Is There Any Difference Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3?

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Last Updated: Feb 22, 2018

There are many positive effects of taking certain vitamins when it comes to your health. In this article, we will take a closer look at the benefits of taking vitamin D and how to discern the most effective type of supplement to optimize your level of this important vitamin. You will also learn the difference between vitamin D and D3.

Vitamin D

There are five kinds if vitamin D, which are D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5, but the most important types used by the body are D2 and D3. Supplements, the best way to get vitamin D, usually contain ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) or cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). While vitamin D2 is produced by plants and fungus, which is typically used to fortify foods, such as milk, cereals and juices, vitamin D3 is formed naturally when the body synthesizes sunlight. It is created when the skin is exposed to UVA and UVB rays, but this type of vitamin D can also be obtained when certain animal products are consumed.

One fact that many people aren’t aware of is that vitamin D is considered a hormone since it plays a vital role in the regulation of the body’s production of calcium and phosphorus. You should be aware that supplementation without proper supervision can be harmful. For instance, when vitamin D2 is consumed, it is broken down into several substances, some of which can be harmful.

Best Sources of Vitamin D

You have several options at your disposal if you want to increase your body’s vitamin D level. While the best source of vitamin D is still sunlight, this is not a good option for everyone. For example, some people are highly sensitive to the sun, which can cause problems like sunburn, so the best option for these individuals would be to take daily vitamins that contain the recommended intake of this beneficial vitamin. Here are foods that you can incorporate into your diet to increase vitamin D level:

  • Cod liver oil – 1 teaspoon is more than 100% of your daily value (440IU)
  • Salmon – 3 ounces is already 100% of your daily value (400 IU)
  • Tuna – 3 ounces is approximately 57% of your daily value (228 IU)
  • Mackerel – 3 ounces is 100% of your daily value (400 IU)
  • Raw Milk – 1 cup is 25% of your daily value (98 IU)
  • Eggs – 1 large is 10% of your daily value (41 IU)

Functions and Requirements of Vitamin D

As previously mentioned, vitamin D is not your ordinary vitamin since it has a significant effect on hormone balance and the regulation of the immune system. It plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium into the bones and the effects of low vitamin D include rickets, a kind of bone abnormality, and osteomalacia, the softening of the bones. When your body doesn’t get enough of this vitamin, it would not matter how much calcium you consumed to maintain strong bones. In addition, it also regulates the growth of cells, which includes those that activate the body’s immune response and kill bacteria. There are studies that indicate vitamin D can help lower blood pressure and prevent cancer as well.
Here are the most common lack of vitamin D symptoms:

Individuals who are most prone to vitamin D deficiency include those who get very little sunlight exposure, people who are on a low-fat diet, those with darker skin, and people who are taking weight loss medications or steroids. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 600 IU per day and the daily value is 400 IU.

Vitamin D3

Again, vitamin D has two common forms: Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms must be converted into the hormone calcitriol before your body can use them. When exposed to the sun or ultraviolet light/UVB, the skin synthesizes Vitamin D3, but it can also be sourced from supplements.

Best Sources of Vitamin D3

As everyone knows, sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, which is why it is recommended to bask in the sun for a little more than 15 minutes (without sunscreen) three to four times a week. Melanin, a dark brown or black pigment occurring in the skin, hair and eyes, hampers the absorption of vitamin D3. Therefore, the darker your skin tone, the more sunlight you need to keep vitamin D3 at healthy levels. If getting sun exposure is not possible where you live (or you hardly or never go outside), taking vitamin D3 as a supplement is the next best alternative to improve your overall health.

Functions and Requirements of Vitamin D3

As one of the vital vitamins the body needs, Vitamin D3 performs several functions, the most important of which is to assist with calcium absorption. Vitamin D3 deficiency can result in symptoms that include:

Vitamin D3 also promotes recycling of phosphate, in which the kidneys bring it back into the blood, so the blood stays at the right pH level. Currently, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) on Vitamin D3 or suggested vitamin D3 dosage is 1,000 IU’s a day for people aged 20 and over.

Take note that there is such a thing called vitamin D3 toxicity, which is very rare and can cause symptoms of heart arrhythmias, anorexia and kidney damage. This cannot be caused by excessive sun exposure since the body self-regulates vitamin D3 production through the skin. It is caused by excessive supplementation, so you should be careful when taking this vitamin to supplement your diet.


There is no difference between vitamin D and D3. The term vitamin D stands for any kind of this vitamin, including D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. However, vitamin D3 is what most people are referring to when talking about this nutrient; it is the one that is absorbed by the body from the sun, which helps with calcium absorption. There are several sources of vitamin D, including unprotected sun exposure, supplements, and foods. Choosing the best sources of vitamin D depend on your circumstances.

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