The nutrients required by our bodies must be dissolved, and then absorbed by the body if they are to be used. The solubility of nutrients is determined by the molecular properties (e.g., polarity) of the nutrients. It is often useful to quantify the solubility of nutrients, in terms of the amount of the nutrient that is dissolved per unit volume. Although dissolution is a necessary step for nutrients to be absorbed, absorbance depends on more than the solubility of the nutrients. Certain substances in the digestive tract, such as Olestra and phytic acid, can interfere with the absorbance of some nutrients even if the nutrients are dissolved; other substances, such as vitamin D, can enhance nutrient absorption. All of these processes are governed by fundamental chemical properties and principles, such as polarity, molecular structure, intermolecular interactions, thermodynamics, and equilibrium.
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Koonsvitsky, B. et al. "Olestra affects serum concentrations of a-tocopherol and carotenoids but not vitamin D or vitamin K status in free-living subjects," (1997) Journal of Nutrition, 127, 163966S-1645S.
Liu, X. et al. "Remarkable enhancement of antioxidant activity of vitamin C in an artificial bilayer by making it lipo-soluble," (1996) Chemistry and Physics of Lipids, 83, 39-43.
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Schlagheck, T. et al. "Olestra's effect on vitamins D and E in humans can be offset by increasing dietary levels of these vitamins," (1997) Journal of Nutrition, 127, 1666S-1685S.
Stryer, Lupert. Biochemistry, 4th ed., W.H. Freeman and Co., New York, 1995, p. 452-455.
Wardlaw, G.W. and P.M. Insel. Perspectives in Nutrition, 3rd ed., Mosby, St. Louis, 1996.
The authors thank Dewey Holten, Michelle Gilbertson, Jody Proctor and Carolyn Herman for many helpful suggestions in the writing of this tutorial.
The development of this tutorial was supported by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, through the Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education program, Grant HHMI# 71199-502008 to Washington University.
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