Water-soluble vs. fat-soluble vitamins: EXPLAINED

Vitamins are naturally occurring compounds needed for multiple biological and chemical functions in the cells and the nervous system. They are used for energy conversion, metabolism, DNA synthesis for growth, and many other bodily tasks.

Typically, vitamins are needed in small amounts and usually require replenishment on a daily basis through the diet or by supplementary intake. Since vitamins are delicate and prone to quick depletion, it is important to incorporate convenient and easy supplementation.

Here we look at the two categories under which vitamins fall – water-soluble versus fat-soluble vitamins – and the role they play in the body, as well as the benefits of each.


Water-Soluble Vitamins

The vitamin B-complex and the well-known vitamin C are both water-soluble, meaning they can be dissolved in water. These vitamins are present in a range of foods, but because of their water-soluble nature, they are not stored in the body. It’s important to consume your full daily allowance of these vitamins every day.


Vitamin B-group

The vitamin B-complex contains eight out of all the 13 known vitamins. The popular belief is that vitamin B is an energy source, but there is more to it than that. B vitamins facilitate and aid energy utilization and synthesis of energy from other fuel sources (1).

The B vitamins work in synergy with other bio-functions in the body. For instance, riboflavin is essential in converting tryptophan to niacin.


1.    Thiamin (Vitamin B1)

Also known as thiamin, vitamin B1 is essential in nerve function. It also plays an important role in helping glucose convert to energy in the body. It is ubiquitous in nuts, seeds, legumes, and unprocessed grains (2).

Diabetics should take thiamin supplementation, because they risk losing up to 76% of their intake of the vitamin in the urine (3). Studies indicate that prolonged low amounts of vitamin B1 can contribute to depression and glaucoma (45).


2.    Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

Food elements with flavoproteins produce riboflavin. Great sources include milk, liver, green vegetables, kidney, whole grains, and others. Riboflavin acts as a coenzyme that aids the body’s enzyme biochemical functions. It helps the body metabolize B6 to its functional form, and helps in the formation of vitamin B3 (niacin) from its primary element tryptophan (6).

Studies suggest supplementation can play a role in bringing down blood pressure and risks of genetic cardiovascular problems by lowering homocysteine (7).


3.    Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Niacin is formed from the amino acid tryptophan with the facilitation of riboflavin. It is found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, chicken, meat, and whole grains. Unlike other vitamins, niacin can withstand heat in the cooking process.

Niacin is an antioxidant that assists in biochemical reactions in the cells including deriving energy from glucose (8).  It plays a role in maintaining the skin, and promotes a healthy digestive system and nervous system, including brain health. Optimum amounts of nicotinic acid supplements help maintain healthy blood lipid levels (9).


4.    Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5)

Pantothenic acid assists in the production of red blood cells, steroid hormones and neurotransmitters. This vitamin is also helpful in breaking down energy from carbohydrates and fats.

Adequate pantothenic acid intake can help maintain body organs and systems. It can improve the digestive system and nerve function (10).


5.    Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)

This water-soluble vitamin is important in brain development, steroid hormone production, and red blood cell production. Vitamin B6 is actually a family of nutrients that helps in the production of pyridoxal phosphate, a coenzyme. Good dietary sources of vitamin B6 are grains, nuts, and leafy greens (11).

The coenzyme from vitamin B6 is needed for over 100 metabolic functions in the body. Just like other vitamin Bs, it’s essential in the body’s production of energy. It also serves a role in white blood cell production (12).

This vitamin has been known to help alleviate symptoms in premenstrual syndrome as well as carpal tunnel syndrome (1314).


6.    Biotin (Vitamin B7)

The vitamin B7, also known as biotin, is used for the breakdown of other various food elements including glycogen and amino acid. Biotin can improve hair, nails, and skin health (15). Studies have suggested that B7 supplementation can improve symptoms in multiple sclerosis patients (1516).


7.    Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Vitamin B9, known as folate, is critical in pregnancy. It is found in spinach, seeds, legumes, and citruses, among others (17)

Folate aids in fetal development and the nervous system. It also plays a role in making oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Studies suggest that supplements may reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood sugar control, and slightly reduce the symptoms of depression (181920).


8.    Vitamin B12

The vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) is important for nerve cells, the making of red blood cells, and the synthesis of amino and fatty acids. Supplements can help prevent deficits which contribute to anemia and neurological dysfunction. (21).

An interesting fact on vitamin B12 is that injections of hydroxocobalamin, when used with another compound, can counter effects of cyanide poisoning (22).  It is important to note vegetarians are susceptible to deficits since it’s mostly found in animal sources.


9. Vitamin C      

The venerable vitamin C is a water-soluble and serves as a great immune booster, in addition to being an antioxidant. It can be found in fruits and vegetables, as well as uncooked meat and fish. (23). Heat quickly depletes it.

There are several roles vitamin C plays in the body. It helps to aid collagen production for healthy bones, tendons, and skin. Deficiency results in physical weakness, and in severe cases, it can lead to prolonged wound healing (24).

Vitamin C can be helpful in optimizing iron absorption from food. It has also demonstrated faster recovery of respiratory infections. More studies show a potential role in slowing cognitive impairment (25, 26).



Fat-soluble vitamins

The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. They are found in foods that have high levels of fat, and their absorption is improved when consumed with fats in the diet.


1. Vitamin A

Commonly found in animal sources like liver and butter, vitamin A is also found in the form of provitamin A carotenoids in plants. Vitamin A is beneficial for optimal health of the eyes, hair, skin and immune system (27). Studies also show it is helpful for fertility health (28).


2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a formidable vitamin with a wide range of benefits to the body. It can be produced by the skin when sun basking. Food sources for vitamin D are limited except for a few animal sources like fish (vitamin D3) and a few plants and mushrooms grown in the sun (vitamin D2).

Vitamin D is involved in regulating the body’s calcium intake, making it key to bone and teeth health. Studies have found that optimum vitamin D levels improve immune functions, can regulate autoimmune diseases, and can help reduce susceptibility to some cancers (2930).


3. Vitamin E

This fat-soluble vitamin is a well-touted antioxidant. It consists of eight different antioxidants with alpha-tocopherol being the most common. It is sourced from plants like avocadoes as well as animals, and it synergistically works with selenium and vitamin C (31).

Vitamin E’s chief purpose in the body is to negate free radicals, which can help reduce premature aging, improve heart health and blood vessel health. Caution should be exercised in supplementation due to studies that show risks associated with synthetically sourced supplements (32).


4. Vitamin K

This fat-soluble vitamin comes in two different forms: vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone) (33). Vitamin K is a critical element for facilitating clotting and overall bone health (34).

Vitamin K1 can be found in plant sources such as in leafy greens. On the other hand, vitamin K2 is in animal sources like milk products (butter), liver, and fermented soy known as natto.

Supplementation helps decrease risk of bone loss and poor heart health (35).


Bottom Line

The water-soluble vitamins are delicate and cannot be stored in the body. However, daily intake is imperative for proper body functions since they provide co-enzymes for metabolic processes, chemical reactions, and energy conversion.

On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins have diverse bio functional capacities in the body such as in oxidative stress, immunity, bone health, cardiovascular health, among others. To ensure that the body is getting all the benefits vitamins have to offer, it is important to have optimized intake.

Here at Vitapod, our products like HYDRA+Blueberry Pomegranate and HYDRA+Watermelon provide a punch on the go. Not only do you get vitamins and antioxidants, but also electrolytes (and a delicious treat) – all in one pod for your optimal health.

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