It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 malnourished children worldwide become blind each year due to a vitamin A deficiency that could have been prevented by a proper diet. It is still the number one cause of blindness worldwide. Although severe vitamin A deficiency is rare within the United States it is still seen in affluent communities in varying degrees. Most of us could certainly benefit greatly from adding more of it either through Vitamin A rich foods, or through supplementation.
Vitamin A is a group of antioxidant compounds that play a vital role in our vision, skin health, bone growth, and in the health of our immune system. It is our anti-infection vitamin, along with the help of zinc. It presents in two types, depending on the source, be it from animal derived foods (retinol), or from colorful fruits and vegetables (provitamin A carotenoids) which are converted to Retinol by the body after consumption.
Vitamin A in the form of Retinol is a critical component in the formation of the protein Rhodopsin, which is what absorbs light in the retinal receptors of our eyes which helps us see at night. If we are exposed to excessive light at night, it requires more Vitamin A. So if you are driving at night with bright lights shining at you, this would be the case. Night blindness is usually the first sign of Vitamin A deficiency. A lack of vitamin A can also cause dry eye syndrome, which is why many eye drops contain vitamin A. Some studies have even shown that taking Vitamin A supplements in certain amounts can reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Vitamin A is an important factor in the formation and repair of epithelial cells, of which skin and mucous membranes are composed. It can help prevent skin disorders such as acne and other inflammatory skin disorders. It is also known to slow down the aging process. Applied topically as Tretinoin, (the main ingredient in Retin-A and Renova) it reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and helps to fade age spots.
By forming and repairing the mucous membranes throughout our body including the lining of the bladder and uterus, Vitamin A helps to strengthen our immunity against viruses and bacteria. If you are having a lot of mucous drainage or coughing, you will also lose more Vitamin A and require more of it to replenish this loss. It is a powerful antioxidant, which means that it seeks out and destroys free radicals in the body, thereby helping to prevent cancer and other diseases.
As humans, we cannot produce Vitamin A in any form in our bodies. It has to come from food or supplements. It is vital that we pay closer attention to whether or not we are getting sufficient amounts of Vitamin A and other essential vitamins and minerals that will aid in a healthier life.
Great sources of Vitamin A include:
Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Kale, Squash, Romaine lettuce, Apricots, Cantaloupe, Red peppers, Mangoes, etc.
By: Katherine Wallace
Between the years 1500-1800 over two million sailors died of a disease called Scurvy that could have been cured by the juice of a lemon. Scurvy is caused by a severe and chronic Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) deficiency. According to Professor Kenneth J. Carpenter, “If we exclude straight forward famine, scurvy is probably the nutritional deficiency disease that caused the most suffering in recorded history.”
It is important to note that none of the different vitamins, including Vitamin C can work alone. It takes the support of other vitamins and minerals, working together for them to be effective. Most people think of taking Vitamin C when they’ve got a cold or the flu. But it is actually highly debated as a treatment for the common cold. Here’s the low down. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is required for at least 300 metabolic functions in the body including but certainly not limited to tissue growth, proper bone maintenance, wound healing, healthy skin, vascular health, adrenal gland function, and healthy gums.
It is vital in the formation of collagen, which is a protein that is necessary for laying down the initial new bone matrix, and then requires Vitamin D, Phosphorus, and Calcium to solidify the process. It is also vital for the strengthening of blood vessels and for giving skin its elasticity and strength.
As an antioxidant, it acts as a weapon against a whole host of free radicals in the body, making it a prime cancer-fighting ingredient. It is also imperative for proper iron absorption in red blood cells.
Also, Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine. Whereas things like Benedryl and it’s cousins may inhibit histamines after their formation, Vitamin C actually prevents the formation of histamines.
James Lind, a Scottish physician in the mid 1700s finally connected citrus fruits with Scurvy by conducting what is considered the first really scientific medical experiment in history, and then successfully used it as a treatment and prevention.
In 1799, British Royal Navy began to require a daily ration of Citrus juices to each of its sailors. And when the sailors in the British navy stopped dying of Scurvy, it put them at a distinct military advantage over their adversaries, making them a serious military naval power. In 1928 Vitamin C itself was discovered and isolated by Albert Szent-Gyoergyi as the sub stance in citrus fruits that cured Scurvy.
Despite the proof that there was something in the juice of a lemon that was keeping people from getting sick, they still managed many different times to ignore this, and then wondered why it kept happening. This is something that we still do today. For some reason we continue to ignore and deny the importance of the things that we put in our body.
They’ll tell you that Scurvy has pretty much become obsolete, but has it really? Perhaps full on Scurvy has, but the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency are still rampant in our society. Heart disease, bone and skin disorders, cancer… The list goes on. It is not just a good idea for us to get sufficient amounts of Vitamin C, it is absolutely critical.
By: Katherine Wallace
1. James Lind. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from
2. Appleton Associates Ltd.(2007-2012). The Vitamin C Story. Retrieved
3. Carpenter, Kenneth. J. (1986). The History of Scurvy and Vitamin C.
Retrieved from jn.nutrition.org
4. Vitamin C. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 20, 2014, from http:/