The Science of Vitamin D: not a Vitamin, but a Hormone
October 16, 2017

The first thing to understand is that technically, vitamin D is not a vitamin. It is a hormone. And from this point of view, it changes everything. For our purposes here, we are going to continue to call it 'Vitamin D', but remember its important function is to regulate body functions like other hormones. It flows through the blood and stimulates (or saps) an effect on the activities of the cells. Like estrogen, or thyroid hormones, it regulates many aspects of the body's functions.

The nuts and bolts of it are quite simple. Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. Now, what are secosteroids you ask? It is a special type of steroid, which is implied in the name. Steroids are a sub-class of hormones. What makes it special is the structure of it. These classes of steroids have a broken ring in its bio skeleton. For our purposes, it's just important to remember vitamin D sits in a larger class of steroids which sit in a larger class of hormone substances. Like ginger ale is to a class of soda which is a class of drink.

Vitamin D from a diet or sunlight on the skin is biologically inactive. Enzymatic conversion in the liver and kidney is needed for activation. This activation is what makes vitamin D act like a hormone.

Vitamin D2 and D3
There are several forms of vitamin D that exist. The two major groups are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). There are others, but for our purposes, these are the only ones that are currently available as a supplement that you can buy as a 'vitamin'. D2 and D3 have been considered as equivalent, as both forms appear to be similarly effective. The big differences we will discuss later.

Vitamin D2
Ergocalciferol is the formal name of Vitamin D2. The key thing to remember about D2 is that it is plant based. Mushrooms are the surprising champions of D2 which when exposed to sunlight, become more potent. Technically, it's a process of exposing yeast with ultraviolet light.

Vitamin D3
Cholecalciferol is the formal name of Vitamin D3. For consumption purposes, cod Liver oil is the champion here, but any fatty fish oil will do. Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna and Sardines are all good sources, but just like in the days of old, when moms would give kids Cod liver oil, this was and is the best choice. Looks like Mother did know best.

But the real hero here is sunlight. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin with sunlight exposure. How to monitor this and understand all the variables involved is the real trick. At Nature's Aide, we are turning this art into science.

The difference between D2 and D3
Both D2 and D3 are effective at solving for vitamin D deficiencies. But the majority of studies that compare the effects of vitamin D2 and D3 mostly agree with one statement: vitamin D3 is better as a supplement. It is slightly easier to absorb and is more stable to store. It also holds up better over the rigors of time because it has a longer shelf life. It's why we at Nature's Aide recommend vitamin D3. But remember; don't expose any vitamin D supplements to sunlight. It can dramatically change the composition and potency of the supplement.
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