Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D in milk, are needed for proper growth, development and disease prevention.

What Happens to Your Body When You Go Without Fat-Soluble Vitamins?

by Michelle Fisk

If you need a reason to top your vegetables with a little olive oil, look no further than the fat-soluble vitamins consisting of vitamins A, D, E and K. Olive oil contains fat, which your body needs to absorb these vitamins. You don’t need to eat them every day because you store them in your liver and fat tissue. It is rare to suffer from a fat-soluble vitamin deficiency, but you are at risk if you don’t get enough of them in your diet or if you can’t absorb fat properly. If you go without them, your body will suffer unpleasant consequences and you’ll be at risk for infection and disease.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A is best known for keeping your peepers in tip-top shape. Your cells also need it to divide and reproduce normally, and it keeps the lining of your mouth, nose, throat and lungs moist. It's essential for growth, reproduction, wound healing and tooth development. Vitamin A is mostly found in animal products, dairy products, fish and fruits and vegetables with orange and dark green colors. A vitamin A deficiency is rare and it may take up to two years for symptoms to appear, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Symptoms include night blindness, rough, dry skin, inability to fight infection, poor tooth development and slow bone growth.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorous, control cell growth and maintain a healthy immune system. You get vitamin D from dairy products and oily fish, like salmon, and your body makes it when exposed to sunlight. With a vitamin D deficiency, children may develop rickets and flattening of their backs and skulls. Adults may experience muscle loss and weakness and osteoporosis, which is a loss of bone mass. A deficiency is also associated with certain cancers, autoimmune disease, high blood pressure and infectious disease. People at risk include breastfed infants, the elderly, dark-skinned people, those who don’t get enough sunlight and people who don't properly absorb vitamin D.

Vitamin E Deficiency

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that stops damage to your cells. It also facilitates production and maintenance of red blood cells, helps your body use vitamin K and prevents vitamins A and C and essential fatty acids from being destroyed. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most people in the United States don’t have a severe deficiency, but a lot of people have low levels of vitamin E. If you can’t absorb fat properly, you’re at risk for developing a vitamin E deficiency, and you may experience muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass, vision problems and abnormal eye movements and unsteady walking.

Vitamin K Deficiency

You probably remember your newborn receiving a shot of vitamin K when he first entered this world. While it’s rare to be deficient in vitamin K because the bacteria in your intestines make it, infants are at risk because they don’t have the bacteria to produce it yet. You may also develop a deficiency if you take anticoagulant drugs, blood-thinning drugs or antibiotics or suffer from chronic diarrhea. Vitamin K is needed to clot blood, make proteins and is essential for healthy bones. A deficiency causes excessive bleeding, especially from the nose and gums.

About the Author

Michelle Fisk began writing professionally in 2011. She has been published in the "Physician and Sports Medicine Journal." Her expertise lies in the fields of exercise physiology and nutrition. Fisk holds a Master of Science in kinesiology from Marywood University.

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