Recent studies have suggested an association between vitamin D and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); however, some results are subject to debate. This study was carried out to evaluate the correlation between NAFLD and vitamin D in men and women in East China. The data were obtained from a cross-sectional study that focused on the health and metabolic status of adults in sixteen areas of East China. According to ultrasonic assessments, the patients were divided into normal and NAFLD groups. Demographic characteristics and biochemical measurements were obtained. Binary logistic regression analysis was used to explore the association. In total, 5066 subjects were enrolled, and 2193 (43·3 %) were diagnosed with NAFLD; 84·56 % of the subjects showed vitamin D deficiency. Subjects with high vitamin D levels had a lower prevalence of NAFLD, particularly male subjects. Within the highest quartile of vitamin D levels, the prevalence of NAFLD was 40·8 %, whereas the lowest quartile of vitamin D levels showed a prevalence of 62·2 %, which was unchanged in women across the vitamin D levels. Binary logistic analysis showed that decreased vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of NAFLD (OR 1·54; 95 % CI 1·26, 1·88). This study suggests that vitamin D levels are significantly associated with NAFLD and that vitamin D acts as an independent factor for NAFLD prevalence, particularly in males in East China. Vitamin D interventional treatment might be a new target for controlling NAFLD; elucidating the mechanism requires further research.