In March 2020, the Federal Food and Drug Administration updated the food labeling requirements. Therefore clarifying the information. This was to simplify and improve the information provided to the consumer.
Written By: Maria Vardapetyan, Eric Baghdasaryan, Osheen Abnous
Vitamins are chemicals that facilitate many processes in the human body such as blood clot formation, good vision, fight infections etc. There are two classes of vitamins. Water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water. This makes it possible for them to be absorbed through all mucous membranes. Fat soluble vitamins on the other hand do not dissolve or pass through mucous membranes. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the intestine along with fats in the diet. These vitamins have the ability to be stored in the fat tissues of the human body. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and have to be taken in daily with the food and dietary supplements. Solubility of a vitamin is not a function of its physical state. There are fat soluble vitamins that have a liquid form and almost all of the water soluble vitamins come in form of pills or powders.
In this article, we are going to focus on fat soluble vitamins. They are all complex molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in different arrangements (see figures 1, 2, 3 and 4). These fat soluble vitamins are vitamin A, D, E and K.
Vitamin A has a major role in vision, immune function, cell growth, and maintenance of organs such as heart, kidneys, lungs, etc. It plays a pivotal role in the health of our eyes, specifically the retina1. Rhodopsin protein, a major protein that has the leading role in the process of vision, is found in the retina where it allows us to perceive light. This protein requires vitamin A to function properly. Without vitamin A, rhodopsin cannot sense light and thus cannot initiate the process by which vision occurs.
Figure 1: Chemical structure of Vitamin A molecule
Vitamin D regulates different chemical reactions that are associated with bones, muscles, and the immune system. The simplified way it does this regulation is it helps absorb calcium from dietary nutrients which in turn strengthens the bones, helps neurons exchange signals to move muscles and helps the immune system to fight against viruses and bacteria2.
Figure 2: Chemical structure of Vitamin D molecule
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that neutralize toxic byproducts of many chemical reactions in the human body. When food is consumed and digested, the human body converts it into energy. As a result of metabolism free radicals (toxic byproducts) are formed and are neutralized with the help of vitamin E. In addition, free radicals are also in the environment. Furthermore, vitamin E stimulates the immune system to fight against bacteria and viruses3.
Figure 3: Chemical structure of Vitamin E molecule
Vitamin K can be obtained from food and dietary supplements. There are two forms of vitamin K: phylloquinone (Vitamin K1), which is found in spinach, kale and other greens and menaquinone-4 (Vitamin K2), which is found in animal products. Vitamin K1 is involved in blood clotting, and Vitamin K2 is involved in bone tissue building. Vitamin K1 is the main Vitamin K in human diet (75-90% of all vitamin K consumed), however, it is poorly absorbed in the body4,5.
Figure 4: Chemical structures of Vitamin K1 and K2 molecules
Absorption of fat soluble vitamins
Polarity describes the inherent charge(positive or negative) or lack of charge for any given substance or molecule. Molecules that are charged are referred to as “polar”, while those that lack charge are “nonpolar”. When discussing solubility, it is important to remember the phrase “like dissolves like”. That means polar (charged) substances like to interact with a polar environment like water, since water contains a slight negative charge. Hence, charged substances are water-soluble. Nonpolar substances on the other hand readily interact with nonpolar environments such as fat, which contains no charge. Therefore, molecules that lack a charge such as vitamins A, D, E, and K are referred to as fat soluble.
Due to their water fearing nature, these fat soluble vitamins cannot simply be absorbed directly into the bloodstream (which is mostly water) like the sugars and amino acids in our diet. As their name suggests, these fat soluble vitamins like to be embedded in fatty droplets, which facilitate their absorption in the following way. Fat soluble vitamins group together with other fat molecules to form fatty droplets, effectively reducing the amount of interaction with the watery environment of the intestines. Therefore, without an adequate amount of fat in your diet, your body is unable to effectively absorb these fat-soluble vitamins. This may be true in an intact anatomy, however, post weight loss surgical patients can not increase their fat soluble vitamin levels by increasing their fat intake. This is due to the fact that a high fat diet causes excessive bowel movement which in turn washes away any vitamins taken by mouth. DS limits fat absorption (thus the great weight loss) which can cause vitamin A and D deficiency that can not be easily corrected with oral supplementation.
