What is the difference between vitamin D and vitamin D3?

This question is about Nutrition

Sarah Achleithner

The difference between

vitamin D

and vitamin D3 is that the latter is a form of vitamin D [



Vitamin D3 (aka cholecalciferol) is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” as it is produced endogenously in the skin when you are exposed to UVB rays. Vitamin D can also be obtained through diet either as either D2 (present in plants and yeast) or D3 (found in animal sources).

While both vitamin D2 and D3 contribute to overall vitamin D levels in the body, it’s recommended to choose the latter as a supplement. Numerous studies have found D3 is more effective at raising vitamin D levels than D2, as it’s estimated that D3 is up to 87% more potent than D2 [





Vitamin D rich foods


  1. Chang, S. W., & Lee, H. C. (2019). Vitamin D and health - The missing vitamin in humans. Pediatrics and neonatology, 60(3), 237–244.



  2. Tripkovic, L., Lambert, H., Hart, K., Smith, C. P., Bucca, G., Penson, S., Chope, G., Hyppönen, E., Berry, J., Vieth, R., & Lanham-New, S. (2012). Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(6), 1357–1364.


  3. Heaney, R. P., Recker, R. R., Grote, J., Horst, R. L., & Armas, L. A. (2011). Vitamin D(3) is more potent than vitamin D(2) in humans. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 96(3), E447–E452.