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question

How are fat-soluble vitamins absorbed by the body?

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internist
answer

Rather than slipping easily into the bloodstream like most water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins gain entry to the blood via lymph channels in the intestinal wall. Many fat-soluble vitamins travel through the body only under escort by proteins that act as carriers.

The following describes how fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed by the body:

  1. Food containing fat-soluble vitamins is ingested.
  2. The food is digested by stomach acid and then travels to the small intestine, where it is digested further. Bile is needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This substance, which is produced in the liver, flows into the small intestine, where it breaks down fats. Nutrients are then absorbed through the wall of the small intestine.
  3. Upon absorption, the fat-soluble vitamins enter the lymph vessels before making their way into the bloodstream. In most cases, fat-soluble vitamins must be coupled with a protein in order to travel through the body.
  4. These vitamins are used throughout the body, but excesses are stored in the liver and fat tissues.
  5. As additional amounts of these vitamins are needed, your body taps into the reserves, releasing them into the bloodstream from the liver.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.