What’s the difference between D2 and D3 vitamins?

What’s the difference between D2 and D3 vitamins?

The two most common types of vitamin D are D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is found in plants and yeast, whereas D3 is obtained from animals. Vitamin D is needed for a variety of bodily functions, including bone, muscle, and immune function.

In response to sun exposure, the human body may produce vitamin D. Some individuals, however, will need to supplement their consumption with certain foods or supplements. Both vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 can help people meet their vitamin D needs.

This article will clarify what D2 and D3 are, what they do in the body, and how they vary. It will also include a list of foods rich in both forms of vitamin.

Vitamin D

A lady enjoying vitamin D From sun

Vitamin D is needed for optimal health. It aids the body’s absorption of calcium, which is needed for bone formation, maintenance, and repair. Muscle activity, the nervous system, and the immune system all benefit from it.

A lack of vitamin D can lead to serious health issues. According to studies, 50 percent of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient, while 35 percent of adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient.

A vitamin D deficiency in children can lead to the development of rickets. Their bones soften and become more vulnerable to fractures at this stage. It may increase the risk of osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults, both of which cause soft or weak bones.

Vitamin D is found in just a few foods. Many manufacturers, however, add the nutrient to items like cereals and milk for public health purposes.

The majority of people get their vitamin D from the sun or from supplements. A chain of reactions occurs when people expose their skin to the light, allowing the body to develop vitamin D.

The amount of vitamin D produced by the skin can be influenced by a variety of factors. People with lighter skin, for example, produce more vitamin D than those with darker skin. The weather and the time of day are also influences.

Although vitamin D is primarily obtained from sunlight, it is important to note that sunburn can increase the risk of skin cancer.

Vitamin D2 vs. D3: Which is Better?

The two most common types of vitamin D are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Scientists refer to D2 and D3 as ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol, respectively.

Both vitamins D2 and D3 have the same function in the body, but their molecular structures are slightly different. The key distinction is that vitamin D2 is derived from plants, while vitamin D3 is derived from animals, including humans.

Scientists are also debating whether one is better for human health than the other. Both forms can raise vitamin D levels in a person’s blood, according to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.

Vitamin D3 may raise levels more quickly and for a longer period of time than vitamin D2. According to a 2012 study, vitamin D3 appeared to be more effective than vitamin D2 at raising vitamin D levels.

Researchers needed more data before they could be sure how the two forms influenced different groups of people, such as people of various ages, races, and ethnicities, according to the study. Furthermore, the research focused on vitamin D supplements rather than foods.

D3 could also be superior to D2 according to other reports. According to a 2016 report, supplementing with vitamin D3 twice a week for 5 weeks was more successful than supplementing with vitamin D2 in increasing vitamin D levels in adults.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) does not differentiate between D2 and D3 when advising people about how much vitamin D they can get. The National Institutes of Health recommends the following Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin D:

AgeRDA (or adequate intake)
0–12 months10 micrograms (mcg) or 400 international units (IU)
1–13 years15 mcg (600 IU)
14–18 years (including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding)15 mcg (600 IU)
19–50 years (including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding)15 mcg (600 IU)
>70 years20 mcg (800 IU

Exposure to sunlight is the most common source of vitamin D. Since they do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight, many people take supplements. They might not live in a sunny area, or they might have darker skin.

Vitamin D deficiency can also be caused by malabsorption disorders like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Vitamin D2-rich foods

Vitamin D is found in just a few foods. Some manufacturers add D2, which comes from plants, to their goods artificially. The following are examples of fortified products:

  • dairy and plant milks, such as oat, almond, and soy milk
  • orange juice
  • cereals

The amount of D2 in a commodity is often determined by its producer. This details can be found on the label.

Some of the few foods that naturally produce high levels of vitamin D2 are mushrooms and yeast that have been exposed to sunlight or UV radiation.

According to the National Institutes of Health, half a cup of raw white mushrooms provides 46 percent of an adult’s daily vitamin D requirement.

Vitamin D3-rich foods

Animal sources have naturally high levels of vitamin D3. This may include the following:

  • Cod liver oil: One tablespoon contains 170% of an adult’s vitamin D recommended DV.
  • Trout: 3 ounces (oz) of cooked rainbow trout contains 81% of the vitamin D DV.
  • Salmon: 3 oz of cooked sockeye salmon contains 71% of the DV of vitamin D.

Vitamin D3 is also found in other foods, but in smaller quantities. This may include the following:

  • Sardines: After draining the oil, 2 sardines from a can will provide 6% of an adult’s vitamin D DV.
  • Eggs: 1 large egg provides 6% of the adult DV.
  • Beef liver: 3 oz of braised beef liver contains 5% of an adult’s vitamin D DV.
  • Tuna: 3 oz of canned tuna will also provide 5% of the adult DV.
  • Cheese: 1 oz of cheddar cheese contains 2% of an adult’s DV of vitamin D.


Vitamin D is essential for good health. It is important for bone health, nervous system function, and immune system function. Vitamin D can be obtained from the sun, food, or supplements.

Vitamin D2 and D3 are the two most common types of vitamin D, and they both have the same function in the body. While some studies have shown that D3 is more effective than D2 in increasing vitamin D levels in the body, scientists are unsure whether one is better than the other. Plants contain vitamin D2, while mammals, including humans, produce vitamin D3.

Vitamin D is used in a small number of foods. As a result, manufacturers can add vitamin D to foods like milks, juices, and cereals. Vitamin D2 is abundant in mushrooms, while vitamin D3 is abundant in fatty fish.