Researchers Say Vitamin D3 Bolsters Immune System Better Than Vitamin D2

Vitamin D tablets
Vitamin D can be obtained through sunshine, certain foods, and supplements. Olga Shumitskaya/Getty Images
  • Researchers say vitamin D3 bolsters the immune system better than vitamin D2.
  • This goes against previous research that rated both forms of vitamin D about the same.
  • Experts say you can obtain a sufficient amount of vitamin D by being out in the sun for up to 30 minutes.
  • Certain foods, such as milk, cheese, and breakfast cereals, are fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for bone and immune system health, but not all forms of the vitamin are created equal, new research suggests.

Looking at two forms of vitamin D supplements — those containing vitamin D2 and those containing vitamin D3 — scientists from the Universities of Surrey and Brighton in the United Kingdom report that only vitamin D3 induced an effect on the body that might bolster the immune system.

“We have shown that vitamin D3 appears to stimulate the type I interferon signaling system in the body — a key part of the immune system that provides a first line of defense against bacteria and viruses,” Colin Smith, PhD, a professor of functional genomics at Brighton and a lead study author, said in a press release. “Thus, a healthy vitamin D3 status may help prevent viruses and bacteria from gaining a foothold in the body.”

This is significant, because previous research indicated both forms of vitamin D were equally effective, while this latest study suggests foods fortified with vitamin D should prioritize D3 over D2.

“The lack of impact we found when looking at vitamin D2 means that a larger study is urgently required to clarify the differences in the effects,” said Susan Lanham-New, PhD, a professor and head of the department of nutritional sciences at Brighton and a study co-author.

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