The Difference Between Fat-Soluble and Water-Soluble Vitamins
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The Difference Between Fat-Soluble and Water-Soluble Vitamins

If you want to get the most benefits from your vitamin supplements or multivitamins, it is important to know the difference between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. They are adsorbed differently in your body and if you do not take them properly, you could just be wasting your money on vitamins.

Most of us take vitamins or multivitamins. It might not seem important to know the different between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins, but if you want to get the most benefit from those expensive vitamins, you should know this difference.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

All you need to remember is that Vitamin C and all B vitamins are water-soluble and the others are fat-soluble. Since there are different names for each B vitamin, here is a list of the water-soluble vitamins.

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B complex
  • B1 (thiamin)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (Pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B12 (Cobalamin)
  • B9 - Folic acid comes from vitamins while folate is found in food.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat soluble vitamins are broken down differently than water-soluble vitamins. The fat-soluble vitamins are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

How Fat-Soluble and Water-Soluble Vitamins Are Absorbed

All of the nutrients we eat and drink, including vitamins and supplements are absorbed through the small intestine. But before reaching the small intestine, these nutrients pass through the upper digestive system. The upper digestive system includes the mouth, esophagus and stomach. Yes, the mouth is part of the digestive system and contains acids that begin the breakdown of food into nutrients. That is why it is important to chew your food thoroughly to aid in healthy digestion.

Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, usually water in the lower digestive system along with electrolytes or various salts (potassium, sodium, bicarbonate and chloride). Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and any excess of a water-soluble vitamin is flushed out through the urine. Since these vitamins are not stored, it important to get enough of the water-soluble vitamins daily through food and if needed a vitamin supplement or multivitamin.

Fat-Soluble vitamins are different and are broken down by bile acids secreted by the liver. Bile is very important for the digestion and absorption of fats in the small intestine. Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When fat enters the small intestine, the liver secretes the bile to break down the fat.

Fat-soluble vitamins also need this bile to break down. So it is important that you eat some fat when you take a multivitamin or one of the fat-soluble vitamins. Without fat, a fat-soluble vitamin will not be broken down and absorbed for use by your body. If you are in a hurry when you take a multivitamin or fat-soluble vitamin, eating a teaspoon of peanut butter or some regular yogurt (not fat-free) will work fine. Anything with fat along with the vitamin will release the bile into your small intestine so the fat-soluble vitamin can break down properly. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, so only take what you believe you need. Too much vitamin A can actually be toxic to the liver. Vitamin A from beta-carotene is different and will not cause toxic levels.

When and When Not To Take Vitamins

Taking vitamins with a meal is the best time. You should not take vitamins with coffee or any drink that has caffeine. Wait a couple of hours after drinking coffee or a caffeinated drink before taking vitamins. Caffeine is a stimulant which means it stimulants your body causing the vitamins, especially the water-soluble kind to speed through your body before being fully absorbed. In a way, you would be flushing good money down the toilet.

Health Conditions and Vitamins

There are certain health conditions that can inhibit the body from absorbing vitamins. These health conditions are usually in the digestive tract and include Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). Also health problems with the liver or pancreas can also inhibit or prevent the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Copyright © February 2012 Sam Montana


Colorado State University

Oregon State University – Linus Pauling Institute – Vitamin A

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Comments (5)

Good to know so people do not waste money on the wrong ones.

Very informative article. Thanks for sharing :)

Valuable vitamin information and well presented.Thank you.

Useful info on soluble vitamins. Thank you Sam. Thanks for support. Voted.

Good information to know, Sam. Thanks!