Recent evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency is associated with CVD, impaired kidney function and proteinuria. To date, no study has evaluated these associations in renal transplant recipients (RTR) adjusting for body adiposity assessed by a ‘gold standard’ method. This study aimed to evaluate the vitamin D status and its association with body adiposity, CVD risk factors, estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and proteinuria in RTR, living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (a low-latitude city (22°54'10"S)), taking into account body adiposity evaluated by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This cross-sectional study included 195 RTR (114 men) aged 47·6 (sd 11·2) years. Nutritional evaluation included anthropometry and DXA. Risk factors for CVD were hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidaemia and the metabolic syndrome. eGFR was evaluated using the Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration equation. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentration was used to define vitamin D status as follows: 10 % (n 19) had vitamin D deficiency (<16 ng/ml), 43 % (n 85) had insufficiency (16–30 ng/ml) and 47 % (n 91) had sufficiency (>30 ng/ml). Percentage of body fat (DXA) was significantly associated with vitamin D deficiency independently of age, sex and eGFR. Lower 25(OH)D was associated with higher odds of the metabolic syndrome and dyslipidaemia after adjustment for age, sex and eGFR, but not after additional adjustment for body fat. Hypertension and diabetes were not related to 25(OH)D. Lower serum 25(OH)D was associated with increasing proteinuria and decreasing eGFR even after adjustments for age, sex and percentage of body fat. This study suggests that in RTR of a low-latitude city hypovitaminosis D is common, and is associated with excessive body fat, decreased eGFR and increased proteinuria.