The Alphabet Soup of Fat-Soluble Vitamins

March 23, 2021

There are two categories of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble.  You’ve likely heard of both, but do you know what they are? This week we’ll take a closer look at the fat-soluble variety. These nutrients, specifically vitamins A, D, E, and K, are those which dissolve in fat and thus, need fat to help your body absorb them into the bloodstream.  Since these vitamins are stored in the adipose tissue (body fat), it is not necessary to consume them every day.  In fact, because they are stored, consuming excessive amounts for too long, especially of vitamin A, can be harmful to your health. Eating a normal, well-balanced diet will not lead to toxicity in otherwise healthy individuals however, though taking supplements with megadoses may do so.

While lack of fat-soluble vitamins causing disease is also rarely a problem, especially in the United States, some symptoms of mild deficiency can develop without adequate dietary intake.  Additionally, those dealing with health issues such as inflammatory bowels disease (IBD), chronic pancreatitis, and cystic fibrosis may have deficiencies due to the fact that their conditions cause a decrease in the absorption of fat, and thus, a decrease in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Check out the table below to learn about the roles of the different fat-soluble vitamins, how much you need, and how best to incorporate them into your diet!

VitaminFunctionAmount NeededSources
Vitamin AVision, Skin, Immune SystemMen: 900 mcg/day  
Women: 700 mcg/day
Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Cantaloupe, Spinach, Bell Peppers, Liver, Egg, Salmon
Vitamin DBone Development, Immune System, Mood, Calcium AbsorptionAges 1-70 years: 15 mcg (600 IU)/day
Ages 70+: 20 mcg (800 IU)/day
Sunshine, Milk, Mushrooms, Fatty Fish, Eggs, Fortified Juices
Vitamin EAntioxidant, Immune System, Healthy Skin, Fat DigestionAges 14+: 15 mg/daySunflower Seeds, Nuts, Avocado, Olive Oil, Leafy Greens
Vitamin KBlood Clotting, Calcium Metabolism, Bone and Tissue DevelopmentAges 14 – 18 years: 75 mcg/day
Men ages 19+: 120mcg/day
Women ages 19+: 90mcg/day
Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Pine Nuts, Blueberries

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