Vitamin D, D2, and D3: What’s the Difference?

Vitamin D Blog

Ever justified spending an hour in the sun as a necessary way to “get some vitamin D”? (Been there, done that!) Turns out, that’s not a myth; sunshine is a great source of this nutrient. When exposed to sunlight, your skin actually does make vitamin D — well, at least one type.

“Vitamin D” actually refers to a family of nutrients that share similarities in chemical structure, but aren’t identical. This fat-soluble vitamin actually functions as a hormone, and it is essential for a number of reasons. It promotes the absorption of calcium, regulates bone growth, plays a role in immune function, and reduces inflammation.

Research shows that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to experience osteoporosis and an increased risk of falls and fractures. Studies also suggest that vitamin D deficiency is linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D comes in two main forms: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Sort of like fraternal twins, these two nutrients are related in many ways — but have important differences.

Vitamin D3

The biggest difference between the two types of vitamin D: Multiple studies suggest that D3 is far more powerful at raising the levels of vitamin D in your blood. One study found that D3 was nearly twice as effective as D2 at raising levels of vitamin D in elderly women.

Vitamin D3, a.k.a. cholecalciferol, is found in animal-sourced foods, such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna, fish oils, egg yolk, butter, and liver. As we mentioned above, your skin also produces it when exposed to sunlight. (Note: While getting some sunshine is healthy for you, make sure to always wear sunscreen.)

This is why Binto’s vitamin packs only contain the highest quality D3 — and no preservatives, gluten, sugar, or any other additives. 

Vitamin D2

This form of the nutrient, also known as ergocalciferol, stems from plant sources — particularly mushrooms — that have been exposed to sunlight. It’s commonly found in fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, milk, eggs, and other dairy products.

It’s cheaper to produce than D3, but some research has suggested that D2 may degrade over time since it’s more sensitive to humidity and temperature fluctuations.

Do You Need a Vitamin D Supplement?

If your skin makes vitamin D3 on its own — and you can obtain it from foods — do you really need to supplement? The surprising answer: yep, probably.

One study found that more than 41% of the American population is deficient in vitamin D. If you spend most of your time indoors, live in a high-latitude location, or have darker pigmented skin, you’re more likely to be deficient.    

According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D for children and adults is 600 IU (15mcg). The safe upper limit is 4,000 IU (100 mcg) per day. 

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