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The Difference Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3

The D vitamins play a significant role in boosting the immune system, enhancing bone health, and also aiding calcium absorption. However, when our skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces Vitamin D. Many people try as much as possible to limit their exposure to sunlight for fear of developing skin cancer.

As a result, this makes it impossible for the body to produce Vitamin D. A plethora of dairy products and numerous orange juices contain vitamin D. Funny enough, many people consume these products almost regularly but still, they are considerably devoid of vitamin D and to make up for this, they rely on supplements.

Moreover, good sources of vitamin D include butter, egg yolk, fish oil, fatty fish, and the likes. As earlier mentioned, through your dieting, it may be difficult to take in an adequate amount of vitamin D given the rareness of natural rich sources. Thus, supplements come in handy. 

Vitamin D dietary supplements are categorized into two forms and they are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). They both have their differences and it is quite essential to know their dissimilar features.

Vitamin D versus vitamin D3

The term “Vitamin D”, is quite misleading because you won’t find any medication or supplement with such labels in a pharmacy store. Instead, what you will find are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. 

When vitamin D is mentioned, it is conventionally implied that what is referred to is vitamin D2. People often get confused when they go to a pharmacy store to procure vitamin D only to discover that there are vitamin D2 and D3. 

Here are their differences.

VITAMIN D COMES FROM PLANTS WHILE VITAMIN D3 COMES FROM ANIMALS

The two forms of vitamin D vary depending on their food sources.

Vitamin D mainly comes from fortified foods and plant sources, whereas D3 is only found in animal-sourced foods.

Some sources of Vitamin D3 are dietary supplements, butter, egg yolk, and liver while sources of Vitamin D are dietary supplements, fortified foods, and mushrooms (grown in UV light). Due to how cheap it is to produce Vitamin D, it is the most common form in fortified foods.

YOUR SKIN PRODUCES VITAMIN D3 WHILE VITAMIN D2 IS PRODUCED BY MUSHROOMS AND PLANTS

Vitamin D3 is produced when your skin gets exposed to sunlight. Typically, ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight triggers the formation of Vitamin D3 from the compound 7-dehydrocholesterol present in your skin.

This process is similar to the one that takes place in mushrooms and plants, where UVB light causes the formation of Vitamin D from ergosterol, a compound found in plant oils.

If you are the type that spends a lot of time outdoors, without sunscreen and lightly clad, you may be getting all the Vitamin D you need.

Among Indian people, with just half an hour of mid-day sun twice a week, they get an adequate amount of Vitamin D. 

You should note that this duration of exposure doesn’t apply in countries that are farther away from the equator. In such countries, you may need more time to achieve good results. 

Moreover, if you get less sun, work indoors or live in a country that doesn’t get much sunlight during the winter, make it a duty to regularly eat plenty of foods rich in Vitamin D.

VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS MAY BE OF LOWER QUALITY THAN VITAMIN D3 SUPPLEMENTS

Recent studies suggest that Vitamin D is more sensitive to humidity as well as fluctuations in temperature. Based on this, Vitamin D supplements may be more likely to degrade over time, unlike Vitamin D3.

However, this fact is still under study so until proven otherwise, you don’t have to worry about the quality of your Vitamin D supplements. Just endeavor to store them in an airtight container, at room temperature, out of direct sunlight and in a dry place.

BOTH VITAMINS COME IN TWO MAIN FORMS

They both come in two main forms. Vitamin D comes in the form of ergocalciferol, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus.

Vitamin D3, on the other hand, comes in the form of cholecalciferol, a type of Vitamin made by the skin when exposed to sunlight. It is found in some foods and can be taken as a dietary supplement.

CONDITIONS TREATED BY BOTH VITAMINS

As a prescription, Vitamin D is used to treat hypoparathyroidism (a condition where one suffers from a decreased thyroid hormone secretion), Vitamin D resistant rickets, and hypophosphatemia (a condition where one suffers from low levels of phosphorus in the blood).

On the other hand, Vitamin D3 is commonly used off-label to prevent the development of osteoporosis, treat Vitamin D deficiency, and hypoparathyroidism.

