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I want to talk about Fat Soluble Vitamins today.
There two types of vitamins, water soluble and fat soluble. This difference determines how easily a vitamin can be digested and absorbed, as well as how it works within the body.
Water soluble vitamins are not stored in our body. The body uses what it needs and excretes the rest as waste. These vitamins need to be consumed daily, if not multiple times a day in smaller amounts. Water soluble vitamins are also vitamins that can be dissolved and assimilated with water.
Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body. The body uses what it needs and stores the rest. These vitamins can be consumed intermittently as long as enough is consumed to be stored for later use, stores are not depleted. Fat soluble vitamins can only be dissolved and assimilated in the presence of a fat. Medical conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, inhibit the ability of the digestive system to break down fats and fat soluble vitamins efficiently, and the body excretes excess fat soluble vitamins in the stools. These people need to consume fat soluble vitamins throughout the day to maintain adequate levels in the body.
Our Important Fat Soluble Vitamins
Oddly, there is a growing concern to the resurgence of fat soluble vitamin deficiencies. Why? Mostly because of the wild spread, long held myth about fat free diets and weight loss/health claims. This is started to become a thing of the past, but it is especially true for children, with the rickets again becoming a seen condition in pediatrics. So, what are the fat soluble vitamins?
Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A from Plants), Retinol (Vitamin A from animal sources), are the two dietary forms of vitamin A. Of course when consuming the Retinol version from animals, there is fat contained in the meal already. Beta-Carotene on the other hand, is often lost in the diet due to poor preparation of our foods.
Carrots for example: How many of us have snacked on raw baby carrots. No dip, just carrots…guilty as charged! If you are doing this, and not combining them with a fat, either a dip like hummus, or dressings, then you are not assimilating the Vitamin A from that carrot. If you cook the carrot in some oil, or butter, or other fat, then you are going to get the most out of its fat soluble vitamins.
Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, eyes, hair, teeth, muscles, and connective tissue to name a few. It is important in healthy vision, retinol name comes from the retina in the eyes. Retinol produces the pigment of the retina. Retinol and Beta-Carotene do different things in the body, so both need to be consumed in the diet. Beta-Carotene is a strong antioxidant that works to protect the body from toxins, and cancer. Beta Carotene supplements do not have the same effect as Beta Carotene consumed in food. Beta-Carotene should be consumed via food. Vitamin A in Supplement form is one of the few that are TOXIC in high doses. Another reason to make sure your Vitamin A comes from multiple food sources. I do not like supplementing with Vitamin A.
Food Sources Retinol: Liver (everyone should eat more liver), Full Fat Dairy, Cod Liver Oil, Eggs, Oily Fish
Food Sources Beta-Carotene: Yellow and Orange Vegetables; Carrots, Bell Peppers, Winter Squashes, Sweet Potatoes, Dark Leafy Green Vegetables; Spinach, Broccoli, Kale
Vitamin D is an entier topic on it's own. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming one of the most wide spread vitamin deficiencies across the country and the world. With the rises in the number of US rickets cases, this has inspired pediatricians to start Standard Care practices of supplementing children with Vitamin D supplements. I think the issue is being missed, we should be trying to figure out what is the cause of the increased amount of Vitamin D deficiencies. I doubt anyone with challenge the daily sunscreen use recommendations, or the lack of cholesterol in diets because of the low-fat, cholesterol with kill you myths. (jumping down off of soapbox…)
Most of our dietary sources of Vitamin D are also high in fat and cholesterol, go figure. Vitamin D is essential for not only our bone healthy and strength (it's main claim to fame), but also for a variety of other functions. It is the building block of our hormones, so without sufficient Vitamin D, we end up with hormone issues. With the rise in young men and women being diagnosed with some form of reproductive disease and the increase rates of Vitamin D deficiency diagnosis, one could assume a correlation. PCOS, Low T in young boys, Hypothryoid disease in teens, etc.. All of these are treated with supplemental Vitamin D.
I do put clients on Vitamin D supplements. This one seems to be the most difficult for people to get in their diets and through sun exposure, especially in Colorado winters. Most people are not getting enough in their diet (this could easily be fix with proper dietary changes), and even then, we also need to get enough sun exposure to produce the rest. I wrote in a previous post about sun exposure and the amount of Vitamin D that can be produced in just 30 minutes…wowzers….no supplement can match that without becoming toxic…truth. All supplements have a maximum that can be consumed before they become harmful. This is because they are synthetic vitamins, or separated vitamins. They are not found in their natural state and thus are missing many of the other nutrients, enzymes and chemicals that balance out and enable that specific vitamin in the body (sorry, another tangent). D2 is an example of this. It was the go to Vitamin D additive in milk, supplements, etc.. and it was found to be extremely hazardous. Supplements (if good), have switched to a D3.
