Nanostructured lipid-based liquid crystalline systems have been proposed as sustained oral drug delivery systems, but the interplay between their intrinsic release rates, susceptibility to digestive processes, and the manner in which these effects impact on their application in vivo, are not well understood. In this study, two different bicontinuous cubic phases, prepared from glyceryl monooleate and phytantriol, and a reversed hexagonal phase formed by addition of a small amount of vitamin E to phytatriol were prepared. The release kinetics for a number of model hydrophilic drugs with increasing molecular weights (glucose, Allura Red and FITC-dextrans) was determined in in vitro release experiments. Diffusion-controlled release was observed in all cases as anticipated from previous studies with liquid crystalline systems, and it was discovered that the release rates of each drug decreased as the matrix was changed from QII GMO to QII PHYT to HII PHYT+VitEA. Formulations containing 14C-glucose, utilized as a rapidly absorbed marker of drug release, were then orally administered to rats to determine the relative in vivo absorption rates from the different formulations. The results showed a trend by which the rate of absorption of 14C-glucose followed that observed in the corresponding in vitro release studies, providing the first indication that the nanostructure of these materials may provide the ability to tailor the absorption kinetics of hydrophilic drugs in vivo, and hence form the basis of a new drug delivery system.