Vitamin A has many functions and is essential for the following bodily functions:
- cellular growth and development
- reproduction (key role in testicular and ovarian function)
- integrity of the immune system
- white blood cell production
- formation and maintenance of healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes
- cell division and differentiation
- promotion of bone growth
- teeth development
- promotion of normal epithelial cells
Beta-carotene, which is found in Vitamin A, functions as an antioxidant, having the ability to neutralise free radicals .
Deficiency signs of Vitamin A include development of night blindness, glare blindness, rough and dry skin, dry mucous membranes, loss of appetite, reduced immune system function, increased susceptibility to infections and slow growth.
The Vitamin A in supplements that is most commonly used is Vitamin A acetate and palmitate, but other forms will also be present. Beta-carotene and the other carotenoids are also used in supplements to provide Vitamin A activity. Both Vitamin A and beta-carotene are found in gel caps, capsules and tablets.
The primary goal for athletes is to maintain adequate intakes of preformed Vitamin A and the carotenoids from foods and supplement sources.