Difference between Water soluble and Fat soluble Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that play vital role in human development, growth, and regulating normal cell function. They are essential components in maintaining sound health. Deficiency of vitamins in body manifests into malnutrition and development of various syndromes. Please go through this article to find out more on water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins and the difference between them.

Vitamins are categorised into two types, depending upon the way they are absorbed and if they can be stored in the body −

  • Water-soluble vitamins
  • Fat-soluble vitamins

Read through this article to find out more about these two types of vitamins and how they differ from each other.

What are Water-soluble Vitamins?

They are the vitamins that dissolve in blood when they enter into body. Due to their characteristics, we cannot store surplus water-soluble vitamins in our body for future use.

When the intake of water-soluble vitamins exceeds minimal requirement, excess amount of vitamins are stored in body tissues. However, when the storage capacity of tissues saturates, excretion rate increases. Unlike the other water-soluble vitamins, B12 is excreted solely in the feces.

Vitamins that are Water-soluble

Clinically identified most important water-soluble vitamins are as follows −

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) − It breaks down carbohydrates to make energy in muscles, brain, liver, and kidneys. It is found in whole wheat, brown rice, legumes, meat, and cereals. Deficiency of this vitamin results Beri-Beri in children and Alcohol use disorder in adults.

  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) − It is stored in human liver. It is found in milk, eggs, green vegetables, organ meats such as livers and kidneys, and in yeast. Deficiency of this vitamin leads to inflammation of mouth, lips, and tongue, and Cataract. This vitamin comes only from the foods of animal origin. Hence the vegans and vegetarians are required to keep a keen eye on their B12 levels.

  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) − It is found in poultry, fish, legumes, brown rice, nuts, and seeds. It is involved in antioxidation, nerve functions, and intercommunication among cells. Deficiency of B3 results in Pellagra (the four diseases named Dermatitis, Dimentia, Diarrhea, Death).

  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) − It is produced in small intestine. It degrades carbs, amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, and steroids. It regulates sleep cycle. It is found in Shitake mushrooms, egg yolk, dairy products, and Sunflower seeds and butter.

  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) − It is vital for normal development of brain and nervous system, their health, and regulation of mood. Food sources like poultry, fish, bananas, potatoes, and chickpeas contain vitamin B6 in ample amount. Deficiency of this vitamin causes anaemia, irritability, convulsions, inflammation of nerves.

  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin) − It is produced by bacteria in gut. It promotes heath of nails and hair. It is found in carrots, cauliflower, whole grains, organ meats, seafood, Sunflower seeds and butter, and cooked egg yolks. Lack of this vitamin results in brittle nails and bones, and hairfall.

  • Vitamin B9 (Folate) − It is responsible for DNA, cell, and organ development. It is found in asparagus, avocados, beans, oranges, sprouts, and leafy green vegetables. Lack of folate or folic acid results in birth defects, heart disease, and some cancers.

  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) − It is essential for formation of red blood cell, metabolism of cells, nerve functions, and DNA production. It is found in poultry, Sardines, Sprouts, Tuna, clams, organ meats, and fortified cereals. Deficiency of this vitamin affects almost all sorts of body tissues that contain rapidly dividing cells during growth. Most serious effect is degeneration of nervous system.

  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) − It is vital for forming blood vessels, scar tissues, collagen in bones, cartilage, and ligaments. It enables functioning of body's immune system. Main sources are Pineapple, citrus fruits, bell peppers, black currants, and strawberries.

Water-soluble vitamins are excreted through urine via kidneys. Deficiency of any of these water-soluble vitamins results in a clinical syndrome that may result in severe morbidity and mortality.

What are Fat-soluble Vitamins?

They are the vitamins that are absorbed by the body along with the fatty substances in diet. The vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in the body's fat tissues and liver for longer time to be used later.

  • Vitamin A − It is a collection of compounds called Retinoids. Vitamin A supports vision and immunity. Some sources of vitamin A are sweet potatoes, carrots, black-eyed beans, pumpkin, Cod liver oil, milk, and cheese.

  • Vitamin D − It is a group of compounds collectively known as Calciferol. This vitamin is absorbed by body when skin is exposed to sunlight. It is also called "Sunshine Vitamin". There are two types of vitamin D −

    • vitamin D2, found in mushrooms
    • vitamin D3, found in animal fats

    Vitamin D maintains bone health and supports immune system.

  • Vitamin E − It is found in seeds, nuts, mangoes, avocadoes, and plant-based oils. It is an antioxidant, protecting body cells from loose electrons called "free radicals" that can damage cells. It boosts cognitive health and skin health.

  • Vitamin K − It contributes to blood clotting and arresting excessive bleeding. It is found in cabbage and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin K helps to make various proteins that are needed for blood clotting and the building of bones.

Difference between Water-soluble and Fat-soluble Vitamins

The following table highlights the major differences between Water-soluble and Fat-soluble vitamins −

Key Factor Water-soluble Vitamins Fat-soluble Vitamins
Absorption They are absorbed in blood. They are absorbed in fat tissues and liver.
Storage They are not stored in body. They are stored in body for long time.
Deficiency Symptoms Symptoms of deficiency are seen quickly. Symptoms of deficiency are seen late.
Toxicity Low toxicity even if consumed excessively as the excess vitamins are flushed out of the body. They pose a higher risk of toxicity when consumed in excess amount as they are stored in fat tissues.


Having understood what vitamins are, their types and the differences between them, we can conclude that intake of too little of any vitamin leads to an increase in the risk of creating certain health issues. On the contrary, having too much of a vitamin can lead to toxicity. Hence it is inevitable to keep a good balance of vitamin intake. It is always advisable to consult a doctor and go with their advice for keeping adequate balance of vitamins.

Updated on: 03-Aug-2022


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