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Fat Soluble Vitamins

In previous articles, we have discussed, among other things, a basic understanding of nutrition and the four main substances that we need to maintain our health and wellness. Just to re-cap, these four main nutrients were carbohydrates, Proteins, water; and, yes folks, that old enemy, fats. We have also talked about the different properties, and best sources of the B complex, water soluble, vitamins.

All these previously discussed vitamins are essential components of our bodies and they supply us with the nutritive substances that we need to sustain our lives. So, let's now take a look at another category of equally important vitamins which are known as "Fat soluble"; so named because, unlike the water soluble vitamins, the fat soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water; nor do they, in our bodily tissue fluids (look more

Our bodies can, and do, store supplies of the fat soluble vitamins. These substances have many different functions, properties and features, all of which are designed to improve the quality of our lives. The fat-soluble vitamins are Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. So, let's talk about each one of these fat-soluble vitamins in greater detail.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A; or, to give it its proper scientific name, retinol, has a wide variety of functions to perform within our bodies. It's probably true to say that most people only associate this fat soluble vitamin with maintaining the health of our eyes. However, its real benefits are not only limited to our eyes; Vitamin A also plays a vital part in the development of our bones and in tooth development. It is also very important for our reproductive functions, and for the division of cells and genetic information.It also helps to strengthen our immune systems: and, this list is by no means exhaustive.

Wow, you might well say, however, it doesn't stop there because; in addition to the above, vitamin A also helps our bodies to retain the necessary moisture in our skin; in the mucous membranes of our mouths, noses, throats and lungs. It also has some other interesting properties, an important one of which is that it acts as one of the antioxidant vitamins. Antioxidants are a special group of vitamin-like substances which help our bodies to fight off some very dangerous groups of chemical compounds that are known as free radicals.


Free radicals attack the very structure of the cells in our bodies and can do untold damage to our health. In severe cases, an over proliferation of free radicals in our bodies can result in the actual death of the cells under attack. Free radicals are believed to be, carcinogens; that is, they are thought to be the causes of many of the most common causes of cancer in humans. However, the free radicals in our bodies are normally kept in check by other chemical compounds known as antioxidants, which will be the subject of another future article.

These antioxidants are also sometimes known as 'free radical scavengers', an important one of which is vitamin A. This vitamin also assists the body in helping it to retain the supple youthfulness and beauty of our skin; and, for this reason, it is often an ingredient in the formulation of some top of the range 'beauty creams' used by women.

This is because it helps to protect the skin from wrinkles: so, as such, it can truthfully be said to have anti aging properties. However, whilst this is important, on a more serious note, it can also help to prevent cancer because it helps to kill off those dangerous and cancer forming, free radicals.

Dairy Products

Some dietary sources of vitamin A are those food substances which originate from animals; such as milk, cheese, butter, some other dairy products, and fish and liver. However, there are also sources which are of plant origin. Some of the plant foods that are rich in Vitamin A are carrots, pumpkins, winter squash, any dark green leafy

Green Leafy Vegatables

All these plant sources contain what is known as a 'precursor' to vitamin A, this precursor is a substance called 'Beta-carotene'. Our bodies then convert the precursor into the vitamin A that we need. So, after we have eaten our vitamin A rich foods, the carotene nutrients contained in them are converted into retinol, which is Vitamin A, and this is done by our body's different biochemical reactions.

The recommended daily allowance of amount of vitamin A, for a normal human adult male, is 900 mcg, and that of the adult female is 700 mcg. Scientific medical research has shown that these norms are not hard and fast; and, there are some circumstances where it is recommended that they should be increased. For example, in cases of hyperthyroidism, fever, infection, cold, and exposure to excessive amounts of sunlight: to excessive alcohol consumption and drugs or narcotic usage.

However, an increased dosage of vitamin A usually prevents a lot of the adverse reactions, in most cases, of the above mentioned situations. Sometimes, a low intake of Vitamin A can lead to a deficiency of it, in our bodies. Any deficiency of vitamin A can lead to a reduction of our ability to see in reduced light: sometimes known as night blindness. The fact that carrots do contain significantly high amounts of carotenes has led, over the years, to the popular belief that eating carrots helps us to 'see in the dark'. Well, to the extent that, when we eat them, the carotenes contained in them are converted, by our liver, into Vitamin A: so, that old wives tale is not far from the mark.

Other signs of vitamin A deficiency can be seen in poor growth of bones in children, faulty teeth, and a susceptibility to infections: these are the commonest problems of vitamin A deficiency. Usually, an increase amount of vitamin A in our diets is enough to put this right. However, in situations where a person is not getting sufficient vitamin A, from their dietary intake, it is strongly suggested that he, or she, take a daily dietary supplement of vitamin A; either, in the form of tablets, or in any other existing form.

