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   Jul 05

Not all vitamin D is made equal: Academics urge for a rethink on guidelines after study finds one form is twice as important to our health

Vitamin D3 – from animal products and made by your skin – is twice as important

This is compared to its counter-part vitamin D2, which is produced by plants

Suggests eating fish and eggs is key over mushrooms and D2 fortified bread

More than one in five people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D, say experts

Current guidelines say the two forms of vitamin D have equal health benefits

Vitamin D3 is twice as important to our health than vitamin D2, new research reveals.

Current guidance state that the two forms of vitamin D are equally beneficial for us.

But health authorities are now being urged to change official recommendations after D2 was found to be more effective in raising levels of this vital nutrient in the body.

Vitamin D2 is produced by plants, and Vitamin D3 is the one derived from animal products and made by your skin when you get enough sunlight.

The findings suggest people who aim to consume more D3 through eating fish, eggs or taking supplements will be twice as likely to raise their vitamin D levels.

This is compared to only consuming vitamin D2 rich-foods such as mushrooms, fortified bread or D2 containing supplements.

A new study found that Vitamin D3 is twice as important to our health than vitamin D2 (file)

More than one in five people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D, according to Public Health England.

How the research was carried out

In the first ever study of its kind, researchers from the University of Surrey came to their conclusions after investigating the two types using low doses of vitamin D in fortified food.

Researchers examined the vitamin D levels of 335 South Asian and white European women over two consecutive winter periods, a time when the nutrient is most lacking in the body.

The women were split into five groups, with each group receiving either a placebo, a juice containing vitamin D2 or D3 and a biscuit with D2 or D3.

They found that vitamin D3 was twice as effective in raising levels of the vitamin in the body than its counterpart D2.

Vitamin D levels in women who received vitamin D3 via juice or a biscuit increased by 75 per cent and 74 per cent respectively.

Those given D2 saw an increase of 33 per cent and 34 per cent over the course of the 12-week intervention.

The research also found that nutrient levels of both vitamin D2 and D3 rose as a result of both food and acidic beverages such as juice, which were found to be equally as effective.

Those who received the placebo experienced a 25 per cent reduction in the vitamin over the same period.

An ‘exciting discovery’

Current guidelines given by a number of Government bodies around the world –including the US National Institute of Health – say that the two forms of vitamin D are equivalent and can be used to equal effect.

New advice from Public Health England in 2016 states is that adults and children over the age of one should take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter.

It does not however differentiate between which form to take.

The researchers now say it should as daily consumption of vitamin D3 will help people avoid health problems such as osteoporosis, rickets and increased risk of cardio vascular disease.


Vitamin D deficiency – when the level of vitamin D in your body is too low – can cause your bones to become thin, brittle or misshapen.

Vitamin D also appears to play a role in insulin resistance, high blood pressure and immune function – and this relates to heart disease and cancer – but this is still being investigated.

Low levels of the vitamin have also long been linked to an increased risk of multiple sclerosis.

Although the amount of vitamin D adults get from their diets is often less than what’s recommended, exposure to sunlight can make up for the difference.

For most adults, vitamin D deficiency is not a concern.

However, some groups – particularly people who are obese, who have dark skin and who are older than age 65 – may have lower levels of vitamin D due to their diets, little sun exposure or other factors.

Source: Mayo Clinic

This finding not only has implications for the health sector but also for the retail market, say the team.

In recent years many retailers have added vitamin D2 to their products in the belief that it will help a person fulfil their daily intake.

Lead author Dr Laura Tripkovic said: ‘The importance of vitamin D in our bodies is not to be underestimated, but living in the UK it is very difficult to get sufficient levels of it from its natural source, the sun, so we know it has to be supplemented through our diet.

‘However, our findings show that vitamin D3 is twice as effective as D2 in raising vitamin D levels in the body, which turns current thinking about the two types of vitamin D on its head.’

Principal investigator professor Susan Lanham-New said: ‘This is a very exciting discovery which will revolutionise how the health and retail sector views vitamin D.

‘Vitamin D deficiency is a serious matter, but this will help people make a more informed choice about what they can eat or drink to raise their levels through their diet.’

This research will be published in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: Daily Mail

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