Get More Out of Your Vitamin D

A Tufts study shows that it might be a good idea to take it with foods rich in healthy fat

If you take a vitamin D pill to meet your requirements for the sunshine vitamin, you’ll get more out of it if you eat it with a little fat. Fat stimulates the release of bile into the small intestine, which makes it easier for the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like D.

Bess Dawson-Hughes, director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA), showed how important the pairing can be in a study that was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Photo: DepositphotosPhoto: Depositphotos
She gave 50 healthy men and women 50,000 international units of vitamin D3. (Note that this is a monthly dose, which is much higher and easier to study than the typical daily dose.) Some of the subjects ate a nonfat breakfast of egg whites, toast, fruit and juice with their dose. The others ate a similar breakfast, but with 30 percent of the calories coming from corn or olive oil. Each group ate a lunch and dinner with fat ratios that mimicked those in their breakfasts.

At the end of the day, blood tests showed that the people who ate the meals with fat absorbed 32 percent more vitamin D than the nonfat group. Avocados, nuts, salmon and vegetable oils are all good sources of the healthy unsaturated fats that will do the trick.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Tufts Nutrition magazine.

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