Vitamin D2 and D3 are the two main forms of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is found in plants and yeast, while D3 comes from animal sources. Vitamin D is essential for a range of bodily functions, such as bone, muscle and immune health.
The human body is able to produce vitamin D in response to sun exposure. However, some people may need to increase their intake through certain foods or supplements. Both vitamin D2 and D3 can help a person meet their vitamin D requirement.
This article explains what D2 and D3 are, the differences between them, and what they do in the body. It will also list foods rich in both types of vitamins.
Vitamin D is essential for good health. It helps the body absorb the calcium it needs to build, maintain and repair bones. It also plays a key role in muscle movement, nervous and immune systems.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause serious health problems. Research suggests that 50% of the world’s population has insufficient levels of vitamin D, while 35% of adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient.
In children, a vitamin D deficiency can cause them to develop rickets. This is when their bones soften and become prone to fractures. In adults, it can increase the risk of osteomalacia and osteoporosis, resulting in soft or fragile bones.
Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. However, many manufacturers fortify products such as cereals and milk with the vitamin for public health reasons.
People get most of their vitamin D from the sun or through supplements. When people expose their skin to the sun, it creates a chain reaction, which allows the body to produce vitamin D.
Several things can affect how much vitamin D the skin makes. For example, people with lighter skin produce more vitamin D than people with dark skin. Other factors include the weather and the time of day.
While sunshine is the main source of vitamin D, it’s important to remember that sunburn can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 are the two main forms of Vitamin D. Scientists sometimes call D2 ergocalciferol and D3 cholecalciferol.
Both play the same role in the body, but vitamins D2 and D3 have slightly different molecular structures. The main difference is that vitamin D2 comes from plants, while D3 comes from animals, including humans.
Scientists are not yet sure if one is better than the other for human health. According to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, both types will increase vitamin D levels in a person’s blood.
Vitamin D3 can raise levels higher and longer than D2. A 2012 review indicates that vitamin D3 appeared to be better at increasing vitamin D levels than D2.
However, the review also said that researchers needed more evidence before they could know for sure how the two types affected different groups of people, such as people of different ages, genders, and ethnicities. In addition, the study looked at vitamin D supplements, not foods.
Other studies also suggest that D3 may be superior to D2. A 2016 study notes that supplementation with vitamin D3 twice a week for 5 weeks was more effective at increasing vitamin D levels in adults than the same amount of vitamin D2.
When advising people on how much vitamin D to get, the National Institute of Health (NIH) makes no distinction between D2 and D3. The NIH suggests the following recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D:
The main source of vitamin D is usually exposure to sunlight. Many people take supplements because they don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight. They may not live in a sunny place or, for example, have darker skin.
Certain malabsorption conditions, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, can also lead to vitamin D deficiency.
Few foods are naturally high in vitamin D. Some manufacturers artificially fortify their products with D2, which comes from plants. These fortified products can include:
dairy and vegetable milks, such as oat, almond and soy milk, orange juice
The amount of D2 in the product often depends on the manufacturer. People can find this information on the label.
Mushrooms and yeast exposed to sunlight or UV rays are some of the few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D2.
According to NIH, half a cup of raw, white mushrooms contains 46% of an adult’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D.
Foods that are naturally high in vitamin D3 come from animal sources. These can be:
Cod liver oil: One tablespoon contains 170% of an adult’s recommended RDA for vitamin D.Trout: 3 ounces (oz) of cooked rainbow trout contains 81% of the vitamin D DV.Salmon: 3 oz of cooked red salmon contains 71% of the RDI of vitamin D.
Other foods contain vitamin D3, but in lesser amounts. These can be:
Sardines: After the oil has drained, 2 sardines from a can provide 6% of an adult’s vitamin D DV.Eggs: 1 large egg provides 6% of the adult RDI.Beef liver: 3 oz of braised beef liver contains 5% of an adult’s vitamin D DV.Tuna: 3 oz of canned tuna also provides 5% of the adult RDA.Cheese: 1 oz of cheddar cheese contains 2% of an adult’s RDI of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for health. It plays a key role in maintaining bone, nervous and immune system health. People can get vitamin D through exposure to the sun, food, or supplements.
Vitamin D2 and D3 are the main forms of vitamin D and both perform the same roles in the body. Scientists aren’t sure if one is better than the other, although some studies have shown that D3 is more effective at increasing vitamin D levels in the body than D2. Vitamin D2 comes from plants, while animals, including humans, produce D3.
Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Therefore, manufacturers can fortify foods with vitamin D, such as milk, juices and grains. Mushrooms are a good natural source of vitamin D2, while fatty fish is a good source of vitamin D3.