Posted January 24, 2007
A Chakra Editors' note: Here is the answer, from the Vegetarian Resource Group:
What is the difference between vitamin D2 and D3?
"D-2 (ergocalciferol) is derived from yeast, while D-3 (cholecalciferol) is derived from lanolin (from sheep [wool]) or fish. D-2 and D-3 are both used to fortify milk and other dairy products. Some D-3 vitamin supplements are made with fish oil. D-3 can also be produced by plants and fungi, but this isn't as common as using lanolin or fish as a source."
The Vegetarian Resource Group offers this bit of further advice: "The purpose of our food ingredient research is intended to educate people to enable them to make informed decisions about the foods that they choose to eat. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the microscopic details and ignore larger issues. There is no such thing as a perfect vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarians and vegans will draw their own lines at what they will or won't eat. Do the best you can; it is all any of us can do."
Vitamin D-3 may, therefore, have a non-vegetarian source. It appears to be commonly used in commercial milk supplementation. In some cities, one dairy will use D-2 and another dairy may use D-3. This will be declared on the label.
Most devotees would regard the care offered to the cows as more important than the particular form of Vitamin D added to the milk. Chakra recommends that devotees attempt to secure milk from cows which are not reared for eventual slaughter. Very few nondevotees practice cow and bull protection.
Aside from the issue of treatment of cows, of course, devotees in some
areas may not be able to find any locally available commercial milk not
fortified with D-3. Those who purchase so-called organic milk or milk
from Vaishnavas, however, should take care that they and their families
obtain a few minutes of daily morning or evening exposure to sunlight
to prevent the debilitating disease of rickets. This is itself
complicated by the fact that too much unprotected skin exposure to the
sun, particularly at mid-day, can lead to skin cancer (melanoma).