Is Vitamin D2 the Same as Vitamin D3? (5 mins)

Is Vitamin D the Same as Vitamin D3?

You probably hear a lot about Vitamin D. It is one of the essential vitamins, but unless you do a little extra research, you may not realize that the term Vitamin D generally references both Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. Both forms play crucial roles in a person’s health and well-being. The fat-soluble vitamin works with calcium to help support healthy bones. It also provides a number of benefits that help the body function properly. As you realize its importance, you may wonder if it matters which one you get. What’s the difference between Vitamin D and D3?

Aren’t Vitamin D2 and D3 the Same?

Vitamin D is often referred to as the “Sunshine Vitamin." Sunshine, food, and supplements are the only sources of Vitamin D. But the source determines which type of Vitamin D you are getting. Both D2 and D3 function similarly and provide numerous benefits for the body. D2 is found in plant sources. D3 is found in animal-based foods and the body produces it in response to sun exposure. The two forms differ in structure and how well the small intestine absorbs them.

  • Vitamin D2 – Plants make this nutrient, and it is the one added to supplements and fortified foods. Mushrooms grown in UV light provides D2. It is also commonly found in dietary supplements and in fortified foods like milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin D3 – The body naturally produces this nutrient in response to skin being exposed to the sunshine. It is also found in some animal-based foods and supplements. Food sources include fatty fish like trout, tuna, mackerel, and salmon. It’s also in fish oils, egg yolks, and beef liver.



No matter the source, once vitamin D enters the body, it is stored in fat cells. It stays inactive until the body “needs” it. Once there is a need, the “hydroxylation process” becomes active. The kidneys and liver transform store Vitamin D into active Vitamin D. Now it’s in a form the body can use. Normal levels help the body absorb calcium at a healthy rate of between 30 and 40%. But if the body lacks vitamin D, it will only absorb between 10 and 15% of the dietary calcium.

You’ve heard about the importance of vitamin D, but it can be confusing to figure out if you need D2 or D3? Aren’t vitamin D and Vitamin D3 the same?

Why Foods are Fortified with Vitamin D

We have become used to food being fortified with vitamins and minerals they don’t contain naturally. But why are foods fortified with vitamin D? In the 1930s, rickets was a huge health problem. Rickets softens and weakens the bones, and it is usually linked to a deficiency of Vitamin D. Most of the nation’s milk supply is fortified so that each cup contains about 3mcg of the vitamin. Plant-based milk alternatives like soy and almond milk are also fortified with one or both of the D vitamins.



Which is better, vitamin D2 or D3?

Vitamin D2 doesn’t have as much of an effect on the body’s overall Vitamin D level like D3 does. But that doesn’t mean that D3 is the better choice for everyone. It’s worth noting that D3 is more effective at raising blood serum levels of vitamin D. Also, note that people who maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet may need supplemental vitamin D to prevent deficiencies. Both D2 and D3 are converted into the active form of Vitamin D in the body. Once that is achieved, they benefit the body the same way. The most important thing to remember is that your body needs adequate amounts whether it is consumed from food sources, exposure to sunlight, or supplements.

Which Vitamin D Should I Take?

Most research suggests that Vitamin D3 is more potent. It raises the level of Vitamin D in the blood and helps the body store vitamin D better than D2. Most medical professionals will recommend taking D3 to prevent or treat a deficiency. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to the various sources of vitamin D.

  • Vitamin D from the sun: Spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sunshine daily without wearing sunscreen can help increase your intake of Vitamin D3. Please note that spending more time in the sun without protecting the skin from exposure by using sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, or clothing can increase your risk of skin cancer.
  • Food Sources: Fish is one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Since most people don’t consume enough vitamin-D-rich foods, they are a good source of Vitamin D.



Because of the issues with sun exposure and lack of vitamin D in foods, most people don’t get enough of the nutrient. While it is important to include foods that contain vitamin D, even if they are fortified with it, you may still want to consider taking dietary supplements to ensure you get adequate amounts.

How much Vitamin D should I take?

The amount each individual needs depends on their age. Healthy people need different international units of Vitamin D3 daily. 

  • Individuals from birth to one year need 10 mcg or 400 IU daily.
  • Children and teenagers from one to 18 years of age need 15mcg or 600 IU each day.
  • Adults from 19 to 70 years of age need 15 mcg or 600 IU daily.
  • Adults over 70 need 20 mcg or 800 IU each day.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need 15 mcg or 600 IU every day. 

Listed above are the quantities of Vitamin D that prevent a deficiency. It's recommended to take around 1,000-4,000 IU of Vitamin D for adults per day.

Final Thoughts on Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a huge role in your health and well-being. It supports healthy bones, helps with immunity, and provides other key functions in your body. You can get vitamin D from the sun, food, or supplements. Vitamin D2 is plant-based and D3 is produced naturally in the body, or it can also come from animal sources. If you don’t spend much time outdoors, or you have been diagnosed with a deficiency, a supplement may be the best option for increasing your intake of vitamin D.

Envura vitamin packs include all of the essential nutrients you need daily. In each daily pack of vitamins, inside of the multivitamin, there is 2,000 IU of Vitamin D. Click below to learn more about our daily packs.

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