Dietary Fat Increases Vitamin D-3 Absorption

Published:November 17, 2014DOI:



      The plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D response to supplementation with vitamin D varies widely, but vitamin D absorption differences based on diet composition is poorly understood.


      We tested the hypotheses that absorption of vitamin D-3 is greater when the supplement is taken with a meal containing fat than with a fat-free meal and that absorption is greater when the fat in the meal has a higher monounsaturated-to-polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio (MUFA:PUFA).


      Open, three-group, single-dose vitamin D-3 comparative absorption experiment.


      Our 1-day study was conducted in 50 healthy older men and women who were randomly assigned to one of three meal groups: fat-free meal, and a meal with 30% of calories as fat with a low (1:4) and one with a high (4:1) MUFA:PUFA. After a 12-hour fast, all subjects took a single 50,000 IU vitamin D-3 supplement with their test breakfast meal.

      Main outcome measures

      Plasma vitamin D-3 was measured by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry before and 10, 12 (the expected peak), and 14 hours after the dose.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Means were compared with two-tailed t tests for independent samples. Group differences in vitamin D-3 absorption across the measurement time points were examined by analysis of variance with the repeated measures subcommand of the general linear models procedure.


      The mean peak (12-hour) plasma vitamin D-3 level after the dose was 32% (95% CI 11% to 52%) greater in subjects consuming fat-containing compared with fat-free meals (P=0.003). Absorption did not differ significantly at any time point in the high and low MUFA and PUFA groups.


      The presence of fat in a meal with which a vitamin D-3 supplement is taken significantly enhances absorption of the supplement, but the MUFA:PUFA of the fat in that meal does not influence its absorption.


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      B. Dawson-Hughesis is a professor of medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, and director, Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      S. S. Harris is an associate professor of nutrition, Friedman School of Nutrition, Tufts University, Boston, MA, and is a scientist I, Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the HNRCA at Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      A. H. Lichtenstein is a professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston, MA, and director, Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the HNRCA at Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      G. Dolnikowski is scientist I and manager, Mass Spectrometry Unit, HNRCA, Tufts University, Boston, MA. N. J. Palermo is the project manager for clinical studies, Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the HNRCA at Tufts University, Boston, MA.


      H. Rasmussen is senior research dietitian, Metabolic Research Unit at the HNRCA at Tufts University, and an instructor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA.