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Vitamin A is important for growth, the function and formation of skin and mucous membranes, for blood cells, metabolism as well as for vision. The processing of this vitamin in the body can be impaired by liver damage and taking oestrogen compounds. Recent studies show that, contrary to assumption, vitamin A can be absorbed and used by the body even through minimal amounts of fat in food.

Function & Details

In humans, Retinal, Retinol, Retinoic acids and Retinyl palmitate count as vitamin A. Retinol maintains healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nerve pathways, in the brain and in the spinal cord. Furthermore, Retinol crucially promotes the formation of new red blood cells and facilitates the incorporation of iron. It plays a part in protein synthesis and fat metabolism in the liver, so that protein-rich food may lead to vitamin A deficiency. In case of high stress levels, the need for vitamin A also increases as stress increases the need for protein. This means that the need for Retinol also increases in case of serious illness such as arthritis, AIDS or cancer.

Vitamin A plays a central role for the structure and health of the tissue, as it ensures normal cell growth not just in the skin, but also in the septums of the airways, digestive and urinary passages. It also prevents DNA-damage in skin cells, promotes their repair and normalises skin functions, such as healthy cell division of the epidermis. Vitamin A also plays a role in the formation and growth of bone, as well as healing after fractures. A sufficient supply of vitamin A is therefore important, particularly in children.

The vitamin-A-acid (All-trans-retinoic acid) or its salt is an important growth factor for nerve cells during embryonic development. Retinol plays a role in the synthesis of testosterone and oestrogen. Furthermore, the quantity and shape of the sperms is dependent on optimal supply of vitamin A.

Through the effect on the human mucous membranes, vitamin A it is also important for maintaining the structure and function of the spermatic duct and fallopian tube. In women, infertility and miscarriages are often associated with a deficiency of retinol. Retinol boosts the resistance to infections. Furthermore, retinol and beta-carotene boost the efficiency and number of white blood cells, additionally facilitating the production of antibodies. Long cooking times, oxygen and light harm vitamin A. That's why food containing vitamin A should always be stored unpeeled or packaged and away from direct light.

Cooking losses are between 10 and 30 percent. The body can barely break down excess vitamin A, which is why it easily accumulates in the body, in particular in the liver.

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The Function section & Details of this article are based on the article Vitamin A from the free encyclopaedia Wikipedia and is under the GNU-license for free documentation. In the Wikipedia, a list of authors can be found.