Fat Soluble Vitamins – When to Take

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The fat soluble vitamins are absorbed differently than the water soluble ones. It is important to take them with a fatty meal.
The fat soluble vitamins are absorbed differently than the water soluble ones. It is important to take them with a fatty meal.

When I was in medical school, we would ask our attending physician teachers if it was necessary to take vitamins every day. We were told that supplemental vitamins were not needed since all the vitamins we needed, including the fat soluble ones, were already in our food. What we now know is that this was true 50 to 60 years ago, but today, the nutrient content of food is not the same. So depending on your diet, supplemental vitamins may be important. In this blog article, I will explain which vitamins are fat soluble, what they do and when to take them.

What are fat soluble vitamins?

Research scientists are becoming increasingly focused on the fact that the fat soluble vitamins are absorbed differently and at different intestinal locations than the water soluble ones. Both water and fat soluble vitamins are important for optimal health, but the fat soluble ones are stored in the body for future use while the water soluble are not. These need to be taken every day. For the body to maximally absorb these fat soluble vitamins, they should be taken with your daily meal that contains the most fat. This is typically the largest (heaviest) meal of the day.

The fat soluble vitamins that we need to take are:

  • Vitamin K – This vitamin is important for a number of reasons. A 2014 study1 showed the vitamin K in adequate amounts supported longevity. Of the 7,000 people at high risk for heart disease, those with the highest level of vitamin K were 36% less likely to die from any cause. Another form of vitamin K (vitamin K2 is important in heart health and bone health. Poor vitamin K2 levels are associated with bone loss in postmenopausal women2. For more information on the support of vitamin K2 and bone and heart health, click here .
  • Vitamin A – This fat soluble vitamin is important to support good eye health. Along with the other related carotenoids, vitamin A helps support normal vision.
  • Vitamin D – This vitamin is actually not a vitamin because, by definition, vitamins are not made in sufficient quantities by the body itself. Exposure to sunlight causes our skin to make vitamin D3 which is then converted into the bio-active form. Vitamin D is actually related to the steroids we make and seems to affect a large number of our genes. A number of conditions are associated with low levels of this vitamin, especially in areas of the world where there isn’t sufficient sunlight to make it. Some scientists and physicians feel that most of us in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient or insufficient.
  • Vitamin E – This is a very important fat soluble vitamin. Alpha tocopherol is the best known form of this vitamin and is widely distributed in the body. However, most multivitamins contain a synthetic form isn’t as effective as the natural form. In addition, gamma tocopherol (there are actually 5 forms of vitamin E) is important to take as the gamma form is effective in preventing degenerative diseases associated with aging.3,4

What you need to know

Fat soluble vitamins are critical to life. They are absorbed and stored differently than water soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins are best taken with the heaviest meal of the day because this meal contains the most fat. Most water soluble vitamins travel from the small intestine to the blood stream easily, while the fat soluble ones relay of bile (a fat emulsifier made by our livers and stored in the gall bladder) for absorption. These vitamins then are absorbed in the intestine and unused vitamins are stored in our livers or fat. It’s also important to supplement vitamins and their co-factors that come from whole foods (see review on Nutrifii Optimals-V).

References

1Juanola-Falgarona M, Salas-Salvado J, Martinez-Gonzales MA, et al. Dietary intake of vitamin K is inversely associated with mortality risk. J Nutr. 2014 May;144(5):743-50.
2Bugal S. Vitamin K and bone health in adult humans. Vitam Horm. 2008;78-393-416.
3Christen S, Woodall AA, et al. Gamma tocopherol traps mutagenic electrophiles such as NO(X) and complements alpha-tocopherol. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 1;94(7):3217-22.
4Devaraj S, Leonard S, et al. Gamma-tocopherol supplementation alone and in combination with alpha-tocopherol alters biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Free Radic Biol Med. 2008 Mar 15;44(6):1203-8.

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