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Intestinal absorption of vitamin D: a systematic review.

  • Silva, Mariana Costa1
  • Furlanetto, Tania Weber1, 2
  • 1 School of Medicine, Postgraduate Program in Medicine: Medical Sciences, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. , (Brazil)
  • 2 Internal Medicine Division, Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Porto Alegre, Brazil. , (Brazil)
Published Article
Nutrition Reviews
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Aug 17, 2017
DOI: 10.1093/nutrit/nux034
PMID: 29025082


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. PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases were searched. 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. 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.

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