What are the difference between vitamin D2 and vitamin D3?

January 16, 2020

There are several versions of vitamin D, two versions found in supplements are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). What are the differences between these two forms of vitamin D and which one is best?

Vitamin D₃ and Vitamin D₂

Vitamin D₃ (cholecalciferol) is naturally made by our bodies after the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. D₃ can also be found in vitamin supplements and foods, such as fortified milk, fatty fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks. However, the body can’t actually use vitamin D3 until it is processed by the liver and kidneys.

Since vitamin D3 is naturally found in the human body, it is generally considered the preferred form of vitamin D supplementation [1]. Vitamin D₃ (cholecalciferol) when used in a supplement is considered suitable for ‘lacto-ovo’ vegetarian use. Ddrops® products contain this type of vitamin D, which is obtained from lanolin sourced from sheep’s wool.

Vitamin D₂ (ergocalciferol) can also be found in some supplements and it is usually the active ingredient in higher dose vitamin D prescriptions. Ergocalciferol comes from a plant and/or fungal source. Literature suggests that our bodies can store vitamin D3 better than vitamin D2 and that vitamin D3 raises blood levels of vitamin D quicker [3]. Similar to vitamin D3, vitamin D2 still require activation by the liver and kidneys. Ironically, there is some controversy about whether vitamin D₂ should be used as a supplement because it is not the form of vitamin D naturally made by the body.

Vegan Ddrops® is a non-prescription vitamin D₂, delivering a maintenance dose for those who follow a vegan lifestyle. The vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) source is from a variety of select nutritional yeast and is considered 100% vegan friendly.


This article was reviewed and updated in August 2019

  1. Houghton, Veith R. The case against ergocalciferol (vitamin D₂) as a vitamin supplement . Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:694-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17023693
  2. Dusso AS, Brown AJ, Slatopolsky E. Vitamin D. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2005;289(1):F8-F28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15951480
  3. Tripkovic L, Lambert H, Hart K, et al. Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jun; 95(6): 1357–1364. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22552031
Tags: bone, sun, teeth, vitamin D