your diet, vitamin D absorption

How should you take your vitamins? Most of the time, you don’t get much guidance. Maybe you take them with meals, figuring that food contains vitamins too. Or perhaps you try to take them without food, on the theory that you won’t have anything in your stomach to interfere with maximal absorption. One reader wonders about maximizing vitamin D absorption.

How Can You Boost Vitamin D Absorption?

Q. My doctor says that I need to take vitamin D3 with fat such as whole milk or avocado so that the body can properly absorb the vitamin. Apparently, vitamin D is best absorbed with a moderate amount of fat, compared to no fat or lots of fat.

A. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Nutritionists have long advised people to take such nutrients with a meal that contains fat to enhance absorption.

Fat and Vitamin D Absorption:

Vitamin D is a bit more complicated, though. Factors that might influence absorption include the form of the vitamin (D2 compared to D3) as well as the type of meal and the amount of fat in the meal. A review of the research found, however, that none of these matter very much (Borel, Caillaud & Cano, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, vol. 15, no. 9, 2015).

One study that tested the amount of fat in the meal compared vitamin D absorption when it is taken with a high fat meal, a low fat meal or no meal (Dawson-Hughes et al, Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Aug. 2013). Absorption was highest when the supplement was taken with a low fat meal.

To learn more about this crucial nutrient, you may wish to read our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.  In it, you’ll learn why vitamin D is so important and which supplements are best.

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  1. JC
    Jersey City, NJ

    I heard about fat being needed for absorption of Vitamin D, so I take it as D3 and my Vitamin B12 and Zinc supplements with peanut butter and bread or crackers, and perhaps orange juice, after being up for a couple of hours. I notice very mild energy loss if I miss a day. I’m about to turn 71 and have been taking only these pills, plus a baby aspirin at night and an antioxidant blend upon waking, for two or three years. So far so good.

  2. Ed

    Other published research presents a differing result, i.e., dietary fat increased vitamin D3 absorption.


    Dietary fat increases vitamin D-3 absorption.
    J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Feb;115(2):225-30.

    “RESULTS: 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.

    CONCLUSIONS: 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.”

  3. Kate

    I wonder how to maximize vitamin D absorption when the gall bladder has been removed. I had the surgery 25 years ago, and nobody ever told me it would make me vitamin D deficient. Now, even though I religiously did weight-bearing exercises, I have osteoporosis! I had no idea that the calcium would not be absorbed because of inability to absorb vitamin D. No doctor ever mentioned it to me, in spite of it being in every medical history form I filled out.

  4. Michael

    I’ve been taking my D3 at the same time I take my giant fish-oil capsule. No idea if this is doing anything good, but it can’t hurt.

  5. Kj
    North Carolina

    I would so like to have a Share button with a Facebook link! This would enhance readership and spreading such excellent information!
    Thank you!

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