Vitamin D2 Vs D3: What Are The Similarities And Differences?

Feature | Vitamin D2 Vs D3: What Are the Similarities and Differences? | vitamin d3

Read on to learn how to compare vitamin D2 vs D3 and find out which one is better for your health.

In this article:

  1. The Confusing Case of Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3
  2. Why People Need Vitamin D Supplements
  3. Do People Need Both Kinds of “D”?
  4. Where Do Vitamins D2 and D3 Come From?
  5. Comparing the Nutritional Benefits of Vitamin D2 vs D3
  6. Overall Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D2 vs D3 | Spelling Out Their Differences

The Confusing Case of Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3

There is much hoopla around vitamin D2 vs D3, and it’s understandable. Vitamin D is notoriously hard to come by through diet, except a few fortified products. That’s why doctors urge many of their patients to take vitamin D supplements, particularly as they get older.

Consumers often notice both Vitamin D2 and D3 capsules are available. It, then, begs the question: when it comes to vitamin supplements, which between vitamin D2 and D3 is better?

Why People Need Vitamin D Supplements

We often hear doctors saying whole foods are better sources of most vitamins and minerals than supplements. When it comes to vitamin D, the sun is the best “source.”

The ultraviolet rays activate vitamin D already in the body. There’s a problem, though. Getting too much sun can have some health implications.

Doctors, then, tell their patients to consider vitamin D supplements or D-fortified food rather than risk excess UV exposure. Animal-derived food sources such as fish, eggs, butter, and liver are also natural sources of vitamin D.

There are a few plant sources as well, especially mushrooms that thrive in sunlight rather than shade. None of these dietary vitamin D sources contain the nutrient in high-enough quantities to give us what we need on a daily basis.

For this reason, many people need to take vitamin D supplements. The health food or supermarket shelves, meanwhile, often present unexpected challenges. They offer both vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.

Do People Need Both Kinds of “D”?

Health-conscious consumers know there are several B vitamins. Each of them has indispensable properties. For example, vitamin B12 can boost energy. B7 (biotin) strengthens hair, nails, and skin.

Most types of food containing a kind of B vitamin are likely to include most or all the others. The only difference lies in the proportions of one B vitamin to the others.

The same principle doesn’t apply to vitamin D options. The reason you need to compare vitamin D2 vs D3 is they don’t co-exist in the same natural ways B vitamins do.

The manufacturers of vitamin D supplements can use different sources. It explains why there are two separate forms of vitamin D.

The biggest takeaway for health-conscious consumers? People don’t need to take both forms of vitamin D in the same way they need to ensure they have all the B vitamins. The main question then involves comparing vitamin D3 vs D2.

Where Do Vitamins D2 and D3 Come From?

sheepshead sheep wool | Vitamin D2 Vs D3: What Are The Similarities And Differences?

When it comes to synthesizing Vitamin D into supplement form, manufacturers have two choices. These are plant or animal sources. The type of vitamin D found in plant sources is ergocalciferol or D2. The kind found in animal sources are D3 or cholecalciferol.

Consumers who purchase vitamin D2 supplements are most likely getting it from irradiated fungi or yeast grown in laboratory settings. This makes it more cost effective to produce.

There’s a catch, though. This form of vitamin D, ergocalciferol, is not the same one that exists in the bloodstream.

Vitamin D3, which does resemble human vitamin D, comes from animal sources. The most common process for making D3 supplements is to harvest it from sheep’s wool.

The fat produced by sheep glands, known as lanolin, is plentiful in the animal’s wool. Once the sheep are shaved, the lanolin is then processed and concentrated into pill form. (It’s worth noting the sheep do not have to be harmed to harvest their wool.)

Comparing the Nutritional Benefits of Vitamin D2 vs D3

Because D3 is similar to what the body produces, it’s considered the more superior supplement. Laboratory testing also indicates people who take D3 are more likely to have the recommended dosage of vitamin D in their bloodstream than those who consume vitamin D2 supplements.

The fact D3 is the form that resembles what humans produce from sunlight, which is cholecalciferol, is the reason it’s more effective than D2 at boosting our natural D levels.

What is the ideal balance of D nutrients? If possible, get a bit of direct sunlight each day and a daily serving of eggs, butter, or fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Also, choose a vitamin D-fortified cereal or orange juice when making selections of those products.

Finally, consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement. This strategy will make up any gaps caused by the limited amounts of D available in sunlight and fortified food.

Current daily recommended dosages fluctuate from as low as 400 IUs of total Vitamin D each day to as high as 4,000 IUs. The exact amount needed will depend on age, gender, skin color, lifestyle, and even changing recommendations as studies continue.

Overall Benefits of Vitamin D

With all the focus on vitamin D2 vs D3, it’s easy to lose track of why the nutrient is so essential. It plays some critical roles in body function even when it’s a “supporting player.”

Vitamin D is crucial when it comes to helping the body absorb calcium. Calcium is more available in common food than vitamin D is. People, however, can’t absorb all the calcium they consume if they are deficient in vitamin D. For older adults, it means vitamin D is as vital as calcium for preventing brittle or broken bones.

In addition to facilitating calcium absorption, vitamin D helps decrease body inflammation. The nutrient also aids in nervous system function while also boosting immunity.

HealthTips explains more about the differences between Vitamin D2 and D3 in this video:

Of course, the best resource for learning about any vitamin supplements or nutrition is one’s doctor. Physicians can order blood tests to determine a patient’s current level of vitamin D. From these, they can figure out how much vitamin D supplements an individual needs. They can also discuss vitamin D2 vs D3 extensively. This way, they can help the patient spot the difference.

Have you been taking a vitamin D supplement? How does it improve your health? Share your stories below!

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