Share this page:
Other services (opens in new window)
Sets a cookie

Health benefits of vitamin D dependent on type taken

31 May 2012

New research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has shown that vitamin D3 supplements could provide more benefit than the close relative vitamin D2. The findings published in the June edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition could potentially lead to changes in the food industry when it comes to fortification.

Vitamin D is important for bone and muscle health and there is concern that we don't get enough of the 'sunshine' vitamin through exposure to sunlight or through diet. As a result, some foods are fortified with vitamin D. Fortification is usually with vitamin D2, as this is not derived from animals. However this new research, carried out by scientists from the University of Surrey, suggests that vitamin D3 is the more beneficial of the two types of vitamin D in raising the vitamin D levels in our blood when given as a supplement.

The research clearly showed that vitamin D3, the type of vitamin D found in foods including eggs and oily fish, is more effectively converted by the body into the hormone responsible for health benefits in humans.

Dr Laura Tripkovic, who led the study, explains: "We know that vitamin D is vital in helping to keep us fit and healthy, but what has not been clear is the difference between the two types of vitamin D. It used to be thought that both were equally beneficial, however our analysis highlights that our bodies may react differently to both types and that vitamin D3 could actually be better for us."

The researchers analysed the results of 10 separate studies, involving over 1,000 people in total, comparing the health benefits of vitamin D2 and D3, and found "a clear favouring" of vitamin D3 supplements raising vitamin D serum levels in humans.

The researchers are now conducting a further study to see if the same results are found when using lower doses of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 added to foods, rather than given as stand-alone supplements. Dr Tripkovic and her team will look at over 300 people to find out if vitamin D3 is better, and if so why this is the case. They will also look at how gender, ethnicity and genetic make-up may play a role in how our bodies use both types of vitamin D.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "With a growing and ageing population, this kind of research is vital to help us ensure that as many people as possible are able to stay healthy and active as they get older. This is a clear example of how a greater understanding of the basic bioscience underpinning human health, could lead to an increase in healthspan to match our increase in lifespan."

This research was funded through the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC). DRINC is a £12M, 5-year partnership between BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC and a consortium of leading companies (£1M), aimed at helping the food industry develop products that deliver enhanced health benefits for consumers. www.bbsrc.ac.uk/drinc

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The paper: 'Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitaminD status: a systematic review and meta-analysis', AJCN: 2012 95:1357-1364 is available to download from: www.ajcn.org/content/95/6.toc

About the University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK's leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world-class research profile and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life - helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment, communications, defence and social policy. Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150 hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 140 companies employing 2,700 staff.

The Sunday Times names Surrey as 'The University for Jobs' which underlines the university's growing reputation for providing high quality, relevant degrees.

Surrey is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience:  www.1994group.ac.uk.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .