February 9, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin D Fortification

I have seen some foods fortified with Vitamin D2, and others with Vitamin D3.

Which is better?

-- Tom (last name withheld)

(City withheld), TX

From a fortification standpoint, they are both equal.

Ergocalciferol ("vitamin D2") is a vitamin D precursor that extracted from a yeast sterol, while cholecalciferol ("vitamin D3") is usually synthesized from fish oils or lamb's wool.

Not surprisingly, you will find that vegan alternatives tend to be fortified with the former, while other foods usually rely on the latter.

Both D2 and D3 raise vitamin D levels in the blood equally, although there was always conflicting research on whether or not their half-lives (how long their effects last) are the same.

However, the latest research (a 2008 study out of Boston University) found that doses of both D2 and D3 took the same amount of time to plateau to baseline levels.

Regardless, if you consume Vitamin D on a daily basis (and get some exposure to the sun), half-lives become rather irrelevant.


Janice said...

I've recently started taking a vitamin D supplement since we don't see much sun in the winter up here in Boston!

Andy Bellatti said...

Good thinking!

Sarah said...

Speaking of vitamins supplements..

I've heard that synthetic vitamins are not as effective as natural vitamins and can even be bad for you. Is this true?

Andy Bellatti said...


There is plenty of research showing that when nutrients are isolated and taken in pill form, they do not always have the same health-promoting effects as when they are consumed from a food source.

The theory is that, when consumed in food, nutrients interact with antioxidants and phytonutrients in specific ways that can not be replicated in a tablet.

This is why I always advocate getting your vitamins and minerals from food, rather than a pill.

The one exception to this is Vitamin D, which I believe everyone should supplement (1,000 IU's per day).