The Difference Between Water-Soluble & Fat-Soluble Vitamins

The Difference Between Water-Soluble & Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Not all vitamins are created equal. Although their roles in the body are important, some have much more crucial functions than others. Given this truth, all vitamins work interdependently to maintain optimal health. 

There are two types of vitamins:

  1. Fat-soluble
  2. Water-soluble

What’s the Difference Between Water-Soluble & Fat-Soluble Vitamins?

Fat-soluble vitamins

These vitamins are soluble in fat and oil, they are stored in the body and do not need to be consumed every day. Fat-soluble vitamins have toxicity levels and can cause adverse reactions in the body. These vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, they must be consumed every day as the body does not store them, rather, the cells take what it needs and excrete the rest through the urinary system. These vitamins include vitamin C, and B complex; which is an umbrella term for all B vitamins. 

Types of fat-soluble vitamins

1. Vitamin A

This antioxidant is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is essential in the formation of visual purple, a pigment found in the retina of the eye that is needed for night vision. Approximately 90% of the body’s vitamin A is stored in the liver with the other 10% found in the fatty tissues, lungs, kidneys, and retinas. 

Under stressful conditions, the body will draw upon its reserve if it doesn’t receive enough from the diet. Vitamin A can become toxic to the body if more than 50,000 IU is ingested daily. Toxicity symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, and headaches. Healthy food choices with safe amounts of vitamin A include liver, fish and fish oils, dark fruits and leafy green vegetables 

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D, also called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is usually absorbed through the skin by the sun on a bright day. It is necessary for the absorption of calcium and plays an important role in bone health and bone density. Vitamin D is also involved in cell reproduction, blood cell formation, and enhances the immune system. 

Too much vitamin D can cause excessive excretion of calcium in the urine, weight loss, headaches, and kidney stones. The sun is the easiest way to absorb this vitamin but it is also present in fortified beverages, butter, eggs, fatty fish, cod liver oil, and organ meats.

3. Vitamin E

This fat-soluble vitamin plays an essential role in cellular respiration of all muscles by increasing endurance and stamina. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation. Studies have shown that supplementation of 100IU daily for 2 years can reduce the risk of a heart attack.

The liver mainly stores Vitamin E, but it’s also found in fatty tissue, the heart, blood, muscles, uterus, and testes. High dosages of Vitamin E can interfere with iron metabolism at dosages 300 – 400 IU a day. Some people may experience nausea, fatigue, weakness, and intestinal distress if they take too much. Food sources include avocado, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, molasses, and wheat germ oil.

4. Vitamin K

An important vitamin involved in blood clotting and bone formation. The body absorbs it in the upper intestinal tract with bile salts, moves it to the liver, and stores it in small amounts. Supplemental vitamin K can interfere with the action of some prescription blood thinners so always consult a doctor about dosage amounts. Food sources include Brussel sprouts, cabbage, oats, soybeans, rye, kelp, and cauliflower. 

Types of water-soluble vitamins

1. Vitamin C

Also known as Ascorbic Acid, vitamin C is a potent water-soluble antioxidant. It is necessary for the formation of collagen, connective tissue, ligaments, bones and healing wounds. Vitamin C helps to form red blood cells and maintains the activity of white blood cells which act as bacteria fighters. It supports the immune system in this way and helps to prevent cancer. Although vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it still has its daily threshold. 

Loose bowels are the measure of daily tolerance of vitamin C. A lot of people will supplement until this occurs so they can gauge their maximum daily intake. Although this isn’t the most pleasant strategy, it is common and causes no harm to the body. Birth control pills and Aspirin, deplete vitamin C levels in the body. Food sources include all citrus fruits, squash, strawberries, sprouted beans, red/green peppers, and green leafy vegetables. 

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2. B Complex Vitamins

The most common B vitamins include Thiamine (B-1), Riboflavin(B-2), Niacin(B-3), Folic acid (B-9), Methylcobalamin (B-12) and Pantothenic acid (B-5). B complex is the umbrella term for water-soluble vitamins essential for the nervous system’s function and health. B vitamins also play a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and are essential for maintaining the muscle tone of the heart and gastrointestinal tract. Since the body doesn’t store B vitamins, the diet must provide them daily.

The need for these vitamins increases greatly during chronic stress, illness, and the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drugs. Taking a single B vitamin should be accompanied with a B complex supplement in order to avoid imbalance or deficiency of the others. Food sources include dairy, whole grains, bananas, asparagus, avocados, beans, broccoli, okra, and green leafy vegetables. 

Final thoughts

All in all, both water and fat-soluble vitamins play important roles and serve a purpose in the body. What we must be mindful of is the dose at which we take fat-soluble vitamins and for how long. Depending on your condition, doses may vary so it is always best to consult your health care practitioner and be under medical supervision to avoid toxic symptoms. Water-soluble vitamins on the other hand are harmless, as the body will not store what it doesn’t use that day. 

With that said, we must ensure that we get enough water-soluble vitamins from our diet. While it’s true that not all vitamins are equal, incorporating all vitamins into a healthy diet is equally important for optimal health.

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