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Vitamin D2 vs D3: What’s the Difference?

Vitamin D2 and D3 are core classifications of vitamin D. It is easy to get lost in nutrients and which ones we need on a daily basis. We take you through the difference between D2 vs D3, which one you need, the benefits, and how you can source them.

Table of Contents:

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D, or calciferol, is a fat-soluble type of vitamin that aids calcium absorption for healthy bones. It also helps the body maintain a strong immune defence, something which is important for anyone, especially the vulnerable. 

Our skin produces vitamin D when exposed to UV light, which is why it is known as the “sunshine vitamin”. This makes it more likely for those living in the northern hemisphere to suffer from vitamin D deficiency during the autumn and winter months when UV light exposure is low. Those who experience these low levels of sunlight may consider taking vitamin D supplements to help maintain healthy levels. 

Forms of Vitamin D

Vitamin D comes in 4 forms, known as:

  • Ergosterol
  • Ergocalciferol
  • 7-dehydrocholesterol
  • Cholecalciferol 

The major two are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. The difference between vitamin D2 and D3 are:

Vitamin D2 - D2 is also known as ergocalciferol. This form is produced by plants when exposed to UV light. 

Vitamin D3 - D3 is also known as cholecalciferol, and it is the biologically active form produced in humans and animals when skin is exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin D2 vs D3: Which Is Best For Elevating Levels?

Vitamin D2 and D3 are not equal in raising your vitamin D levels. One study found that vitamin D3 was twice as effective at increasing vitamin D levels than D2 supplements. This is because the two vitamins are metabolised by the liver differently. Both forms of the vitamin convert into calcifediol in the liver (also known as calcidiol). However, D2 yields less calcifediol than D3. This makes D2 inferior when it comes to raising vitamin D levels in the blood.

If you suffer from low intake, then increasing your intake of D3 is more effective at increasing your levels. Whilst ensuring sufficient nutrient levels is important, any way you can support your healthy lifestyle with vitamin D2 and D3 is essential. 

How to Test for Vitamin D2 & D3 

You can discover your D2 and D3 status with a hassle-free at-home test. 

  1. Order your vitamin D test online.
  2. Once it’s arrived you’ll place four blood spots on the collection card - using a painless prick of the finger.
  3. Use the prepaid envelope to send to City Assays - they analyse the sample for Sandwell and West Birmingham trust. 
  4. Within 10 working days of the lab receiving your sample you’ll have your results via email. 
  5. After your results have been sent we’ll provide you with a bespoke supplementation plan to help you increase or maintain your vitamin D. 

You’ll also receive a complimentary Vitamin D spray to help you increase your levels to see the benefits of vitamin D

How Are Vitamin D2 & D3 Supplements Sourced?

Vitamin D2 and D3 are found through sources including plants and animals. Plant sources such as mushrooms produced under UV light, make the D2 form of vitamin D. It is then extracted from the mushrooms and used for supplements or the fortification of dairy-free milks and cereals.

Our D3 cholecalciferol supplements are sourced from lanolin in sheep wool. The sheep wool undergoes an extraction process to produce cholesterol. The cholesterol can then be converted into 7-dehydrocholesterol – known as pre-vitamin D3. This product is then irradiated to produce cholecalciferol. This is the same reaction that happens in human skin when producing vitamin D from sunlight. As the lanolin is sourced from the wool of sheep it is a vegetarian supplement, but it is not suitable for vegans. 

Can You Get a Vegan Form of Vitamin D3?

Due to vitamin D3 supplements commonly being derived from lanolin, vegan supplements are usually the D2 form of vitamin D. There is a vegan supplement form of D3 which is sourced from an algae that has been exposed to UV rays. However, quantities of vitamin D3 that are extracted from the plants are much lower in comparison to lanolin sources, making it difficult to obtain in large quantities and expensive to produce. 

This is why most vegan vitamin D supplements use vitamin D2 instead of D3, as it is much cheaper to produce. At BetterYou, we only use the best quality ingredients for our supplements. It is for that reason our D1000 Vegan Vitamin D and Vegan Health Oral Spray both contain the algae, 100% plant-origin source of D3, known as D3V®.

Food Sources of Vitamin D2 & D3

Vitamin D2 and D3 are found from different food sources. Vitamin D2 is found in plants, while D3 is predominantly found in animal products. 

Food Sources of Vitamin D2

  • Mushrooms (wild or grown under UV light)
  • Fortified foods such as bread

Food Sources of Vitamin D3 

  • Oily fish
  • Liver
  • Egg yolk

Obtaining these foods containing vitamin D, alongside BetterYou pill-free supplements, can help to maintain optimal nutrient levels. 

Supplementing with BetterYou

At BetterYou, we specialise in pill-free nutritional supplementation. Our pioneering magnesium supplements encourage a deep night’s sleep, whilst our bone supplements support your body alongside a healthy lifestyle.
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