In the first ever study of its kind using low doses of vitamin D in fortified food, researchers investigated which of the two types of vitamin D, D2 or D3, was more effective in raising levels of the nutrient in the body. Vitamin D3 is derived from animal products, while D2 is plant-based.
Researchers examined the vitamin D levels of 335 South Asian and white European women over two consecutive winters, a time when the nutrient is known to be lacking in the body.
They found that vitamin D3 was twice as effective in raising levels of the vitamin in the body than its counterpart D2.
Vitamin D levels in women who received vitamin D3 via juice or a biscuit increased by 75% and 74% compared to those who were given D2 through the same methods. Those given D2 saw an increase of 33% and 34% over the course of the 12-week intervention.
The research also found that nutrient levels of both vitamin D2 and D3 rose as a result of both food and acidic beverages such as juice, which were found to be equally as effective.
Current guidance given by a number of Government bodies around the world including the US National Institute of Health, state that the two forms of vitamin D are equivalent and can be used to equal effect.
Lead author Dr Laura Tripkovic from the University of Surrey, said: “The importance of vitamin D in our bodies is not to be underestimated, but living in the UK it is very difficult to get sufficient levels of it from its natural source, the sun, so we know it has to be supplemented through our diet.
“However, our findings show that vitamin D3 is twice as effective as D2 in raising vitamin D levels in the body, which turns current thinking about the two types of vitamin D on its head.”
Professor Susan Lanham-New, Head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Surrey, who was Principal Investigator of the BBSRC DRINC funded trial, said: “This is a very exciting discovery which will revolutionise how the health and retail sector views vitamin D.”