June 4, 2023

Mushrooms, when exposed to sunlight or other UV sources, have high levels of ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2). Is that useful for us?

Hey there dr anna maria health here at osada natural health welcome to monday’s mushroom episode 16. i thought i would talk about mushrooms and vitamin d this week and so let’s get into it so we all hear about vitamin d pretty frequently right we know it’s important for calcium uptake in our intestines here diagrammed on the left we know that vitamin d is important

For bone density because it helps bones absorb things like calcium and phosphorus we know that vitamin d is actually important for the development of the cells that line our intestines vitamin d is also important for the function of many of our immune cells and in fact people with low levels of vitamin d are at higher risk for having an autoimmune disorder low

Levels of vitamin d are also linked to a higher level of other immune reactivities for instance certain forms of dermatitis and allergies and also the levels of vitamin d are linked with an increased susceptibility to infection and to developing cancer so vitamin d is really important now vitamin d there goes my dog always making noise when i record vitamin d

In order to do anything it actually has to be metabolized both in the liver and in the kidneys to its active form and it’s this active form that is responsible for the functions we attribute to vitamin d in the body so what happens in a schematic kind of view here is that vitamin d the active form of vitamin d in the body in circulation as represented by this

Blue oval goes into our cells this might be a bone cell this might be an immune cell but it goes inside of the cell and binds to the vitamin d receptor vdr this little red crescent here the vitamin d receptor once uh the active form of vitamin d sticks to its receptor in the cell they are transported into the nucleus and they activate vitamin d responsive genes

And so again these are genes involved in intestinal cell differentiation in calcium absorption through the intestine these are genes involved in bone growth you know bone recycling and such all these different things that vitamin d does these are you know immune cells turning on different genes so this is kind of in a nutshell how vitamin d acts in the body

Now coming back to mushrooms mushrooms have something called ergosterol in them it’s a steroidal molecule and in response to uv light ergosterol is turned into something called ergocalciferol otherwise known as vitamin d2 so you see some beautiful chanterelles here that are really high in both ergosterol but also in ergocalciferol vitamin d2 so if you’ve ever

Hunted chanterelles you’ll know that they do get some level of sun exposure they do get some level of uv exposure in their life cycle at least they do here in colorado on the right here we have something called cholecalciferol which is vitamin d3 like vitamin d2 this is also made in response to uv light one source of this is in animal-based foods things like

Eggs for example and meats and especially fish but we also make our own cola calciferol vitamin d3 from a precursor that’s in our skin and so your grandmother might have told you to get out and get some sunshine for your vitamin d and that’s a real thing because we need sunshine we need uv light to turn the precursor that we have in our skin into vitamin d3 or

Cholecalciferol so you don’t have to be an omnivore or a mediator to get vitamin d3 in the body we can make our own so even vegans make their own vitamin d3 but we can also of course bump up our d3 levels by eating foods that contain it um now let’s see what else do i want to say of course the dog is now walking laps behind me making noise hopefully that’s not

Showing up too much um coming back to mushrooms and vitamin d2 um it does take uv light in order for mushrooms to have a significant amount of vitamin d2 so chanterelles growing out in the wild bulits which grow out in the wild tend to have quite high levels of ergo calciferol or vitamin d2 button mushrooms kind of grown in the standard way which is in the dark will

Have low levels of d2 until you expose them to uv light so if you expose your typical garden variety or i should say grocery store variety button mushroom to uv light it will approach these wild mushrooms in the level of vitamin d2 so just a little tidbit there um so one other thing before i move on when you hear about things like you know you drink your milk to

Get vitamin d it’s because the milk has been largely augmented with synthesized vitamin d2 made from yeast which is another fungus or you know breads and breakfast cereals all that stuff that is vitamin d fortified is fortified with vitamin d2 not with vitamin d3 now uh in looking at these molecular structures here of ergo calciferol versus cholecalciferol can

You see the difference here it is if you don’t feel like figuring it out vitamin d2 or ergocalciferol has a double bond that is not present in vitamin d3 so i have a little circle here to orient you to the parts of the structure i’m talking about you’ll see a double bond there that is actually between two carbons um which is obvious if you’re a chemist and used

