Supplement Warning: Are You Getting the Right Vitamin D?

Supplement Warning: Are You Getting the Right Vitamin D?

We’ve long known the benefits of vitamin D and the importance of having your daily dose. Your body requires it to properly absorb and metabolize calcium and phosphorus, two of the most abundant minerals in your body. Vitamin D also helps regulate your immune system, manages your body weight and reduces your risk of illnesses and diseases including asthma, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Bottom line: Vitamin D is super important for maintaining overall good health.

But which type of vitamin D should you be getting? You might not know this, but there are more than one type. In fact, there are five: vitamins D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. The most talked about as far as your health is concerned are D2 and D3. I’ve been tracking both for years and urging my patients to optimize their D3 levels to fight inflammation, cancer and boost their immune systems. This is why I’m especially glad to see the research catch up! A new study just published refutes the long-held idea that both D2 and D3 provide equal nutritional value, instead claiming that vitamin D3 is twice as important for your health as its counterpart.

This is pretty big news, especially considering the fact that the US National Institute of Health’s current guidelines (which are also followed by several other major health organizations around the world) state that both forms of vitamin D are equally beneficial for our health.

This nutritional finding was discovered by researchers from the University of Surrey who recorded the vitamin D levels of 335 South Asian and white European women over the course of two consecutive winter periods. The participants were split into five groups, each receiving a placebo, a juice containing vitamin D2 or D3 and a biscuit with D2 or D3. They found that the vitamin D levels in women who received either the juice or biscuit containing vitamin D3 increased by 75 percent, while the levels in those who received either the juice or biscuit containing vitamin D2 saw an increase of only 34 (the levels differed a percent between the juice and biscuit samples).

Researchers of the study are now urging health authorities to switch the current guidelines, which is interesting, as most D-fortified foods and supplements on the market today contain mostly vitamin D, the lesser beneficial type. The main difference is how they are created: D2 comes from irradiating molds such as yeast, while D3 is created by irradiating animal oils and cholesterol.

While sun exposure is our body’s main source of vitamin D, no health care provider is going to suggest you sit outside and soak up tons of the sun’s harmful rays. Instead, you can fuel up with D-rich foods, such as salmon, eggs, walnuts and milk. I recommend taking supplements if you’re not getting your fill from food. I recommend aiming for 600 IU daily for children, 1,000 IU daily for adults and aiming to keep levels optimized to 50-70 ng/ml.

Learn more about what other vitamins are important for adults and children here.