I have been asked by a customer why we do not offer Vitamin D2, the plant-form of Vitamin D. since there are a lot of vegetarians who want to avoid animal products. And I know there are some prominent vegetarian doctors who recommend Vitamin D2, but I do not. And let’s get one thing straight: there is no question that Vitamin D3 is far safer and far better. If you want to take a dubious, second-rate product just because it’s vegetarian, you can; but don’t kid yourself. You are compromising.
Vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, is natural Vitamin D. It is identical to the Vitamin D that your body makes from cholesterol when you are exposed to sunlight.
However, according to the Vitamin D Council, headed by Dr. John Cannell MD, “Vitamin D2, otherwise known as ergocalciferol or ‘vegetarian vitamin D’, is not vitamin D at all, but rather, a vitamin D-like drug whose patent has expired. It does not normally occur in the human body and is probably a weak agonist at the receptor site, meaning it may actually partially block vitamin D actions. Ergocalciferol is the villain in most of the reported cases of Vitamin D toxicity in the world's literature. All bets are off in terms of measuring blood levels if you take ergocalciferol. Some of the labs can pick it up and some cannot. Do not take ergocalciferol—it is not vitamin D.”
Dr. Cannell also said that of all the reported cases of Vitamin D toxicity in the medical literature, all involved ergocalciferol except one. And that one exception involved a man who accidentally took a super-gigantic dose of Vitamin D3 for two years. And he recovered spontaneously with minimal treatment and no reprocussions. All the rest, including every single death, and every single major disability, with both children and adults, involved Vitamin D2. What does that tell you about the safety of D2?
But even apart from catastrophes, there is evidence that D3 is clearly superior. A recent study involved giving subjects 50,000 IUs weekly in the form of either D3 or D2. Those getting D3 showed a much better response in terms of raising 25-hydroxy-Vitamin D levels in the blood. Also, subcutaneous levels of Vitamin D were found to be much higher in the D3 group.
The researchers concluded, “D3 is approximately 87 percent more potent in raising and maintaining serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D concentrations and produces 2- to 3-fold greater storage of vitamin D than does D2. Given its greater potency and lower cost, D3 should be the preferred treatment option when correcting vitamin D deficiency.”
It’s important to note that provding Vitamin D2 has never been shown to prevent fractures, as has Vitamin D3.
The truth is that Vitamin D2 came about just so that a drug company could have a patentable drug to sell at a high price. And to this day, most of the Vitamin D offered by drug companies is in the form of D2, and that, in my opinion, is a crime because Vitamin D2 is toxic.
So, what should vegetarians do about Vitamin D? I think they should make an exception and take Vitamin D3. That’s what I do. I do not eat meat, but I do take Vitamin D3. Look, Nature made us the way we are with the needs that we have. There’s no use in fighting that. I am as enthused about vegetarianism as anybody and have been for over 40 years. But here we are talking here about a crucial nutritional compound that is of utmost importance: life or death importance. Vitamin D2 is unsafe; sunlamps are unsafe; and sunbathing is very unreliable. And the older you get, the less reliable it is. Taking Vitamin D3 is, by far, the most practical, most safe, and most effective strategy. And, anyone who tells you that taking Vitamin D2 is just as good has got an agenda, and it is not your best health.