Vitamin A is the generic term for a group of fat-soluble compounds found in both animal and plant foods. Vitamin A as a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored in body for later use, most of the vitamin A in your body is kept in your liver in the form of retinyl esters.

Vitamin A Main Health benefits: 

  • Support reproduction system 
  • Supports fetal development 
  • It is involved in the normal functioning of the immune system 
  • It is needed for eye health 
  • Supports vision 
  • It is needed for cell growth 

Vitamin A deficiency in South Africa and Africa.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. It increases the severity and risk of dying from infections like measles and diarrhoea which are common infections affecting children under 5 years old.  In South Africa there is a Vitamin A supplementation program that was initiated for children under 5 years to help combat this problem of vitamin A deficiency

For adult’s vitamin A deficiency raises the risk of anaemia and death in pregnant women and negatively impacts the foetus by slowing growth and development. Vitamin A deficiency in adults can cause night blindness which is not a common condition. 

Taking in too much vitamin A can for longer periods is associated with adverse effects, especially during pregnancy and in the elderly

How do I know if I have Vitamin A deficiency? 

  • Adults – too little vitamin A can lead to inflamed skin, night blindness, infertility, delayed growth, and respiratory infections.
  • People with wounds and acne may have lower blood levels of vitamin A and benefit from treatment with higher doses of the vitamin. 
  • Children – can cause severe visual impairment and blindness, and significantly increases the risk of severe illness, and even death, from such common childhood infections as diarrhoeal disease and measles
  • Pregnant women – in high-risk areas, vitamin A deficiency occurs especially during the last trimester when demand by both the unborn child and the mother is highest. The mother’s deficiency is demonstrated by the high prevalence of night blindness during this period. 

Sources of Vitamin A: 

  • Food sources: There are foods that are high in vitamin A especially in the red to deep orange vegetables and fruits such as butternut, pumpkin. Peaches, pawpaw, mangoes, carrots; ox/beef liver; dairy (milk and yoghurt) 
  • Vitamin A supplement: Since too much vitamin A can be harmful, consult with your doctor before taking vitamin A supplements. 
  • Vitamin A supplementation for children: Follow the immunization schedule for children 

Remember: to consult with your healthcare professional before taking at health or herbal supplement or medication. 

References available on request. 

Yours in health, 

Mbali 

Registered dietitian

xx

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