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 Why Beta Carotene is the
Best Source of Vitamin A

Carotenoids such as Beta Carotene are molecules that are converted to Vitamin A easily by the body. Most health professionals will recommend beta carotene be used as the main source of Vitamin A consumed even though the term used on nutrition labels is a recommended amount of Vitamin A. Beta carotene and other carotenoids are mainly found in vegetables and fruits that contain a variety other minerals and vitamins in addition to having a low fat content. Beta carotene is converted into Vitamin A once the small intestines absorb it. Vitamin A in its final form is mainly found in eggs and butter. in most situations, getting the recommended amount of Vitamin A in its final form would require also eating large amounts of saturated fats.

A large number of metabolic functions require Vitamin A in the same way that other vitamins are required. The role vitamin A plays in vision, especially dim-light vision,  is one of the unique functions of the vitamin. The leading cause of blindness in children in third world countries where vegetables and fruits are not easily obtained is a deficiency of Vitamin A. This type of blindness can easily be prevented since it is relatively cheap to produce beta carotene.

Normal cell division and cell growth also require Vitamin A that is converted from Beta Carotene. Vitamin A has to be present for DNA replication to properly function; this means that the first Vitamin A deficiency signs are often present in rapidly dividing cells. Brittle hair, poor skin quality and nausea resulting from stomach lining problems are all symptoms associated with a Vitamin A deficiency. The development of teeth and bone also require Vitamin A. The abnormal growth of extremities can occur when the levels of Vitamin A are not adequate during a child´s early years when growth occurs.

Vitamin A also has the important function of being an antioxidant in the body. The body blocks harmful chemical reactions with the molecules known as antioxidants. Free radicals interfere with DNA replication which is one of many harmful reactions. Free radicals are prevented from disrupting the division of cells by Vitamin A and other antioxidants binding with them. Plaque formation by cholesterol is another important action blocked by Vitamin A and antioxidants. Blood flow is restricted when the binding of cholesterol forms plaques in the blood stream that attach to the artery wall. Cholesterol is prevented from binding together and attaching to artery walls by Vitamin A and other antioxidants.

Vitamin A is a required nutrient, but can be consumed in either its final form, or in a precursor form such as Beta Carotene.  The most important reason to consume Beta Carotene rather than Vitamin A directly are the other things that come along with them.  Beta Carotene is found in fruits and vegetables that also contain many other nutrients, especially other vitamins and minerals. The final form of Vitamin A is found in foods that are usually also high in bad saturated fats.  While either form will prevent a deficiency of Vitamin A, foods high in Beta Carotene will also provide other useful health benefits.

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