Nevertheless, before your intake of any of these Vitamins, ensure you seek medical advice first.

THE COST COMPARISON AND COVERAGE OF VITAMIN D AND VITAMIN D3

Vitamin D in prescription form is usually and commonly covered by most commercial and Medicare insurance plans. 

However, the over-the-counter formulations are specifically not covered by Medicare insurance or commercial plans. Depending on the dosage, the price can vary. Usually, the average cost of say 50,000 IU dose for twelve weeks of therapy is 45.99 dollars.

Whereas Vitamin D3 is over-the-counter and it is not covered by insurance plans. Just like Vitamin D, the price varies depending on the dose. Vitamin D3 can cost as much as 40 dollars but you can get it for as low as 20 dollars if your doctor prescribes the medication.

SIDE EFFECTS OF VITAMIN D VERSUS VITAMIN D3

Although there are no common side effects to therapy with either Vitamin D3 or Vitamin D, the side effects related to Vitamin D could occur as a result of hypervitaminosis D.

This is an extremely rare condition that happens when you take too much Vitamin D. Usually, this is common among patients who take mega doses of Vitamin D, leading to Vitamin D toxicity.

The result comes due to a buildup of dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood which may lead to frequent urination, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated, an irreversible renal failure can occur along with the calcification of soft tissues and organs.

VITAMIN D3 ENHANCES YOUR VITAMIN D STATUS MORE THAN VITAMIN D

Vitamin D3 and vitamin D don’t stand on an even footing when increasing your vitamin D status in your body. However, they get absorbed into the bloodstream, but they are metabolized differently by the liver.

Vitamin D2 gets metabolized into 25 hydroxyvitamin D2 while vitamin D3 gets metabolized into 25 hydroxyvitamin D3. These two metabolic compounds are collectively referred to as calcifediol. 

Calcifediol is vitamin D’s major form of body circulation and its levels indicate how well your body stores it. Your doctor discovers your vitamin D status by measuring your calcifediol levels. 

More so, vitamin D3 tends to produce more calcifediol than vitamin D3. Studies show that vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2 in increasing calcifediol levels. for instance, a study in women within the age of 32 to 35 discovered that one dose of vitamin D3 proved to be effective almost as twice as vitamin D2 in enhancing calcifediol levels.

So, you could try out vitamin D3 supplements instead of vitamin D2.

Besides, there are numerous strategies you can try to get vitamin D. They include

BEFORE YOU HAVE BREAKFAST: Before you have your breakfast, you can go out when the sun is up and sit in a sunny spot of your backyard or balcony. You can also try taking your dog on a morning stroll. The morning sunshine on your skin will boost the production of vitamin D!

BREAKFAST DIETARY CHOICES: You can make great choices at breakfast to get vitamin D. Foods such as scrambled or whole eggs, and oily fishes such as wild smoked salmon are rich sources of vitamin D. Also, you could also try orange juices, milk, and other dairy and non-dairy products such as soy and almond milk. 

LUNCH DIETARY CHOICES: For lunch, you could also try topping your jacket potato or salad with a tinned tuna fish. It is a great source of dietary vitamin D.

EVENING STROLLS: You could also practice taking a brief stroll before dinner. You could take a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy day by taking a walk with some friends, or with your kids and your spouse. The evening sunlight also helps the skin in producing vitamin D!

DINNER CHOICES: You can try adding some vitamin D sources to your suppers such as oily fishes, and wild-grown mushrooms.   

FINAL THOUGHTS

Vitamin D should not be viewed as a single compound because it isn’t. It is an umbrella term that houses various related nutrients. The most prominent dietary forms of vitamin D include vitamins D2 and D3.  

The D3 form can be found in foods such as fish oil, egg yolk, and the likes, and it is even produced by the skin when exposed to ultraviolet lights or sunlight. On the contrary, vitamin D is gotten from plants.      

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/02/study-confirms-vitamin-d-protects-against-cold-and-flu/

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-D

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=VitaminD

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