Vitamin A and the Carotenoids

Vitamin A
Vitamin A prevents night blindness and other eye problems, as well as some skin disorders, such as acne. It enhances immunity, may help to heal gastrointestinal ulcers, and is needed for the maintenance and repair of epithelial tissue, of which the skin and mucous membranes are composed.

It is important in the formation of bones and teeth, aids in fat storage, and protects against colds, flu, and infections of the kidneys, bladder, lungs, and mucous membranes. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect the cells against cancer and other diseases and is necessary for new cell growth. It guards against heart disease and stroke, and lowers cholesterol levels. People receiving radiation treatment for cervical cancer, prostate cancer, or colorectal cancer have benefited from taking oral vitamin A.

This important vitamin also slows the aging process. The body cannot utilize protein without vitamin A. Vitamin A is a well-known wrinkle eliminator.

A deficiency of vitamin A can cause dry hair and/or skin, dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea, poor growth, and/or night blindness. Other possible results of vitamin A deficiency include abscesses in the ears; insomnia; fatigue; reproductive difficulties; sinusitis, pneumonia, and frequent colds and other respiratory infections; skin disorders, including acne; and weight loss.

Carotenoids
The carotenoids are a class of compounds related to vitamin A. In some cases, they can act as precursors of vitamin A; some act as antioxidants or have other important functions. The best-known subclass of the carotenoids is the carotenes, of which beta-carotene is the most widely known. Also included in this group are alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, and lycopene. When food or supplements containing beta-carotene are consumed, the beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the liver.

Other types of carotenoids that have been identified are the xanthophylls (including beta-cryptoxanthin, canthazanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin); the limonoids (including limonene); and the phytosterols (including perillyl alcohol). Evidence suggests that greater consumption of lutein reduces the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and that taking lutein supplements can slow the progress of these disorders.

High lutein consumption has also been reported to decrease the incidence of prostate cancer.

Science has not yet discovered all of the carotenoids, although once source documents six hundred different carotenoids identified so far. Combinations of carotenoids have been shown to be more beneficial than individual carotenoids taken alone.

Source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing 5th Edition



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