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Fat-Soluble vs. Water-Soluble: Comparing Vitamins' Absorption Abilities

Posted by PatchMD.com on 8/15/2019

In today's fast past, high-stress world, many people are not getting the vitamins and minerals they need. Even if you eat a healthy and balanced diet, modern farming has reduced the amount of nutrients in our food.

If you are considering adding supplements to your diet to address deficiencies, there are some things you should consider. First, vitamin absorption differs from vitamin type. You can also ingest more vitamins than you need and depending on if they are fat or water-soluble. The result, your body may not be able to get rid of the extra nutrients your body doesn't need. In some cases, over supplementation can lead to negative health effects.

If you are not sure if you could benefit from supplementation, contact your healthcare provider, they can run blood tests to identify your unique needs. Read on to learn about vitamin absorption and how vitamins help your body to function optimally.

Vitamin Absorption

How and where vitamins are absorbed differs by vitamin type. There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. 

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins are just like they sound. These vitamins, B Complex, Folate, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, and Vitamin C, dissolve in water and are immediately absorbed by tissues. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, so you need a steady supply in your diet. If you consume more water-soluble vitamins than you need, your body will flush them out in urine. 


  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) plays a key roll in the nervous system and helps to draw energy out of the foods you eat. It also plays a role in metabolism.

  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) plays two major roles in the body. The first is to convert amino acid tryptophan into niacin. Niacin helps to lower cholesterol. Vitamin B2 is vital for good vision and healthy skin.

  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) is also important for the nervous system. It also promotes digestion and metabolism. Vitamin B3 also helps keeps your skin healthy. 

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is important for the production of red blood cells. It is also necessary for insulin and hemoglobin production. Certain proteins need Vitamin B6 to form.

  • Folate (folic acid) is usually associated with prenatal vitamins and adequate folate levels reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects. Folate also supports red blood cell formation and protein metabolism.

  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is important for the nervous system and red blood cell production.

  • Biotin is essential for getting the energy from the food you eat. The metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates all require biotin. 

  • Pantothenic acid is important for good metabolism and hormone formation. 

  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is most known as an immune system booster. But it also important for iron absorption and collagen synthesis. Did you know Vitamin C helps wounds heal as well?

Note, the vitamins listed above are water-soluble in their natural state. Vitamin E can be "water solubilized". The hypothesized benefit of solubilizing vitamins is to improve their absorption by the intestines

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved in fats. The fat then travels through the intestines and is distributed to the body via the bloodstream. Vitamins A, D, K, and E are fat-soluble and stored in your liver and fat (adipose) tissue. It makes sense that you would find these vitamins in high-fat food. You may not know that absorption is increased if you consume these vitamins with fat.

Unlike water-soluble vitamins, excess amounts of fat-soluble vitamins are not flushed through your system. Consuming too much of these vitamins can cause you to reach toxic levels and lead to negative health effects.

  • Vitamin A is needed by your teeth and your eyes. Vitamin A plays a role in bone and teeth formation. Vitamin A also supports your immune system, how your cells function. Your intestines also need Vitamin A. 

  • Vitamin D is also important for your teeth and bones because Vitamin D supports the metabolism of phosphorous and calcium.

  • Vitamin E is most widely known as an antioxidant. It helps boost the immune system and fight infection. It also helps create strong red blood cells. 

  • Vitamin K is important in blood clotting so be careful with additional supplementation of this vitamin if you are taking certain medications. Vitamin K is also important for bone health. 

If you have ever tried to drop a few pounds you know that some fat just doesn't want to go away. The same is true for fat-soluble vitamins. They tend to remain in stored tissues. You can develop a rare condition called hypervitaminosis. Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. 

The alternative is also true if you are very lean (low-fat stores), or your dietary intake of fat is low you can be deficient in fat-soluble vitamins. Certain drugs, like ones that block fat absorption in the intestines, can also interfere with Vitamin ADEK absorption.

Are You Ready To Improve Your Health through Supplementation?

Understanding vitamin absorption is the key to ensuring you are getting the right supplement for your needs. Just like fat-soluble vitamins are better absorbed with fat, certain vitamin combinations improve absorption. For example, taking calcium and vitamin D together aids in the absorption of both.

If you are considering boosting your health through supplementation, talk with your physician to determine where you, specifically, are deficient. You can then focus on taking the right supplements for you. If you have tried supplements in the past and found them to upset your stomach, check out the new technology that eliminates the need to take a pill.



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