Fat-soluble vitamins and your oral health
Many of us don’t realise how much our diet and way of life is responsible for our oral health, as well as our general health. From an early age, we are drilled to understand the importance of calcium in our diet to support strong and healthy teeth. But what we aren’t taught about is the importance of other nutrients, in this instance fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E, and K2.
Read on to learn the importance of these vitamins and their roles of transporting and absorbing essential minerals like calcium for our overall teeth health, and how to get enough of them in your diet.
Why do we need healthy fats in our diet?
Human nutrition consists of three main nutrient groups called Macronutrients. These are made up of Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates. Each macronutrient group plays a vital part in the day-to-day chemical functions that occur in our bodies to help our cells repair, build, and function healthily.
Traditionally, the common function of fats in our diet has been to provide a source of energy that can be stored and used when we need it – think hunter-gatherer times or animals hibernating through winter. What a lot of people don’t realise is that there are different types of fats that we consume in our daily diet, some good and some bad, that a lot of us consume too much or too little of. The quality of fats we consume are much more important than the quantity. Each type of fat has its own function at the biochemical level in our body.
Although fats main function is to provide an energy source, they perform many other life-supporting functions in each cell of our body and are part of every cell membrane, organ and tissue. Fats are required to store and transport important nutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Find out how important these vitamins are for our overall and oral health next.
Fat-soluble vitamins function and your oral health
Without the presence of particular types of fats in our diets, certain vital Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) cannot be absorbed by our bodies. When a particular micronutrient is not present, certain chemical reactions in the body that are vital for our health and function cannot occur.
When it comes to absorbing vitamins, most are classed as water-soluble meaning they dissolve in water and our bodies cannot store them to use at a later date. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are similar to oil and do not dissolve in water. This means that the right fats need to be present in our diets in order for them to be absorbed into our bloodstream to be used and stored.
Remember that eating fat does not make you fat, clog your arteries, or increase your blood cholesterol. Consuming an overall calorific surplus in conjunction with a diet containing the wrong types of fats, high in sugar, and excessively processed paired with living an inactive lifestyle does this.
Oral health and vitamin deficiencies have a strong relationship with your diet. As many of us do not consume enough of the right types of fats, we are deficient in fat-soluble vitamins. Minerals such as calcium cannot be absorbed and correctly used when this happens. When it comes to your oral health, signs such as tartar build-up and tooth decay can be an indicator that your body is lacking in vitamins A, D3, E, and K2.
We explain the effects of these on your overall oral health and how to stock up on these in your diet below.
Known as the “sunshine” vitamin as it is manufactured in our skin upon contact with UV rays from the sun, no other vitamin requires more “whole-body” participation to absorb it than Vitamin D3. The skin, bloodstream, liver, and kidneys all contribute to the formation of absorbable vitamin D.
Vitamin D not only boosts our immunity, but it also helps the body absorb calcium while boosting bone mineral density. If enough vitamin D isn’t present in your body, a sign of calcium not absorbing properly is tartar build-up on the teeth. Yes, that’s what tartar is, a build-up of calcium, phosphate and bacteria, and if it's building up on your teeth, imagine what your arteries could look like.
Where can I get Vitamin D3?
Although this is made in our bodies, a supplemented version of Vitamin D3 can only be found in animal-sourced foods such as eggs and fish oil.
It is so important to get enough sunlight all year round, including the winter months. Although we are told to slip, slop, slap and wrap in summer to protect us from those UV rays, sometimes a little bit of direct sun exposure can provide so many benefits for our health by increasing vitamin D3 production.
The vitamin is involved in laying down new cells, including bone cells, during growth and promoting healthy teeth. It keeps mucous membranes healthy, preventing dry mouth and helps your mouth heal quickly. For you, that means your gums are kept healthy and strong tooth enamel is built.
Which foods contain Vitamin A?
Vitamin A can be found in both animal (highest source) and plant sources in the form of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
Animal sources: fish liver oil, beef liver, dairy products, egg yolks.
Plant sources: leafy and green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, lettuce, spinach and orange vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potato, red cabbage and yams.
As it is a fat-soluble vitamin, about 90% of what is stored can be found in the liver. Alcohol consumption depletes the liver of its stores so it is therefore important that if you consume alcohol regularly that you consume a diet full Vitamin A.
Vitamin E is a light-yellow oil, in a form called a fat-soluble vitamin and is found in nature. Its main function is as an antioxidant and prevents cells from damage and premature aging. For your oral health, this acts as protection for your gums preventing you from bacteria caused diseases like gingivitis.
Which foods contain Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is found in abundance in plant-based foods such as sunflower seeds and oil, almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts.
Helping block substances that break down bone, think of Vitamin K2 as a shield. It acts as a catalyst to support a chemical reaction regulating calcium disposition that is required to produce osteocalcin, a protein that supports bone strength. With regards to your teeth health and working conjointly with Vitamins A and D, osteocalcin stimulates the growth of new dentin, which is the good calcified tissue underneath the enamel of your teeth.
Good news for those who consume a lot of it – minimal tartar, strong healthy teeth, and no clogged arteries.
Which foods contain Vitamin K2?
Animal sources: liver, milk, yoghurt, egg yolks and fish liver oils.
Plant sources: fermented foods such as sauerkraut and soy-based products such as Natto beans
Vitamin K2 can also be produced in our gut microbiome in the form of bacterially synthesised menaquinones (a form of K2). These bacteria are similar to ones used as starter culture for food fermentation known to produce Vitamin K2. Consuming a high fibre diet is essential for these bacteria to thrive – these little guys literally can’t get enough of a proper fibre diet. So go hard on all things fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, and avoid the processed stuff.