis.

Boosts Bone Health

The NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases – National Resource Center suggests that vitamin A strengthens bones and teeth. Vitamin A helps in the formation of dentin, a layer of hard material just below the surface of the teeth, thereby enhancing its strength. [21]

Prevents Urinary Stones

Vitamin A prevents the formation of urinary calculi due to the formation of calcium phosphate. It also helps keep the lining of the urinary tract in shape, thereby reducing the recurring chance of stones.

Promotes Muscle Growth

By keeping the bones healthy and retaining their shape, vitamin A plays an essential role in ensuring proper muscle growth in children and growing teens, thereby preventing the chances of developing muscular dystrophy.

Reduces Risk of Acne

Vitamin A helps cut down excess sebum production, thereby reducing the risk of acne. It also reinforces the protective tissues of the skin, thereby enhancing the overall health and vitality of the skin surface. It is also essential for the proper maintenance of the skin tissues and mucous membranes. It flushes out the toxins from your body and cleanses the system by virtue of its antioxidant properties. [22]

Anticancer Potential

Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, which can prevent certain forms of cancer.

According to a research conducted by the faculty of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka Medical Center, Israel, retinol, when synergized with carotenoids and vitamin D is found to have amazing potential in the inhibition of prostate and mammary cancer cell growth. [23]

An Italian university found that retinol is very useful in cancer and in its 2015 research, it says, “Natural and synthetic retinoids have been used as potential chemotherapeutic or chemopreventive agents because of their differentiation, antiproliferative, proapoptotic, and antioxidant effects.” [24]

Although retinol is helpful in cancer prevention,  a study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute shows that beta-carotene and retinol supplements can act strange and in turn increase your risk of lung cancer. [25]

As per the study in the Gynecologic Oncology journal, including foods containing vitamin A in your diet is linked to a lower risk of cervical cancer. [26]

Doctors are still waiting for more results but a 2014 study published in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology shows that dietary vitamin A exhibits the possibility of lowering your risk of bladder cancer. [27]

Evidence from 18 studies conducted on lung cancer cases mentions that beta-carotene and vitamin A can help in diminishing the chances of lung cancer. [28]

Repairs Tissues

Vitamin A plays an important role in replacing old and worn out tissues with new ones, as well as in keeping your bones and teeth strong.

Slows Aging

According to a study by the Department of Dermatology, University of Michigan Medical School, topical application of retinol has shown positive results in reversing aging. Vitamin A is famous for its wrinkle-eliminating properties, which can reduce age spots and fine lines. It can slow down the aging process by enhancing the overall health of the skin. [29]

Helps Lower the Risk of Measles

Deficiency of vitamin A may cause measles in children. According to a study conducted in 2002, vitamin A may help in reducing the chances of measles in children. Intake of foods rich in this vitamin helps relieve the fever and diarrhea caused by measles, thus helping protect your child from the virus. [30] [31]

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, thereby protecting you against the serious risks of heart diseases and strokes.

Protects the Reproductive System

This vitamin is widely known for aiding the health and functionality of the reproductive system.

Word of Caution: Vitamin A is required only in trace amounts and any excess quantity will be expelled by the body. Make sure to ensure a regular supply of the requisite quantity for best results. Its overdose can have detrimental symptoms such as blurred vision and nausea. Severe symptoms might include growth retardation, and an enlarged spleen and liver, among others.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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