Millions of people around the world take a daily vitamin supplement. However, few really think about the vitamins they take, but there are two very different types. They’re absorbed differently and are eliminated from the body at different rates, which will have an effect on their efficacy and an individual’s overall health. They fall into two categories – water-soluble and fat-soluble.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

These are the type that dissolves in water and are easily absorbed by the body. The body doesn’t store water-soluble vitamins and they need to be replenished regularly to maintain health. Since they dissolve so readily, they pass quickly through the body and are eliminated through urination.

They also have the ability to result in diarrhea if people take them too often or the dose is too high. Examples of water-soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vitamin C. They play a role in functions ranging from boosting the immune system, red blood cell production, managing metabolism, brain health, and maintaining a healthy neurological system.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

In contrast, fat-soluble vitamins are found in high-fat foods. The vitamins are absorbed in the small intestines by globules of fat and then distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. These vitamins are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and liver so they can be used when they’re needed at a later date.

There are four fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. They perform functions that include enhancing the immune system, strengthening bones, enabling blood to clot, and creating antioxidants that neutralize free radicals that cause aging. Since they’re not readily eliminated from the body, it’s possible to accrue toxic levels of fat-soluble vitamins, essentially overdosing on them.

A Collaborative Effort

Water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins are both required for a healthy brain and body. The two types are co-dependent and work together within the body. It’s important to know the difference since water-soluble vitamins leave the body fairly quickly and will need to be replenished regularly. Fat-soluble vitamins stay in the body for varying lengths of time that can range from a few days to six months.

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