We’re all familiar with the many different B vitamins—B2, B3, B6, B9, and so on—but did you know there are more than one type of Vitamin D, too?
In addition to plain Vitamin D, you’ve got both Vitamin D2 and D3 to consider. Both offer value, but they’re not exactly the same.
Let’s take a dive into these three different D vitamins to find out where they can be found, what they do, and which is the best for you.
All three of the D-vitamins are fat-soluble vitamins that are vital for your health. They’re needed for the absorption of calcium, which is crucial for strong bones. Vitamin D also plays a role in your immune health . Like all the vitamins, it’s absolutely “vital” for your overall wellbeing.
The only place to get standard Vitamin D, however, is via sunlight. Exposure to sunlight causes your body to produce Vitamin D. It’s estimated that just 30 minutes of direct sunlight is enough to produce your daily Vitamin D requirements.
Unfortunately, not everyone can get all that sunlight. Some people like in countries or regions where there just isn’t that much sunlight during the day due to heavy rains or persistently cloudy weather. People living in the far north and south often experience long winters with very little direct sunlight, or it’s simply too cold to go out into the sun without heavy layers of clothing—which means no skin exposure to sun.
Of course, the risk of skin cancer is also concerning for many people. The American Cancer Society estimates  that more than 100,000 cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed each year, stating that “rates of melanoma have been rising rapidly over the past few decades”. The use of UV-resistant sunscreens can help to protect against melanoma, but it also prevents the skin from absorbing the critical UV rays that encourage Vitamin D production.
For all these reasons, it’s incredibly common for people to be Vitamin D-deficient. In fact, a study published in early 2020  found that up to 40% of Europeans are deficient in Vitamin D, with 37% of Canadians and 24% of Americans suffering from low Vitamin D levels.
Supplements have been created to counteract that problem. Orange juice and milk are often enriched with Vitamin D, which helps to improve calcium absorption and provide more of the required Vitamin D. That’s where the other types of Vitamin D come into play!
Vitamin D2 -- Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, is typically found in plant-based foods, particularly in wild mushrooms. It’s the Vitamin D used to enrich your milk, cereal, orange juice, and other fortified foods.
Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is typically found in animal-based foods, such as egg yolks, beef liver, fatty fish, and fish oil. (To get really technical, it’s also the type of Vitamin D that is produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight.)
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There have been a number of studies conducted into which of the two types of Vitamin D are better for your overall health.
One, run by the National Institutes of Health , examined which form of Vitamin D raised 25-hydroxyvitamin D and other internal markers indicating adequate Vitamin D levels. Both D2 and D3 raised these markers, but it was discovered that Vitamin D3 was nearly TWICE as effective, with far more potent result than D2. In 2012, another study  ran the comparison, and also found that Vitamin D3 was significantly better than D2.
The science is pretty clear: though Vitamin D2 is good for your health, Vitamin D3 is better. In fact, Vitamin D3 has even been potentially linked to reduced COVID-19 infection rates , particularly among the elderly and those with comorbid conditions.
As mentioned above, sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D. As the UV rays of the sun are absorbed into your skin, they trigger the production of Vitamin D—specifically, Vitamin D3. If you can get 20 to 30 minutes in direct sunlight every day, you’ll get all the Vitamin D3 your body needs.
But what if you can’t get enough sunlight? What do you do to get more Vitamin D3?
Eat more animal-based foods rich in Vitamin D3. As mentioned above, that list of foods includes egg yolks, fish oil, fatty fish, and beef liver. These are amazing natural sources of this critical vitamin and deserve a place in your diet.
Take a Vitamin D3 supplement. Vitamin D3 may be pricier than D2, but it’s worth the extra expense because, as the studies cited above prove, it can be almost twice as effective. It will be easy to get your daily dose of D3 using capsules or Vitamin D supplements. Just make sure to read the label carefully to ensure it’s D3, and not D2.
Both forms of Vitamin D—D2 and D3—are critical for your health. Vitamin D3 may be the more effective form, but Vitamin D2 is still vital to add to your diet through healthy plant-based and fortified foods. Getting more Vitamin D will ensure your body can process and absorb calcium, and will raise your immunity to disease. Make it a point to get more Vitamin D starting today!
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