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Nutr Rev. 2018 Jan 1;76(1):60-76. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nux034.

Intestinal absorption of vitamin D: a systematic review.

Author information

School of Medicine, Postgraduate Program in Medicine: Medical Sciences, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Internal Medicine Division, Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Porto Alegre, Brazil.



Vitamin D is frequently prescribed as a supplement, yet its absorption remains poorly understood.


This systematic review was performed to evaluate data on mechanisms involved in the intestinal absorption of vitamin D.

Data Sources:

PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases were searched.

Study Selection:

The following studies were included: experimental laboratory studies of vitamin D absorption through the enterocyte brush-border membrane; absorption tests that used radiolabeled vitamin D; and clinical trials in adults that investigated a single dose of cholecalciferol or ergocalciferol and reported at least 2 measurements of serum cholecalciferol, ergocalciferol, or 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Data Extraction:

From 2069 articles identified, 46 met the inclusion criteria.


Different methods were employed to evaluate vitamin D absorption. Recent research suggests that vitamin D absorption is not an exclusive simple diffusion process. Vitamin D was better absorbed when it was consumed with fat-containing meals, but absorption also occurred without fat or oily vehicles. Factors that modified cholesterol absorption also altered vitamin D absorption.


Vitamin D is probably absorbed through passive diffusion and a mechanism involving membrane carriers, especially cholesterol transporters, although data remain scarce. Some data suggest that fat, when consumed concomitantly with vitamin D, improves vitamin D absorption.


absorption; bioavailability; enterocyte; membrane transport; vitamin D


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