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Vitamin D2 vs D3 - What’s the difference?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that aids calcium absorption for healthy bones and helps the body maintain a strong immune defence. Our skin produces vitamin D when exposed to UV light, making it difficult for those living in the northern hemisphere to maintain levels during the autumn and winter months as UV light exposure is low. There are two main forms of vitamin D, these are ergocalciferol (D2), which is the form produced by plants when exposed to UV light, and cholecalciferol (D3) the biologically active form produced in humans and animals when skin is exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin D2 and D3 foods

Vitamin D2 is found in plants while D3 is predominantly found in animal products.

Food sources of D2

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

Food sources of D3

  • Oily fish
  • Liver
  • Egg yolk

Sources of vitamin D supplements

Plant sources such as mushrooms produced under UV light make the D2 form of the vitamin, which is then extracted and used for supplements or the fortification of dairy-free milks and cereals. Most D3 cholecalciferol supplements are sourced from lanolin in sheep wool. The sheep wool undergoes an extraction process to produce cholesterol, which can be converted into 7-dehydrocholesterol – known as pre-vitamin D3. This product is then irradiated to produce cholecalciferol, which 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 not suitable for vegans, though is suitable for vegetarians.

Can you get a vegan form of vitamin D3?

There is a vegan form of D3 which is sourced from Lichen, small algae-like plants that have 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 obtain in large quantities and expensive to produce. This is why most vegan vitamin D supplements use D2 which is much cheaper to produce. At BetterYou we only use the best quality ingredients for our supplements, that's why our DLux 1000 Vegan Vitamin D and Vegan Health Oral Spray both contain the lichen source of D3 and at an affordable price.

Which is better for elevating vitamin D status?

Vitamin D2 and D3 are not equal when it comes to raising vitamin D levels as the liver metabolises them differently. Both forms of the vitamin convert into calcifediol in the liver (also known as calcidiol), however D2 yields less calcifediol than D3, making it inferior when it comes to raising blood levels. If deficient vitamin D3 has been found to be better at raising vitamin D status, with one study finding that vitamin D3 was twice as effective at increasing vitamin D levels than D2 supplements. You can discover your D2 and D3 status with a simple Vitamin D at-home test kit. Our testing service will provide you with a personalised supplementation plan and a complimentary DLux Vitamin D spray to help you on your journey to optimal vitamin D levels.

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