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The difference between vitamins D2 and D3 and which one to choose

  • The difference between vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 is that while animals produce vitamin D3, plants produce vitamin D2.
  • When choosing a supplement, choose vitamin D3 because your body absorbs it better.
  • Vitamin D can boost your immune system, help your body absorb calcium, and can help prevent cancer.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Julia Blank, MD, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
  • Visit the Insider Health Reference library for more advice.

You may know vitamin D as an important nutrition that helps you absorb calcium and keep bones strong, but vitamin D is actually a category that includes many different chemical compounds. The most popular vitamin D compounds are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3, which come from a variety of natural sources.

Doctors generally prescribe vitamin D2 supplements if you have vitamin D deficiency, but some experts say that vitamin D3 is easy for your body to absorb and can work better to boost your health. . Here is what you need to know about the differences between vitamins D2 and D3.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a hormone that affects many important functions of your body.

It is “essential for good health,”

; says Susan Lanham-New, a professor of human nutrition at the University of Surrey.

About 10% of your vitamin D comes from the foods you eat in the form of D2, while 90% is produced within your own body as D3.

Benefits of vitamin D

Both D2 and D3 offer the same important health benefits.

Vitamin D2 vs. D3

Both humans and plants produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. But while animals produce vitamin D3, plants produce vitamin D2.

When deciding whether to take vitamin D2 or D3 as a supplement, Lanham-New says it is always best to choose vitamin D3. “It is more effective in raising vitamin D levels in the blood,” Lanham-New says.

This is because your body breaks down vitamin D2 faster, so it does not stay in the body as long.

A small study in 2011 published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that vitamin D3 was 87% stronger in increasing the levels of vitamin D in the blood of 33 healthy adults, compared to D2. Vitamin D3 is also stored more effectively in the cells of the body.

Another small study in 2015 published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that while vitamins D2 and D3 are both effective in boosting vitamin D levels, people taking vitamin D3 retain more high blood levels of vitamin D 77 days after discontinuation of supplements.

Sources of Vitamin D2 and D3

Although most of our vitamin D comes from the sun, we can also get some vitamin D through our diets. “There are relatively few dietary sources of vitamin D3,” says Lanham-New, but you can find vitamin D3 in some foods, including:

  • Fish – especially trout, salmon, sardines, and iron liver oil
  • Salted egg
  • Beef liver

Vitamin D2 is found in:

The bottom line

You are not likely to get enough vitamin D from your diet alone and it is not always possible to get regular sunlight. If you want to take a supplement to boost your vitamin D levels, vitamin D3 may be a better choice, as it can have a stronger and lasting effect on your vitamin D levels. You need to be careful not to overdo it, as too much Vitamin D supplementation can result in vitamin D poisoning, which can lead to nausea and vomiting, kidney problems, depression, and calcium buildup in blood vessels. and vital organs.

“Everyone should take vitamin D during the winter,” says Lanham-New, adding that a daily maintenance dose should be about 600 IU. This is especially important for people who are “at risk for vitamin D deficiency such as the elderly, ethnic groups with darker skin, pregnant women and lactating women.”

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