How Vitamin A fights aging


Powerful protection against heart disease, cancer, infection, and vision loss is as close as your grocery store’s produce department. A generous helping of deep orange or dark green vegetables and fruits every other day provides high levels of vitamin A and beta carotene, two important weapons in your anti aging arsenal.

Picture, if you will, a city under siege. The bombardment is constant, and it seems that at any moment, the invaders will rush in and destroy everything the cities residents have spent a lifetime building and nurturing. The only hope is the tireless warriors protecting the city walls.

If this sounds dramatic, it’s actually a fairly accurate metaphor for a battle researchers believe takes place every day in your body. Fortunately, the body has at its disposal a large, highly skilled defense force collectively known as antioxidants.

One of battalions in the force of free radical fighters is the carotenoids, which occur naturally in such foods as broccoli, cantaloupe, and spinach.


Beta-carotene is among the fiercest carotenoids. Working together, beta-carotene and vitamin A boost immunity to form a protective shield against free radicals and the diseases they cause.

Beta carotene is particularly good at quenching a type of free radical called singlet oxygen.

Needless to say, it’s important to keep your troops reinforced. But like many people, you may not get as much as you need of either of these front-line fighters.

So, if a little vitamin A is good for you, then a lot more must be better, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your body must have this fat-soluble vitamin for a host of critical functions. Vitamin A plays an important role in vision, fighting infection and bacteria, maintaining your skin and body lining, bone and body growth, reproduction and normal cell development. Several foods, such as liver, sweet potatoes, and carrots, are extraordinarily rich in vitamin A.

Its plant source, beta-carotene, is of a group of acknowledged antioxidants that fight heart disease, cancer, memory loss, rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory distress syndromes, liver disease, age-related eye disease, Parkinson’s disease, and complications of diabetes.

Studies have shown that this essential vitamin can be harmful – and in rare cases, fatal – in large doses. In a recent studies, mega dose supplements of vitamin A did nothing to help prevent heart disease and might even have caused cancer.

Large doses increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers and those exposed to radiation so much that the National Cancer Institute shut down a vitamin A/ beta-carotene supplementation study almost two years early because a troubling number of participants had died.




They might not have understood the reason, but ancient Egyptians saw the results of treating vision problems with vitamin A. For night blindness and other eye disorders, Egyptian doctors prescribed eating liver or applying juice squeezed from cooked liver to the eyes..

Nowhere is the need for vitamin A more dramatically displayed than in our vision. Half a million children worldwide go blind every year because they don’t get enough vitamin A. This deficiency also contributes to age-related degeneration and cataracts.

Want to know your eyes can’t do without vitamin A? The vitamin is actually in your light-sensitive eye pigments. When light hits the retina, it bleaches the pigment. The vitamin A breaks away from the pigment. That sends a signal to your brain’s optic center, registering the sensation of sight. The vitamin then reconnects with the pigment.

This process occurs continually when your eyes are open. Naturally, a little bit of vitamin A is destroyed every time it happens, so your blood has to deliver a fresh supply.


The master gland of the immune system, the thymus, also gets a boost from vitamin A. In a trail in Indonesia, preschool children received one megados vitamin A two weeks before getting tetanus vaccination. Three weeks after the shot, the children given vitamin A supplement had a significantly higher level of protection than children taking placebo.



While many experts take a dim view of supplementing your diet with vitamin A and beta-carotene, it’s a well known fact that a diet high in fruits and vegetables – especially when they’re eaten raw – gives a hedge against several kinds of cancer.

In fact, I could bore you to tears by discussing the number of studies proving the cancer fighting powers of vitamin A and beta carotene. Let me just say an incredible amount of research has shown that lacking these powerful nutrient can put you at risk of cancer of the lung, breast, uterus, prostate, stomach, mouth, esophagus, head and neck, as well as leukemia.

One study even suggested that vitamin A and beta carotene, along with vitamin E and C, may reverse some cancer cells to a normal state.


Eating food rich in beta carotene may be a powerful weapon in the fight against heart disease. That’s because beta carotene is an efficient scavenger of free radicals.

In one study, a large group of doctors with heart trouble took 50 mg of beta carotene every other day. Compared with other men who took nothing, they had almost half the number of heart attacks and strokes. It did take two years of taking supplements before they saw any positive results.


You may be more concerned about losing your memory and mental faculties than you are about your physical health. Recent research shows that eating a diet with even a modest amount of beta carotene may help keep your brain power up.



The effect of human growth hormone on aging is big news in certain circles, so you may be interested in this study. Researchers in France looked at slowly growing children with delayed bone age.

These children secreted low levels of growth hormone (which you only produce during deep sleep), and their diets were significantly low in vitamin A and beta carotene. The children took vitamin A supplements for three months, and for nine out of 12 children, their growth hormone levels increased between 28 percent and 219 percent.


The amount of vitamin A you need varies depending on your weight, age, and sex. A man needs a daily average of about 1,000 RE (retinol equivalents). A woman’s need is about 800 RE. On supplement bottles, you may see vitamin A amounts expressed in IUs (international units). The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for a man is approximately 5,000 IU and, for a woman, approximately 4,000 IU.

Since vitamin A is stored in the body, though, this RDA is truly an average. You don’t have to get the vitamin on a daily basis.


It is virtually impossible to get too much of vitamin A from your diet unless you are a liver fanatic. Animals store much of their vitamin A in that vital organ so you have to be careful not to eat too much of it, according to research. So if a sizzling plateful of liver and onions is your idea of heaven, try to limit yourself to a weekly treat.

A good way to get vitamin A naturally is to choose deep orange or dark green fruits and vegetables, like winter squash, cantaloupe, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, and apricots. Try to eat them at least every other day to get a heathy level of beta carotene and vitamin A. Liver, cheese, butter, cream, eggs, and fortified milk also are good sources.



With the serious risks associated with vitamin A overdose the medical community almost unanimously recommends against vitamin A supplements, and certainly not any in excess of the Recommended Dietary Allowances.

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