Vitamin D from fish and other animal sources is better at boosting the body’s immune system than its plant-based equivalent, according to a UK study.

In a research article published in the academic journal Frontiers in Immunology, the scientists involved in the project say Vitamin D3 – found in oily fish and other animal sources – is better at maintaining Vitamin D levels in the blood and can also help to activate genes associated with “interferon” activity, an important element in the body’s defence against viruses and bacteria.

Vitamin D2 – typically found in mushrooms, and added to some brands of bread, yogurt and cereals – was found to be less effective and actually suppressed the interferon genes.

The study involved more than 300 white European and south Asian women, over a 12 week period.

Dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton commented:  “For years, we’ve believed that the two main types of vitamin D are equal, but this study throws that into doubt and suggests that vitamin D3 is more effective at preparing our immune system to tackle the threat of viruses and bacteria.

“Many people in the UK don’t get enough vitamin D from their diets, or from regular, safe exposure to summer sunshine. That’s why around a quarter of Scots are deficient in vitamin D, according to government estimates.

“A single portion of Scottish salmon provides more than 70 per cent of our daily vitamin D recommendation, and is also high in protein and other important nutrients.

“Experts recommend that we all have one serving of oily fish a week and take a vitamin D supplement in autumn and winter to ensure we are meeting our vitamin D needs.”

A study published earlier this year by researchers at the University of Stirling found that Scottish salmon contained higher levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fats than expected, representing an increase compared with previous studies.

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