Water-soluble versus fat-soluble vitamins – what does this mean for your health?
It is a ritual half of Americans incorporate into their daily routine, according to researchers. Taking vitamins and supplements may be advised by a health care provider or self-prescribed. While vitamins are essential nutrients our bodies require to function properly, many of us get what we need through our diet. For those with special nutritional concerns and women who are pregnant, nursing or planning on becoming pregnant, a health care provider will advise on the type and amount of vitamins and supplements needed to support balanced nutrition. If you are taking multivitamins or supplements without a health care provider’s recommendation, there are a few things to consider to make sure you are not only staying safe, but also financially aware of your vitamin consumption. It starts with understanding the difference between water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.
Of the variety of vitamins and supplements on store shelves, your body only requires 13 vitamins - vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate). If you are taking any other vitamins or supplements not listed here, talk to your health care provider to make sure you should be taking them. These 13 essential vitamins fall into one of two categories – water-soluble or fat-soluble vitamins. In the case with both, more is not better.
Water-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed by the body, which means you won’t store large amounts of it to help naturally keep your body nutritionally balanced. One of the jobs of the kidneys are to remove any excess water-soluble vitamins that aren’t needed. What that means is, taking extra vitamin C won’t help boost your immune system anymore than the daily-recommended amount. It will just end up going down the toilet. Some nutritionists argue that unless your health care provider has advised you to take vitamins or supplements, your monthly investment would be better spent on fresh produce.
Fat-soluble vitamins are quite the opposite. These vitamins dissolve in fat and are stored in tissue, so the body has access to them as needed. This means that it would be easier to absorb more fat-soluble vitamins than you really need, since they aren’t being removed by the kidneys after the need is met. Overtime, you can build up a dangerous amount of fat-soluble vitamins, if you are not following daily intake limits by the National Academy of Sciences. There are four fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K. The amount allowed for children and adults varies. Talk to your health care provider if you are taking or plan to take these vitamins to make sure you are staying in a safe daily consumption range. Taking too much of these vitamins could lead to a range of health concerns including birth defects, blurred vision, heart rhythm problems, and liver problems.
Before taking vitamins or minerals, discuss first with your health care provider. Some medical conditions and allergies may interfere with some vitamins and minerals. If prescribed or allowed by your health care provider, never take more than the recommended dose and take with a full glass of water. If you suspect you are having an allergic reaction or have taken too much, contact your health care provider immediately.