The xanthophylls lutein and zeaxanthin probably play a role in visual function and may participate in the prevention of age-related eye diseases. Although a minimum amount of TAG is required for an optimal bioavailability of these carotenoids, the effect of the type of TAG fatty acids (FA) is less clear. The aim was to assess the effect of the type of TAG FA on bioavailability of these xanthophylls. A total of three complementary models were used: an in vitro digestion model to study bioaccessibility, Caco-2 cells to study uptake efficiency and orally administered rats to study in vivo bioavailability. Results showed that lutein and zeaxanthin bioaccessibility was greater (about 20–30 %, P< 0·05) with butter and palm oil than with olive and fish oils. Mixed micelle size, which was significantly lower (about 8 %, P< 0·05) with SFA than with unsaturated FA, was inversely related to lutein and zeaxanthin bioaccessibility. There was no significant effect of the type of TAG FA on xanthophyll uptake by Caco-2 cells, but some compounds present in natural oils significantly affected xanthophyll uptake. Oral administration of rats with spinach and butter over 3 d led to a higher fasting plasma lutein concentration than oral administration with olive or fish oils. In conclusion, dietary fats rich in SFA lead to a higher bioavailability of lutein and zeaxanthin, as compared with fats rich in MUFA and PUFA. This is due partly to the higher bioaccessibility of these xanthophylls in the smaller mixed micelles produced when SFA are incorporated into mixed micelles.