The Comparative Effects of Vitamin D2 Versus Vitamin D3 Supplementation in Improving Serum 25(OH)D Status: A Review of the Evidence

  • Laura TripkovicEmail author
  • Susan A. Lanham-New


At present, there appears to be a degree of controversy regarding the comparative effectiveness of vitamin D2 and D3 in raising and maintaining serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels. It was previously believed that the two vitamers were comparable in metabolic function; however, it is now known that when comparing vitamin D2 to D3, there are a small number of structural differences in the molecular makeup of these vitamers. Thus, the area of “vitamin D2 versus vitamin D3” research is expanding and exploring the possible mechanistic pathways that may highlight a clear and quantifiable difference between vitamin D2 and D3 that could have far-reaching consequences for both future vitamin D research and public health policy alike.

With this in mind, a recent meta-analysis of the current research available has shown that while the majority of data appear to support the conclusion that vitamin D3 appears to be more efficacious than D2, this does not always translate across all studies. Therefore, this review explores the studies involved, the possible mechanism behind the reported differences between vitamin D2 and D3, and the need for future research.


Vitamin D Vitamin D2 Vitamin D3 Ergocalciferol Cholecalciferol 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Meta-analysis Randomized controlled trials 



1,24,25-Trihydroxyvitamin D


1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol)


25-Hydroxyvitamin D


Area under curve


Parathyroid hormone


Vitamin D receptor



This summary chapter is written by LT and SLN on behalf of the UK BBSRC-DRINC (BB/I006192/1)-funded D2-D3 Study Team – Helen Lambert, Kathryn Hart (Department of Nutritional Sciences), Colin P. Smith, and Giselda Bucca (Department of Microbial and Cellular Sciences) based at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (University of Surrey, UK), Simon Penson, Gemma Chope (Campden BRI, UK), Elina Hyppönen (Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK), and Jacqueline Berry (Department of Medicine, University of Manchester, UK). The authors would also like to acknowledge Professor Reinhold Vieth (Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Canada) for his contribution to the vitamin D2 versus vitamin D3 debate.


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© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildford, SurreyUK

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