Although vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and muscles, the majority of people do not get enough of it through exposure to sunlight or through diet. Now, researchers have found that vitamin D3 supplements appear to provide more benefit than vitamin D2.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Surrey and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Although vitamin D2 is often used in food fortification as it is not derived from animals, the researchers found that vitamin D3 is more effective at increasing the vitamin D levels in our blood when given as a supplement than vitamin D2.

The teams findings could potentially lead to changes in the food industry when it comes to fortification.

Findings from the study indicate that vitamin D3, which is found in foods, such as eggs and oily fish, is more effectively converted by the body into the hormone responsible for health benefits in humans.

Dr Laura Tripkovic, who conducted the study, said:

"We know that vitamin D is vital in helping to keep us fit and healthy, but what has not been clear is the difference between the two types of vitamin D. It used to be thought that both were equally beneficial, however our analysis highlights that our bodies may react differently to both types and that vitamin D3 could actually be better for us."

In order to compare the health benefits of vitamin D2 and D3, the researchers examined data from 10 individual studies that involved over 1,000 people. They found that vitamin D3 supplements were more effective at increasing vitamin D serum levels in humans.

To determine whether these results are still the same when using lower doses of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 added to foods, rather than given as supplements, the researchers are currently conducting a further study involving over 300 people. In addition, they will examine how gender, genetic make-up, and ethnicity may play a role in how our bodies use both types of vitamin D.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, explained:

"With a growing and aging population, this kind of research is vital to help us ensure that as many people as possible are able to stay healthy and active as they get older. This is a clear example of how a greater understanding of the basic bioscience underpinning human health, could lead to an increase in healthspan to match our increase in lifespan."

Written By Grace Rattue