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Vitamin A (Beta-carotene)
Recommended daily allowance: 5000 IU (international units)

Symptoms of deficiency: Night blindness, lack of tear secretion, poor bone growth, weak tooth enamel, susceptibility to respiratory infection.

Benefits: Helps eye disorders. Necessary for grown of bones and reproduction system. Builds body's immunity system. Helps treat acne and other skin problems when applied externally. Promotes healthy skin. May help arthritis.

Good food sources: Sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, leafy vegetables, broccoli, squash. Cautions: Consult doctor if you have: Cystic fibrosis, gout, diabetes, intestinal disease with diarrhea, kidney disease, liver disease, overactive thyroid function, disease of the pancreas. Don't take mega-doses if pregnant or breast-feeding.

Substance interactions: These medications decrease the absorption of vitamin A: Antacids, cholestyramine, colestipol, tobacco, excessive alcohol use. These increase the likelihood of vitamin-A toxicity: mineral oil, neomycin, sucralfate, isioretinoin. Anti-coagulants increases likelihood of spontaneous or hidden bleeding.

Signs of toxicity: Bleeding from gums or sore mouth. Confusion or agitation. Headache. Dry and peeling skin. Seizures and vomiting.

* Toxicity to vitamin A is not common, but a safer form of the vitamin is beta-carotene (water-soluble precursor of vitamin A). It offers better protection against cancer. Algae-derived vitamin A is also a safe alternative.

* Some beta-carotenes will turn the skin slightly orange. This is harmless and will fade as the beta-carotene level returns to normal.

* Combining vitamin A with vitamin D will help to promote healthy skin. Also may control premenstrual acne and oiliness.

* Both vitamin A and beta-carotene in large doses can damage the liver of a heavy drinker.

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