Meal conditions affect the absorption of supplemental vitamin D3 but not the plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D response to supplementation

J Bone Miner Res. 2013 Aug;28(8):1778-83. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.1896.


It is sometimes assumed that dietary fat is required for vitamin D absorption, although the impact of different amounts of dietary fat on vitamin D absorption is not established. This study was conducted to determine whether the presence of a meal and the fat content of the meal influences vitamin D absorption or the 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] response to supplemental vitamin D3 . Based on earlier studies in rats we postulated that absorption would be greatest in the low-fat meal group. Sixty-two healthy older men and women were randomly assigned to one of three meal groups: no meal, high-fat meal, or low-fat meal; each was given a monthly 50,000 IU vitamin D3 supplement with the test breakfast meal (or after a fast for the no-meal group) and followed for 90 days. Plasma vitamin D3 was measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy (LC/MS) before and 12 hours after the first dose; plasma 25(OH)D was measured by radioimmunoassay at baseline and after 30 and 90 days. The mean 12-hour increments in vitamin D3 , after adjusting for age and sex, were 200.9 nmol/L in the no-meal group, 207.4 nmol/L in the high-fat meal group, and 241.1 nmol/L in the low-fat meal group (p = 0.038), with the increase in the low-fat group being significantly greater than the increases in the other two groups. However, increments in 25(OH)D levels at 30 and 90 days did not differ significantly in the three groups. We conclude that absorption was increased when a 50,000 IU dose of vitamin D was taken with a low-fat meal, compared with a high-fat meal and no meal, but that the greater absorption did not result in higher plasma 25(OH)D levels in the low-fat meal group.


Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Cholecalciferol / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rats
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood


  • Vitamin D
  • Cholecalciferol
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D