Calciferol vs. Cholecalciferol

What's the Difference?

Calciferol and cholecalciferol are both forms of vitamin D, which play a crucial role in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. However, they differ in their sources and activation processes. Calciferol, also known as vitamin D2, is derived from plant sources such as mushrooms and certain types of yeast. It is activated in the liver and then further converted in the kidneys to its active form. On the other hand, cholecalciferol, also known as vitamin D3, is primarily obtained from animal sources like fatty fish, egg yolks, and liver. It is synthesized in the skin when exposed to sunlight and then undergoes activation in the liver and kidneys. While both forms are important for maintaining adequate vitamin D levels, cholecalciferol is considered to be more potent and easily absorbed by the body.


Chemical FormulaC27H44OC27H44O2
SynonymsVitamin D2Pre-vitamin D3
SourcePlants and fungiAnimal sources (fish, eggs, etc.)
ConversionConverted to active form in the liverConverted to active form in the skin upon exposure to sunlight
FunctionRegulates calcium and phosphorus metabolismRegulates calcium and phosphorus metabolism
DeficiencyCan lead to rickets and osteomalaciaCan lead to rickets and osteomalacia

Further Detail


Calciferol and cholecalciferol are two forms of vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient for the human body. Both compounds play a crucial role in maintaining bone health and regulating calcium levels. While they share similarities in their functions, there are also distinct differences between calciferol and cholecalciferol. In this article, we will explore the attributes of these two forms of vitamin D and understand how they differ in terms of sources, metabolism, and benefits.


Calciferol, also known as vitamin D2, is primarily obtained from plant-based sources. It is synthesized by plants when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Foods such as mushrooms, fortified cereals, and some types of yeast are good sources of calciferol. On the other hand, cholecalciferol, also known as vitamin D3, is mainly derived from animal sources. It is synthesized in the skin of humans and animals when exposed to sunlight. Additionally, cholecalciferol can be obtained from fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy products.


Once consumed or synthesized, both calciferol and cholecalciferol undergo a series of metabolic processes in the body to become active forms of vitamin D. Calciferol is converted into calcidiol in the liver, and then further metabolized into calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, in the kidneys. Cholecalciferol, on the other hand, follows a similar pathway but is initially converted into 25-hydroxycholecalciferol in the liver before being transformed into calcitriol. This difference in metabolism is a key distinction between the two forms of vitamin D.


Both calciferol and cholecalciferol offer numerous health benefits, primarily related to bone health and calcium regulation. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestines, ensuring their availability for bone mineralization. It also helps maintain adequate levels of calcium in the blood, preventing conditions like osteoporosis and rickets. Furthermore, vitamin D is involved in immune function, cell growth, and reducing inflammation.

Calciferol has been widely used in the treatment of vitamin D deficiency and related conditions. It is often prescribed to individuals with limited sun exposure or those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. Cholecalciferol, being the form synthesized in the skin, is considered the more natural and bioavailable form of vitamin D. It is commonly used in supplements and fortified foods to ensure optimal vitamin D levels in the body.


Supplementation with both calciferol and cholecalciferol is common, especially in regions with limited sunlight or specific dietary restrictions. Calciferol supplements are available in various forms, including tablets, capsules, and liquid drops. These supplements are often recommended for individuals with vitamin D deficiency or those at risk of developing deficiency due to dietary limitations. Cholecalciferol supplements, on the other hand, are widely available and commonly used to maintain adequate vitamin D levels in the body.

It is important to note that excessive intake of vitamin D supplements can lead to toxicity. Therefore, it is crucial to follow recommended dosage guidelines and consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen.


Calciferol and cholecalciferol are two forms of vitamin D that play vital roles in maintaining bone health, regulating calcium levels, and supporting overall well-being. While calciferol is primarily derived from plant-based sources, cholecalciferol is synthesized in the skin upon exposure to sunlight and obtained from animal sources. Both forms undergo metabolic processes to become active vitamin D, but with slight variations. Understanding the attributes and differences between calciferol and cholecalciferol can help individuals make informed choices regarding their vitamin D intake and ensure optimal health.

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