As mentioned before, fat soluble vitamins are hydrophobic and nonpolar, which means they are also fat loving or lipophilic. Excess fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the liver and fat tissue. Therefore, these vitamins do not need to be eaten every single day since stores of these vitamins can sustain a person for some time. It may take several weeks or months for our body to deplete these stores of fat soluble vitamins which is why it generally takes a longer amount of time for fat soluble vitamin deficiencies to manifest themselves. The ability to store these fat soluble vitamins in tissues can also lead to vitamin toxicity – marked by an excess of vitamin stores in our body.
Clinical manifestations of A, D, E, K deficiency
|Vitamin||Clinical Deficiency manifestations|
|Vitamin A||Vision Problems
Dryness of the eye
|Vitamin D||Softening and weakening of the bones
Bone shape distortion
Bowed legs (generally in children)
|Vitamin E||Damage to red blood cells
Tissue/organ damage due to inability to supply enough blood
Nervous tissue malfunction
|Vitamin K1||Excessive bruising
Increased bleeding time
Small blood clots under nails
Increased bleeding in mucous membrane
|Vitamin K2||Weak bones
Increased plaque deposits along gumline
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/#. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin E. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer/. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Vitamin K. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-k/. Published July 2, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Beulens JWJ, Booth SL, van den Heuvel EGHM, Stoecklin E, Baka A, Vermeer C. The role of menaquinones (vitamin K₂) in human health. The British journal of nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23590754. Published October 2013. Accessed April 26, 2020.
Weight loss surgical procedures, in one form or another, achieve the desired effect of weight loss by altering absorption of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. This results in decreased total absorption of required calories.
An unintended consequence is the altered absorption of medications. Frequently I am asked about the specific medication. Usually the answer is vague since the information is limited on specific medications. If the desired effect is not achieved, then it is probably not being absorbed well. Specially, if the same dose of the same medication working well before surgery.
There is a summary article about the Theoretical absorption pattern of different weight loss surgical procedures.
Protein intake requirements change over time following weight loss surgery. This is based on the requirements imposed on our body by a number of variables. These include, activity level, muscle mass, over all health condition to name a few.
A very young muscular athletic male with a BMI or 30 will require much higher protein intake (and absorption) that an inactive older Female with the same BMI. The same young athletic male will require much higher protein intake is he is recovering from a surgery than his baseline.
As we have stated in the past, the protein intake, should be adequate and not excessive. High level of protein intake that are not accounted for based on muscle mass and activity level, will eventually result in weight gain. The best measure of protein intake in a stable weight patient over 3-4 years post op is their albumin and protein level. Following your yearly laboratory values at a minimum is an important part of weight loss surgery follow up care.
You also need to adjust protein intake when necessary. Protein needs increase depending on physical needs, infection, healing, pregnancy, surgery, age, injury, etc. Plastic surgery requires higher protein needs for appropriate healing.
Information on protein sources and quality here.
The basic formula for protein intake is 1gm/kg of ideal body weight. The calculator below will provide a guide for the protein into based on your stable weight in lbs.
Obesity is related to as many as 400,000 deaths each year in the US and it has increasingly been recognized as a risk factor for several nutrient deficiencies. This may seem surprising given the likelihood of over consumption of calories, however these additional calories are not from nutritious sources. One of the main reason for these nutritional deficits is the greater availability of inexpensive foods that are rich in calories and are nutrient deficient. This has led some medical professional to conclude that there is a certain group of people who are overfed but undernourished. Even with the epidemic of the obesity, there is significant nutritional deficiencies noted.
Obese subjects have increased blood volume, cardiac output, adiposity, lean mass and organ size all of which can influence volume of distribution, in addition, treatment for severe obesity involving surgical procedures can worsen these nutrient deficiencies and in some cases may cause new ones to develop.
This table shows the percentage of population below the estimated average requirement (EAR) by body weight status in adults more tan 19 years old, showing that almost 90 to 100 percent of people including normal weight (NW) are below the EAR of vitamin D and Vitamin E.
Nutritional deficiencies in obese patients may promote the development of chronic diseases including increased insulin resistance, pancreatic B-cell disfunction and diabetes, this is because specific micronutrients are involved in glucose metabolic pathways; There are other chronic diseases related to obesity that are being investigated such as decrease in focal grey matter volume and cognitive impairment or inadequate sleep due to low intake of antioxidant vitamins.
We would like to thank Miguel Rosado, MD for his significant contribution provided for this Blog.