The main difference between vitamin D and vitamin D3 is that the vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that regulates calcium and phosphorous levels of the body whereas the vitamin D3 is the natural form of vitamin D produced by the body from sunlight.
The five types of vitamin D are D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5. Supplemental vitamin D comes in two forms: vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol). Vitamins are organic compounds required by the body in small amounts. However, they play a vital role in the metabolism.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Vitamin D
– Definition, Importance, Deficiency
2. What is Vitamin D3
– Definition, Sources, Supplements
3. What are the Similarities Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3
– Comparison of Key Differences
Key Terms: Animal Sources, Calcium Regulation, Vitamin D, Vitamin D3
What is Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a micronutrient essential for the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate by the body. Generally, our body naturally produce this vitamin with the exposure to the UV rays from the sunlight. It also enters the body through food and supplements. Vitamin D plays multiple roles in the body as listed below.
- Maintenance of bones and teeth
- Supporting the immune system, brain, and the nervous system
- Helping the management of diabetes by regulating the insulin levels
- Supporting the functioning of lungs and heart
- Regulating the expression of genes involved in the formation of cancers
The orange arrows in below figure shows the role of vitamin D in calcium regulation.
An adult human requires 8.5-10 μg of vitamin D per day. The deficiency of this vitamin causes cancers, rickets, osteoporosis, infections, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, cognitive disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, obesity or mortality.
What is Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 is a subtype of vitamin D, and our skin can produce this naturally. Cholecalciferol refers to this same vitamin. Sensible sun exposure (without getting sunburnt) for 5-10 minutes and 2-3 times per week is sufficient for the production of the required amounts of this vitamin in the body. However, Vitamin D3 can be obtained from animal sources as well.
Vitamin D3 Sources
- Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines
- Egg yolk
- Unpasteurized milk
The figure 2 shows the biosynthesis of vitamin D3.
The supplements contain vitamin D3 extracts from the fat of lamb’s wool. Also, vitamin D2, extracted from irradiated fungus, can be used as supplement as it has the same effect.
Similarities Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3
- Vitamin D and vitamin D3 are micronutrients required by the body during metabolism.
- Both vitamins are fat soluble.
- Both have the same effect.
Difference Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3
Vitamin D: A micronutrient essential for the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate
Vitamin D3: A subtype of vitamin D, naturally produced by the skin
Vitamin D: The five subtypes are vitamin D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5
Vitamin D3: Cholecalciferol
Vitamin D: Naturally occurs in animal, plant or fungi
Vitamin D3: Only occurs naturally in animals
Vitamin D is fat-soluble and is an essential micronutrient for the regulation of calcium and phosphorous levels in the body. The main difference between vitamin D and vitamin D3 is that Vitamin D3 is a subtype of vitamin D, produced by the exposure of the skin to the sunlight. However, intake of these vitamins is possible though supplements too.
1. LD, Megan Ware RDN. “Vitamin D: Health Benefits, Facts, and Research.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 13 Nov. 2017, Available here.
2. “Vitamin D3 Benefits.” Vitamin D3 Benefits | SunVit-D3, Available here.