It must also be borne in mind that the symptoms of long term deficiency might take 2 years or even longer to appear. A caveat to the above is that it can be dangerous to consume an excessive amount of vitamin A; excessive over and above the 900mcg for men and 700mcg for women, because this can lead to vitamin A toxicity, and can cause damage to our bodies, mainly to our liver.

Vitamin D

Also sometimes known by the outdated name of Calsiferol; vitamin D is another fat soluble vitamin and, like other nutrients that our bodies require, there is a co-dependency between it and some other vital nutrients. Vitamin D is necessary for the efficient absorption and utilisation of other substances: for example, our bodies need vitamin D to enable them to absorb, and to utilise dietary calcium and phosphorus, in our intestinal tracts. Some of the food stuffs that contain this vitamin are dairy products; such as fortified milk, cheese; cereals, fish liver oils, egg yolks and salmon.

Salmon Fillet & Salad

Other sources are vegetable oils, sweet potatoes, salmon, tuna and sardines. Our body can also manufacture this vitamin itself, through the action of sunlight on our skin. When the UV rays of sunlight fall on our skin; our bodies produce their own vitamin D as a result of that exposure. Vitamin D plays a very important role in our health and well being, by keeping our bones and skin healthy: it is the D3 form of this Vitamin that is needed to process calcium.

The daily need of vitamin D in our bodies is only about 5 micrograms. However, a deficiency or an excessive amount of vitamin D, can lead to several disorders. A severe deficiency of vitamin D may lead to rickets, in developing children; or osteomalacia, which is the adult form of rickets. Milder deficiency can cause symptoms like loss of appetite, insomnia, weight loss and sometimes, visual problems: and also skin diseases such as acne. Another caveat here is that an excess of vitamin D in our body may cause eating problems and ultimately to lead to confusion, disorientation, coma, and even death.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant, which is also known as Tocopherol; one of the very important roles it plays, in our body, is that it helps to keep our reproductive systems in good health: and, where would the human race be without that? ? Some other properties of this fat soluble vitamin are that it helps to promote normal blood clotting and wound healing. Tests have shown that it also reduces blood pressure and helps to prevent eye cataracts. As an antioxidant, vitamin E plays a major part in helping to protect against the oxidation damage to lipids (fats) in our bodies, caused by free radicals.

A vitamin E deficiency can result in damage to our red blood cells, and can cause serious damage to our nervous system. Other symptoms include infertility, in women and also in men, neuromuscular damage and spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) in women. Deficiencies of vitamin E have also been linked to the increasing incidence of heart disease in America and Western Europe. It is believed that this is due to the lack of sufficient vitamin E in our diets, due to our increased reliance on processed foods.

The daily dose of vitamin E is 10mg, and this can be obtained from several foods such as cabbage, kale and some other leafy green vegetables, almonds, hazelnuts, and vegetable oils; such as sunflower, canola, and soybean oils. An excess of vitamin E in the body may lead to blood clotting, which can result in the increased likelihood of haemorrhage in some individuals. Conversely, a deficiency which is very rare, can lead to sterility in males, abortions in females, and blood complications in newborn infants.

Vitamin K

The last fat soluble vitamin is vitamin K, and this is necessary for the important formation of a substance called prothrombin, and some other substances, which are necessary for the normal clotting of our blood; and for bone formation and repair in the early years of a child's life. Vitamin K is also responsible for the manufacture of a substance called osteocalcin; this substance is a protein present in bone tissue, on which the calcium we consume in our daily diets crystallizes, to form our bones. Also, without vitamin K, if we sustained injuries, or cuts to our bodies, we would continue to bleed copiously.

The optimal daily dose of vitamin K is 80 micrograms and can be obtained from a balanced diet, by eating food such as egg yolks, liver leafy green vegetables like parsley, broccoli, asparagus, chard and kale. Also, oils, such as safflower, olive, canola and soybean oil.

There are also some herbs that can supply us with vitamin K. Herbs such as nettle, shepherds purse, oat straw, alfalfa and green tea. Yet another supplier of this vitamin is the seaweed known as kelp; however, our main source of vitamin k is our own bodies. We have literally, billions of 'friendly bacteria' that live inside our bodies, and one of the things they do is to synthesize, or manufacture, vitamin K.

Vitamin K deficiency may also cause bleeding disorders; and, an excess of it, or hyper vitaminosis, may lead to liver damage, anaemia; and to pathological blood clotting. As these vitamins tend to store in our body, it is important that we maintain the correct amount of daily intake, as deficiency or excess of these vitamins may lead to different disorders.

Well, that's just about the fat soluble vitamins covered; so, I look forward to talking to you in my next article, which will be about those things we briefly touched on, earlier in this article, the antioxidants. We will discuss antioxidants such as zinc, grape seed extract, pycnogenol, maybe green tea and many more. Until then, I hope that you've enjoyed the information in these articles; and, if you have any questions about calorie intake, weight loss; and, or, human nutrition, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me, via the contact form on this web site, and I will get back to you with an answer as soon as I can.

Blog's Author: Sophia Wongyor

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