How many times have you purchased something intended as a drink mix-in, only to find that no matter how much you stirred, the powder wouldn’t dissolve? The liquid remained stubbornly separate? Have you ever tried cooking with butter, only to find it isolated in droplets in your sauce?
If this has happened to you, then you’ve run head-first into the difference between a water soluble and fat-soluble substance. Confused about what the differences are between these two terms? Let’s take a moment to revisit our faded memories of high school chemistry, physical science, and health class and learn the concepts anew.
Let’s Review: Solutes, Solvents, and Solutions
Before we delve into the differences between fat and water-soluble substances, let’s first review what it means for a substance to be soluble at all. For that, we must ask you to strap in and take a trip down memory lane to physical science class while we discuss the definitions of solutes, solvents, and solutions.
What Is a Solution?
In chemistry terms, a solution is a mixture of two or more substances that have blended to become one. Such mixtures are homogeneous, meaning they are the same throughout. This makes solutions different from emulsions, which are heterogeneous, or a mixture of two substances that cannot or will not blend.
What Is a Solute?
So, now that you know what a solution is, the definition of a solute should become clearer. The solute is the substance mixed into the base material to form the solution. For example, if you’re mixing protein powder into your morning milk to give it extra staying power, the powder is your solute.
What Is a Solvent?
If the solute is the substance mixed in, then the solvent is the substance that things get mixed into. Returning to the example of the protein shake above, the milk is the solvent that will dissolve the protein powder to create the simple shake.
What Does Water Soluble Mean?
Now that you have a better understanding of solutions, solutes, and solvents, the meaning of water soluble should become clearer. If a substance is stated to be water soluble, then that means it can be dissolved into water to create a new solution. If you were to mix this Water Soluble Isolate of CBD into a glass of water, you’d have a new solution that’s neither water nor the isolate, but something else.
What Does Fat Soluble Mean?
If water soluble solutes can get dissolved in water, then it stands to reason that fat soluble substances can be dissolved in fat, does it not? This is why, if you use butter or oil in your cooking sauces, they get mixed with other oils, cheeses, or dairy products. This is also why CBD-based lotions and soaps can exist without the CBD separating from the mixture: the CBD oil can dissolve into the other fats used to create the lotion.
How Are Water Soluble Substances Absorbed?
Water soluble substances are absorbed by the body than fat soluble ones. These substances enter the body through your bloodstream and exit in the form of urine. They pass through quickly, and don’t get stored by your body, meaning they require constant replenishment.
How Are Fat Soluble Substances Absorbed?
Fat soluble substances get stored in your body’s lipids travel through your body before coming to rest in your liver and other fatty tissues. Despite how much we vilify fat in the modern era, your body needs a certain amount in order to function properly. This is where anything labeled as fat soluble will remain for as long as six months.
Since fat soluble substances can stay in your body for a very long time, it’s possible to take in too much of them and risk negative side effects. This can happen even with vitamins, so you need to make sure you’re monitoring your intake levels to avoid the risk of toxicosis.
We spoke at length about how water soluble and fat soluble substances get absorbed by the body. However, this concept also relies heavily upon another chemical and biological term known as bioavailability. Bioavailability, in essence, refers to how much of a given substance gets absorbed by the bloodstream.
Bioavailability is usually mentioned in relation with protein absorption, as protein needs heavy metabolic work and easier adsorption of protein could unburden your liver with the less metabolic workload. However, Bioavailability in human food seems to be a less important factor when compared to pet food especially carnivore like cats where protein is an essential dietary component and its bioavailability is the crucial determining factor of protein quality, For example, Dried egg protein is usually added to commercial cat food because of its high bioavailability and in order for the cat to make the most efficient use of its amino acid profile.
Water soluble substances and vitamins tend to have greater bioavailability than fat soluble ones. Greater bioavailability of a substance means it has a greater effect on your body. When you use something like CBD, the more your body has to break it down to use it, the less of an effect you’ll experience.
This is why lotions and creams with CBD tend to have greater effectiveness than a pill you swallow.
Common Water Soluble Supplements and Vitamins
As we mentioned above, water soluble vitamins and supplements don’t remain in the body for long. As such, it’s difficult to make them build up to toxic levels. However, overdosing on certain vitamins of this type can lead to diarrhea and other unpleasant symptoms.
Some common water soluble vitamins and supplements you need for your everyday life include:
You most often hear vitamin C mentioned when you’re sick. Immune boosters everywhere claim to have all you need and more of this crucial vitamin.
There’s a reason for that! Vitamin C is, indeed, crucial for supporting your immune system. However, it also helps protect your cells from damage as an antioxidant. It increases your body’s absorption of iron and helps it to make collagen. Collagen is critical to helping your body heal its wounds.
There are many, many types of vitamin B, all of which are water soluble. However, they each serve different purposes in the body itself. To summarize a rather complicated topic, the various B vitamins and their functions include:
- B1 and B5 both help convert food to energy
- B2, which helps create red blood cells
- B3 and B6 both help cardiovascular health
- B7, sometimes called Biotin, which supports the growth of hair, skin, and nails
- B9 and B12, which help support your central nervous system
You need each of these Vitamin B complexes to support your body’s health.
Common Fat Soluble Supplements and Vitamins
As we mentioned above, fat soluble substances can stay in your system for up to six months, which can make it easy to build toxic amounts. Some common fat soluble vitamins that you may encounter include:
When you hear people talk about Vitamin A, it’s most likely been in the context of your vision. This is because Vitamin A helps support your vision, your immune system, and your organs. (Yes, this includes your reproductive organs as well.) You can get Vitamin A from meat or vegetables, but it’s recommended that you get it from a mixture of the two.
Vitamin D is crucial to your skeletal health, as it works alongside calcium to increase bone strength. It also supports your immune system and muscular health. However, Vitamin D can be tricky to get into your body, as it’s not a natural element of most foods we eat.
Instead, you need to get out in the sun to get your daily dose of Vitamin D! Just make sure you have the proper protection while you’re out there, so you don’t damage your skin.
Vitamin E is yet another vitamin that your immune system needs in order to do its job properly. It can help your body prevent blood clots from forming, as well as fight back against cancer-causing chemicals and carcinogens. If you want to get enough Vitamin E in your system, make sure you fill your diet with plenty of leafy greens!
We know, that seems silly since it’s a fat soluble vitamin and you most often associate dark leafy greens with water. However, we promise, eating more greens, nuts, and seeds will boost your levels.
While Vitamin E helps prevent excess blood clotting, you need a certain amount of Vitamin K in your body to support clotting. Given the amount of health risks posed by blood clots, it might seem odd that you need this fat soluble vitamin to help your blood clot up. However, if your blood cannot clot properly, you won’t be able to stop bleeding from even minor cuts and will bruise with ease.
Vitamin K also works alongside Vitamin D in supporting your bones. You need both as you age and your bones become brittle from diseases like osteoporosis.
Let’s Review the Differences Between Fat Soluble vs Water Soluble
We covered a lot of information in this article, so let’s get back to basics. The main difference between water soluble and fat soluble substances is what they can mix with. Water soluble substances mix and dissolve into water, while fat soluble substances require oil or some other fat. Each of these gets absorbed by the body in different ways.
Do you need more information on the difference between fat-soluble and water-soluble substances? Are you in the market for more health-related content? Then check out our blog each day for more articles like this one!