Vitamin D derived from animal products far superior to plant-based, finds study

One type of vitamin D is twice as effective as the other, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Surrey used low doses of both D3 (derived from animals) and D2 (plant-based) in fortified food, and found that overall, D3 was twice as effective in raising vitamin D levels in the body.

335 South Asian and white European women served as test subjects for the study. Throughout a 12 week period over two consecutive winters, they were split into five groups and given either a juice or biscuit containing D2 or D3, or a placebo.

Vitamin D levels in the women who consumed the juice or biscuit with D3 increased by 75% and 74% respectively, while those given D2 saw their levels increase by 33% (juice) and 34% (biscuit).

Those who consumed vitamin D2 also saw a rise in their levels. Food and drink were found to be equally as effective methods.

The study was funded by the BBSRC Diet and Health Research Club. Its authors are hoping their findings will spur government bodies around the world to change their guidance on vitamin D for both consumers and health product manufacturers, and specifically encourage vitamin D3 consumption instead of vitamin D in general. 

Professor Susan Lanham-New, head of the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Surrey, and who was principal investigator of the trial, said: “This is a very exciting discovery which will revolutionise how the health and retail sectors view vitamin D. 

“Vitamin D deficiency is a serious matter, but this will help people make a more informed choice about what they can eat or drink to raise their levels through their diet.”