What Is The Difference Between Vitamin D And Vitamin D3

Filed in Education by on December 2, 2020


Difference Between Vitamin D And Vitamin D3: Vitamin D is one of the more complex vitamins that are needed by the human body in order to grow and develop. Vitamin D is actually available in two forms, cholecalciferol, and Ergocalciferol, also known as vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.

Vitamin D nutritional supplements include Cholecalciferol (D3) and Ergocalciferol (D2). This is the naturally occurring form of Vitamin D in humans. It is a precursor for many hormones and hence referred to as ‘prehormone’. The vitamin is found in dairy products, fortified milk, seafood, etc.

What Is The Difference Between Vitamin D And Vitamin D3?

Vitamin D

There are two different forms of vitamin D: vitamin D-2 and D-3. Vitamin D-2, or ergocalciferol, is the form made by mushrooms from exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D-3, which is also called cholecalciferol, is the type that’s made in your skin.


Both types must be converted into the hormone calcitriol before they’re active and able to benefit your body. Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as calciferol, but it’s used as an umbrella term to include vitamins D-2 and D-3. Even though both forms can be manufactured for supplements, vitamin D-3 that’s made from sheep’s lanolin is more commonly used.

Vitamin D-3

As your skin absorbs ultraviolet B rays from sunlight, it makes a substance called pre-vitamin D-3, which travels to the liver to become vitamin D-3 or calcidiol. Special proteins carry calcidiol to the kidneys, where it’s turned into vitamin D’s biologically active form, calcitriol.

The amount of vitamin D-3 produced by your body depends on how much sunlight you’re exposed to and that’s affected by factors such as cloud cover, clothing, and use of sunscreen. Sunscreen with an SPF factor of as low as 8 reduces the amount of vitamin D the body produces by up to 95 percent.

It’s still vital to limit your sunlight exposure to prevent skin cancer, though, so you’ll need to get some vitamin D in your diet.


Vitamin D (D2) comes from plant sources, such as wild mushrooms, as well as fortified foods, such as milk or cereal products. Its strength is typically measured in international units, which is abbreviated as “IU” on labeling. The 50,000 IU capsules are prescription only, while lower strengths are available over-the-counter. Vitamin D is less expensive to produce and therefore is the form most commonly found in fortified food products.

Vitamin D3 mainly comes from animal sources such as fish oil, fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D3. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin. Its strength is also measured in international units. All forms of vitamin D3 are available over-the-counter.

Conditions treated by vitamin D and D3

Vitamin D2 as a prescription is used to treat hypoparathyroidism (decreased thyroid hormone secretion), vitamin D-resistant rickets, and hypophosphatemia (low levels of phosphorus in the blood). It is commonly used for vitamin D insufficiency in both its prescription and over-the-counter formulations.

All forms of vitamin D3 supplements are available over-the-counter, and therefore are not FDA approved to make treatment claims. However, vitamin D3 is commonly used off-label to treat hypoparathyroidism and vitamin D deficiency, as well as for osteoporosis prevention.

Important Reads:

Notable Distinction Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3

1. Vitamin D is manufactured by both plants and animals. Vitamin D3 is particularly found on the skin of animals, as a byproduct of synthesis.

2. You can get vitamin D from fortified foods or as pills. However, vitamin D3 is only available in the form of pills or in liquids. They are rarely found in foods.

3. Vitamin D is not beneficial in all its forms. Vitamin D2, one of the forms of vitamin D can be toxic to the body. Vitamin D3 is good for the body.

4. The D2 form of the vitamin has a shorter shelf life compared to the D3 form.

5. Supplements for the two vitamins are sourced differently.

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CSN Team.


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