What Are Fat-Soluble Vitamins? - Definition, Functions, Characteristics & Examples

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  • 0:00 Fat-Soluble Vitamins
  • 1:00 Functions
  • 1:55 Characteristics
  • 2:55 Examples
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

In this lesson, you will learn about fat-soluble vitamins and how they function in your body. You will also obtain information about the characteristics as well as possible food sources of fat-soluble vitamins.

Definition of Fat Soluble Vitamins

Food companies advertise that their breakfast cereals are packed with vitamin E. You can also find milk fortified with vitamin D at your neighborhood grocery store. It seems like every fruit juice on the market is advertised as having a certain percentage of vitamin C. You know vitamins are good for you, but what exactly do they do? And what are the different types of vitamins, such as those that are fat-soluble?

Vitamins are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to function. They fall into two categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble. The water-soluble vitamins - C and the B-complex vitamins - dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. Fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E, and K - dissolve in fat and can be stored in your liver and fat tissue until needed. Fat-soluble vitamins have a multitude of functions from keeping your bones strong to helping your muscles move.

Functions of Fat Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A helps your vision, immune, and reproductive systems. It is essential to bone growth and tooth development. It also keeps your heart, lungs and kidneys working properly.

Vitamin D, along with calcium, keeps your bones strong by preventing diseases such as rickets, a disorder that causes bones to become soft and weak in children. It also helps prevent osteoporosis, which makes your bones weak and more likely to break. Vitamin D also helps your muscles move, improves your immune function and helps reduce inflammation.

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects your body from free radicals, which are molecules that damage your cells. It also boosts your immune system and keeps blood moving through your blood vessels without clotting.

Vitamin K, conversely, allows your blood to clot. It also helps your body by making proteins for healthy bones and tissues.

Characteristics of Fat Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins have specific characteristics that help differentiate them from other vitamins.

Storage: Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your liver and fatty tissue.

Longevity: Fat-soluble vitamins last longer in your body, because you do not need them every day. They can be tucked away until they are required for such functions as blood clotting, as in the case of vitamin K.

Absorption and Excretion: The fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the small intestine with dietary fat and are excreted slowly.

Toxicity: Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body longer they are more likely to cause toxicity, since the body cannot excrete them quickly enough. In general, a healthy diet will not cause toxicity, but taking supplements at high levels may create an imbalance of vitamins and cause illness. So, try not to get too addicted to those delicious gummy vitamins!

Examples of Fat Soluble Vitamins

If you eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet, which includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and healthy oils, and spend some time in the sun you will most likely get ample amounts of fat-soluble vitamins.

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