Food Sources of Vitamin D2: D2 is the form of Vitamin D naturally produced by fungi and algae when they absorb UV light. In food, it is safe because it is not reaching extremely high levels. It does serve a purpose to some extent. It aids in the absorption of Calcium…kind of it's only real use. It breaks down quicker than D3, and is shorter lived, so isn't effective in the human body. Vegans and Vegetarians looking for a Vitamin D supplement (common deficiency of those dietary types), should look at labels. Most vegetarian forms are a D2 variety…most Vitamin D3 is made from sheep's wool, unless otherwise stated.
Food Sources of Vitamin D3: D3 is the form that is produced when UV light hits our skin. It is also found in animal products; Cod Liver Oil (it's making a comeback), Full Fat Diary (specifically grass-fed cow's butter), Eggs
Vitamin E supplements have been around for quite awhile. It has been used to heal scars and treat weak skin. There are 8 different forms of Vitamin E, most are unstable and lost in cooking. Alpha-Tocopherol is the most stable. Even so, the majority of Vitamin E we consume ends up in our stools. It is also not as easily stored in the body, like the other fat soluble vitamins. It is stored mostly in the Liver, but also in the uterus, ovaries, testes, pituitary, adrenals, and some fatty tissues. Which, as you can see makes it an important Vitamin for hormones and reproductive health.
Vitamin E is not known as a deficiency vitamin, but I really believe diagnosis is going to become more common. There are certain common environmental toxins and lifestyle choices that deplete the body of Vitamin E, and as you'll see, it's not all that common in the diet. Consumption of excess unsaturated oils. Unsaturated fats have to use Vitamin E to prevent oxidation, therefore it pulls it from our tissues. Excessive Estrogen is also a factor in Vitamin E depletion….this would apply to those who are being exposed to high levels of environmental and dietary estrogens, as well as women who are diagnosed with PCOS. Chlorine (found in our tap water) can deplete Vitamin E in our bodies as well. Those who fit into those categories need to consume more.
Supplementing is generally considered safe, but there are some cases of toxicity from over use.
Food Sources of Vitamin E: Although found in animal sources, the quality is very poor unless you are consuming organ meat, where it is more concentrated (liver, testes, kidneys, etc..), or egg yolks (lots of egg yolks, raw).Sadly, the most concentrated source of Vitamin E in the diet is vegetables oils. Why? Because the unsaturated fats are bound with Vitamin E. Well, in reality, this vitamin E is bound to the oil and little if any is actually absorbed on it's own. It is absorbed bound to the unsaturated fat. Also, the natural Vitamin E found in these oils is often destroyed during heating (pasteurizing and refining). So, how on earth to yo get it in your diet. Because Vitamin E is very heat unstable. The vegetable you consume it in should not only be raw, but also be combined with a fat (preferable a saturated fat). These vegetables are cucumbers, green beans, asparagus, spinach, kale. Honestly, if you could consume some animal organ meat and lots of egg yolks, you may be doing alright. Lamb Fries anyone?
Another fat-soluble vitamin we seem to be having issues with, especially in newborns…hence the universal precaution of Vitamin K shots. Vitamin K is known for it's blood clotting action. But it is also needed for bone health. We know now that Vitamin D, A, and K work together and for the most part need to be consumed together. Most Vitamin D supplements have a K2 tagalong, if yours doesn't get a new one.
There are two natural forms of Vitamin K (K1, K2)
Vitamin K1 is found in plants. Vitamin K2 if converted from K1 and K3 by bacteria during fermentation.
Vitamin K1, which is found in plants, is useless in our body in this form. It must be converted to K2 to be utilized. This is important when consuming soy foods. For many reasons, soy should not be consumed, unless it has been fermented into miso, tempeh, or traditional tofu. The bacteria natto used to fermented the soy is very good at producing K2.
K2 is the mysterious vitamin X that Dr. Weston Price dissevered almost a century ago. He knew that there was a pivotal nutrient missing between modern diet and the diet of primitive societies, he deemed in Vitamin X. Vitamin X was the reason that primitive diets yielded stronger and healthy teeth and bones according to him. I recommend reading (Nutrition and Physical Degneration), the book he wrote based on his explorations and nutritional discoveries.
K2 is the form used in our body, and if supplementing is the best source. Supplements of K2 should avoided with anyone taking blood thinners, who have a history of blood clotting issues. K3/K4/K5 are all synthetic versions, of which K3 is known to be toxic.
Food Sources of K1: Green Leafy Vegetables; Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Asparagus, Okra, Parsley
Food Sources of K2: Bone Marrow, Fermented Vegetables