The term bioavailability represents the part of the nutrient ingested that has the potential to supply the physiological demands of target tissues and, by definition, does not correspond to the amount ingested in the majority of cases. In spite of the agreement among researchers concerning the concept of bioavailability, several terms are commonly used in scientific papers as synonyms, because of the peculiarities of the methods used in the determination. Energy balance studies, dose-effect studies and isotope studies are some of the methods more commonly used to determine the bioavailability of vitamins. Such methodologies, besides evaluating nutrient bioavailability, should, as much as possible, try to elucidate or take into consideration the factors that interfere in its absorption and utilization. These factors include interactions with other nutrients or diet components, physiological conditions of the organisms submitted to the study etc. The fat-soluble vitamins, due to their complex metabolism, functional diversity and absorption mechanism related to lipoproteins, present some specific problems regarding the evaluation of their bioavailability in foods or diets, and due to this, need careful planning and analysis of the results. This review aims to highlight some of the important aspects regarding the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins, such as: diversity of terms used, evaluation methodology and factors that interfere with absorption and use, since there are still no validated methods to evaluate the bioavailability of various fat-soluble vitamins, generating considerable variation in the results obtained in studies in this area.
absorption; bioavailability; fat-soluble vitamins