Vitamin D supplementation: cholecalciferol, calcifediol, and calcitriol


The specific compound that is meant for use in the context of vitamin D supplementation is often ambiguous. The term “supplementation” has been used in the context of cholecalciferol, ergocalciferol, calcidiol, and calcitriol. In nature, by far the major form of vitamin D that nurtures the body is cholecalciferol. In contrast, ergocalciferol is primarily a synthetic and less stable product which is less potent per microgram dose than is cholecalciferol. Calcidol is the major circulating metabolite of cholecalciferol, while calcitriol is the hormone that upregulates the active transport of calcium from the gut, and which suppresses parathyroid hormone secretion. Nutrition policy papers and guidelines leave unstated the obvious fact that calcidiol and calcitriol are not nutrients, and that those metabolites are not pertinent to food fortification or dietary supplementation. Recent evidence shows that ergocalciferol is not stable with storage, and it is far more susceptible to breakdown with cooking and baking than is cholecalciferol. Therefore, it must be concluded that cholecalciferol is the only form of vitamin D that should be considered in the context of the nutritional functions of fortification and supplementation.

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Fig. 1: The compartments of cholecalciferol metabolism and points of its regulation through the system.


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Correspondence to Reinhold Vieth.

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Vieth, R. Vitamin D supplementation: cholecalciferol, calcifediol, and calcitriol. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 1493–1497 (2020).

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