A few weeks ago I heard someone say, “the more vitamins you take the better it is for your health”. I didn’t say anything right away, but that comment has been stuck in my head ever since. This made me realize that most people are misunderstanding such an important nutrition concept because of the lack of knowledge and understanding. Let me begin this by clarifying that that comment is not entirely accurate.
First of all, there are two kinds of vitamins; water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. Both of these have regulatory functions in the body and aid many metabolic pathways, but the main difference between the two classifications is that they are absorbed, transported, and stored differently.
Water-soluble vitamins are the ones that are absorbed into portal blood and are mostly excreted through urine when there is excess in the body, and are not stored in large quantities. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and B-complex* vitamins, with general functions such as metabolism of nutrients, energy production, gene-expression and others. It is also important to understand that vitamins are not a source of energy, meaning that they do not have any calories. They are essential for metabolic processes for energy production, but vitamins themselves do not have calories or give you energy. Toxicity is not a concern with water-soluble vitamins (for the most part) because they are easily excreted.
Fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are mostly absorbed through the lymphatic system with the help of transporters (such as chylomicrons- dietary lipid transporter). These vitamins are also stored in larger quantities for longer periods of time (days to months) in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins are not as easily excreted as water-soluble because they are mainly stored in the liver, adipose cells (fat cells), and other parts throughout the body. Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K. Toxicity is rare, but could occur if taken in excess because their rate of metabolism is slower and longer than water-soluble vitamins (with the exception of vitamin K, which has a fast turnover rate and has water-soluble like characteristics).
I believe that vitamins and minerals should mostly be acquired from food sources before supplements are considered, depending on the individual’s health status and nutrients needs. There should always be a balance, and just because you consume more vitamins means that it will be good for the body and health.
*B-complex vitamins- Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B6, Folate (Folic acid), Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin).
Please comment any questions or suggestions you might have.