We now know how important it is to maintain adequate vitamin D levels for optimal health, since insufficient vitamin D has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease and cancer.
Since sun exposure may be unreliable during winter and may damage the skin, supplements are required by most of us to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. There are two forms of vitamin D available in supplemental form: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). D3 is the form that is produced in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight. Traditionally, D3 supplements have been non-vegan, usually produced from lanolin (a product of sheep’s wool). D2 (ergocalciferol) is synthetic form of vitamin D in many supplements and also the form produced by yeast and fungi. It was recently discovered that there is a microorganism (lichen) that produces D3, so vegan D3 is now also available. There has been some controversy over whether D2 and D3 are equivalent at raising blood vitamin D levels and bringing about the health benefits associated with vitamin D adequacy.
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