Vitamin E absorption requires the presence of fat; however, limited information exists on the influence of fat quantity on optimal absorption. In the present study we compared the absorption of stable-isotope-labelled vitamin E following meals of varying fat content and source. In a randomised four-way cross-over study, eight healthy individuals consumed a capsule containing 150 mg 2H-labelled RRR-α-tocopheryl acetate with a test meal of toast with butter (17·5 g fat), cereal with full-fat milk (17·5 g fat), cereal with semi-skimmed milk (2·7 g fat) and water (0 g fat). Blood was taken at 0, 0·5, 1, 1·5, 2, 3, 6 and 9 h following ingestion, chylomicrons were isolated, and 2H-labelled α-tocopherol was analysed in the chylomicron and plasma samples. There was a significant time (P<0·001) and treatment effect (P<0·001) in 2H-labelled α-tocopherol concentration in both chylomicrons and plasma between the test meals. 2H-labelled α-tocopherol concentration was significantly greater with the higher-fat toast and butter meal compared with the low-fat cereal meal or water (P<0·001), and a trend towards greater concentration compared with the high-fat cereal meal (P=0·065). There was significantly greater 2H-labelled α-tocopherol concentration with the high-fat cereal meal compared with the low-fat cereal meal (P<0·05). The 2H-labelled α-tocopherol concentration following either the low-fat cereal meal or water was low. These results demonstrate that both the amount of fat and the food matrix influence vitamin E absorption. These factors should be considered by consumers and for future vitamin E intervention studies.