Vitamins are essential for each and every bodily process to run as it should. They provide different nutrients, all of which are required to either prevent chronic illness or encourage overall health.

Not all vitamins are made equally, though. They all have different rates of absorption, also known as bioavailability, as well as different rates at which they are excreted from the body. All vitamins fall into one of two main categories when it comes to where they are stored in the body: water soluble and fat soluble. So which vitamins are water soluble?

What does it mean if a vitamin is water soluble?

A water-soluble vitamin is dissolved in water and is essentially easy to be absorbed into the body. This readily available absorption allows the vitamins to be used immediately by the body once they reach the tissues. They are not stored, and thus require daily doses to help keep up with the body’s demand of each specific nutrient.

Since the body only needs a certain amount of each water-soluble vitamin, it typically takes what it needs when it arrives into the body and flushes out the rest so that there is no overaccumulation.

Vital RX - water
Image by Manki Kim on Unsplash: Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, whereas fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat within the body. 

Water-soluble vitamins vs fat-soluble vitamins

A fat-soluble vitamin is different than a water-soluble vitamin in that it dissolves in fat to be absorbed into the body. The specific type of fat required for these nutrients to be absorbed is fat globules. When the vitamin enters the fat globule, it is then distributed to where it needs to go when the globule makes its way through the small intestines. These types of vitamins are stored for much longer than water-soluble vitamins and can be typically found in the liver and fatty tissues. This storage leaves them readily available for when the body needs them in the future. The best way to absorb fat-soluble vitamins is if they are taken with high-fat foods.

Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are not stored as mentioned above, and thus need to be replenished more often. Although all vitamins have different daily recommended amounts, there is no difference in the general need for both fat- and water-soluble vitamins, as all the essential vitamins are required in their own respective amounts.

Are most vitamins water soluble?

The majority of vitamins are water soluble, with only four being fat soluble. Specific vitamins that are water soluble include:

  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5)
  • Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
  • Biotin (Vitamin B7)
  • Folate (Vitamin B9)
  • Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
  • Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

These vitamins are essential to overall health, but without storage capabilities, they need to be consumed every day to ensure that a person is getting enough and reaping the health rewards of having full levels of nutrition.

The four fat-soluble vitamins are:

Fat-soluble vitamins pose more of a toxicity risk than water soluble vitamins because they are stored within the body for much longer periods of time and are less readily excreted. Taking more than the body needs could result in an overdose.

When should you take water-soluble vitamins?

The most optimal time to take water-soluble vitamins will depend on their type; however, they are best absorbed on an empty stomach. By taking them in the morning half an hour before eating or two hours after a meal, you’ll get the most out of the vitamin when it comes to nutrient absorption.

Taking the B family of vitamins in the morning can also help to boost energy and mood levels and help with stress management for the upcoming day. Vitamin C can be taken at any point throughout the day, and it is typically safe to take other water-soluble vitamins at the same time.

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Image by Pina Messina on Unsplash: Water-soluble vitamins are generally safe to be taken together and should be done on an empty stomach for the most benefits.

Can you OD on a water-soluble vitamin?

As mentioned above, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. This leaves the chance of an overdose of the vitamin very low. This is especially true for vitamin C, which the body will push out of the system prior to a dangerous overdose. If vitamin C is taken in great excess, it can cause upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea, but it is unlikely to cause any other negative health effects. 

The water-soluble vitamins that pose the most risk when it comes to an overdose are certain B vitamins, such as B3 and B6. These have been shown to cause adverse health effects such as jaundice, elevated liver enzymes, and nausea and nerve damage when taken in excess.

Each body is different and requires different amounts of water-soluble vitamins depending on overall health levels, any chronic conditions, or medications that may deplete or hinder the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins. To find out how much you need, it’s important to speak with your doctor.

The water-soluble list of vitamins is essential to the overall function of many processes within the body – for example, B vitamins are often referred to as the “building blocks” of health, and the daily target needs to be met for things such as cell metabolism, energy levels, and brain function. Being sure you’re getting enough water-soluble vitamins on a daily basis is the best way to keep up with your health and avoid any complications that can arise from being malnourished.

Featured image by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash