The future is bright: Biofortification of common foods can improve vitamin D status

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2023;63(4):505-521. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2021.1950609. Epub 2021 Jul 22.


Vitamin D deficiency is a global concern, linked to suboptimal musculoskeletal health and immune function, with status inadequacies owing to variations in UV dependent cutaneous synthesis and limited natural dietary sources. Endogenous biofortification, alongside traditional fortification and supplement usage is urgently needed to address this deficit. Evidence reviewed in the current article clearly demonstrates that feed modification and UV radiation, either independently or used in combination, effectively increases vitamin D content of primary produce or ingredients, albeit in the limited range of food vehicles tested to date (beef/pork/chicken/eggs/fish/bread/mushrooms). Fewer human trials have confirmed that consumption of these biofortified foods can increase circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations (n = 10), which is of particular importance to avoid vitamin D status declining to nadir during wintertime. Meat is an unexplored yet plausible food vehicle for vitamin D biofortification, owing, at least in part, to its ubiquitous consumption pattern. Consumption of PUFA-enriched meat in human trials demonstrates efficacy (n = 4), lighting the way for exploration of vitamin D-biofortified meats to enhance consumer vitamin D status. Response to vitamin D-biofortified foods varies by food matrix, with vitamin D3-enriched animal-based foods observing the greatest effect in maintaining or elevating 25(OH)D concentrations. Generally, the efficacy of biofortification appears to vary dependent upon vitamer selected for animal feed supplementation (vitamin D2 or D3, or 25(OH)D), baseline participant status and the bioaccessibility from the food matrix. Further research in the form of robust human clinical trials are required to explore the contribution of biofortified foods to vitamin D status.

Keywords: 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D); RCT; UV radiation; bioavailability; feed supplementation; fortification; meat.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biofortification*
  • Calcifediol
  • Cattle
  • Cholecalciferol / therapeutic use
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D Deficiency* / drug therapy
  • Vitamin D Deficiency* / prevention & control
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamins
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Calcifediol