Admittedly, Vitamin A is a bit player in our body’s antioxidant defense system. (antioxidant review). Vitamins C & E are like Jordan and Pippen. Vitamin A? More like Bill Cartwright. Or, if you prefer, Jerry and Elaine compared to Newman.
Nevertheless, Vitamin A does play an important role as an antioxidant. Vitamin A is our best protection against a harmful substance called singlet oxygen. Singlet oxygen is not a true free radical but plays an important role in the damaging domino effect of free radicals. Vitamin A effectiveness against singlet oxygen makes its role as an antioxidant vital.
As discussed on Monday, plant sources of Vitamin A need conversion to active forms the body uses. Our body naturally converts the plant sources until it has enough, then stops. Unconverted Vitamin A (primarily beta carotene) produces the most potent antioxidant activity.
Word of warning
Some recent studies have concluded Vitamin A can actually act as a pro-oxidant (the opposite of antioxidant) and increased the risk of lung cancer. Those studies were done on current or former smokers using synthetic beta carotene. A study on healthy individuals did not show any increased risk of lung cancer.
The take away message from these studies is to exercise caution if taking high doses of synthetic Vitamin A if you may be at increased risk for lung cancer. Consult your physician to be sure.
Vitamin A summary
On Monday we gave Vitamin A its moment in the spotlight. And we learned just how important it is for several biological functions; including eyesight, growth, and immunity. Today we learned that while it doesn’t lead the charge in our antioxidant defense system, it fills an important role.
Vitamin A truly is Awesome!
As a bow on top, check out this article from Fooducate.com The 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Vitamin A (and Polar Bears).