To looking at chemical structures and maybe a little bit more mysterious if you’re not so you can take my words on it you see those two double lines there in the circle that’s a double bond vitamin d2 also has an extra methyl group which is indicated by that bold line on the right hand side there in the circle so both that double bond and that extra methyl group are

Absent in vitamin d3 so their structures though you know are largely similar there are a couple of differences there between the two of them and i’m going to come back to that in a little bit now let’s get to some practical questions here how bio available is vitamin d2 or ergocalciferol when you eat a mushroom say cooked chanterelles versus when you pop a vitamin

D2 supplement and the answer from research is that they are more or less equally bioavailable if you cook chanterelles and you know from doing some chemistry on them how much d2 is in them and you give that to people versus a capsule with the equivalent amount of d2 people wind up with the same blood levels so you can eat a mushroom and it’s the bioavailability

Is is fine it works you can get it from mushrooms um and so this was done in a small three-week study comparing folks eating chanterelles uh that has d2 in them just normally in them versus folks taking d2 in a supplement form both raised serum levels of the active the metabolized form of d2 in the body to a similar extent and incidentally you may be wondering

What happens when you cook the mushrooms to the integrity of that ergo calciferol that vitamin d2 actually about 85 of it or more remains even after different kinds of cooking whether we’re talking about boiling or frying the mushrooms so cooking the mushrooms doesn’t really destroy much of the d2 that they provide now comparing d2 ergo calciferol 2d3 cola

Calciferol how bioavailable are they when you look at the two of these forms of vitamin d um so for instance you know getting a mushroom form of vitamin d the vitamin d2 there versus say eating eggs or sardines or some other food source of vitamin d3 well the answer is that the absorption of d2 is the same as the absorption of d3 based on studies in people so

The bioavailability in terms of how well we absorb them as people they’re the same but there are some differences here so a study done in people that were given one massive dose of either ergocalciferol vitamin d2 or cholecalciferol vitamin d3 the clearance was different meaning that the body got rid of vitamin d2 faster than it got rid of vitamin d3 so there

Is a significant difference after a couple of weeks in the levels of active d2 in the body versus active d3 and and just to make it a little more confusing though this was done in a study where people got one mega dose of either d2 or d3 which made people think like oh no this is a problem d2 isn’t hanging out long enough to do anything but when studies looked

At daily dosing so not a mega dose but dosing every day of vitamin d2 versus vitamin d3 circulating levels of their active form are actually pretty similar so the increased clearance of vitamin d2 became apparently less of an issue when people were taking it daily um then when people took a big dose of either d2 or d3 so hopefully i haven’t lost you yet there

And along these lines actually before moving on studies also looked at this from another point of view another way of looking at this is in terms of daily supplementing supplementation of vitamin d2 daily was just as good at increasing active levels of vitamin d2 floating around the body um as supplementing with vitamin d3 was at increasing levels of active d3

Circulating around in the body so again kind of similar there now another question though is does vitamin d2 ergo calciferol something we would get for instance from mushrooms have the same effects in the body as cholecalciferol the vitamin d3 that we make in our skin or the vitamin d3 that we would get from seafood or eggs you know or from a pill in either case

Do they do the same thing in the body well both vitamin d2 the active form and both the active and sorry both the active form of vitamin d2 and the active form of vitamin d3 pass inside of our cells and bind to the vitamin d receptor and which then in turn turns on vitamin d responsive genes so they can both turn on vitamin d responsive genes in the body which

Is how vitamin d does its thing however binding studies have found that vitamin d2 ergocalciferol does not bind as well or as tightly i should say to the vitamin d receptor as vitamin d3 does vitamin d3 binds more strongly to the receptor which could suggest that vitamin d3 is indeed stronger in the body and then vitamin d2 in terms of what this vitamin does now

Something else i wanted to say about that so this is one of the reasons that vitamin d3 is often considered to be the better option as a supplement in part because of the differences in binding to the vitamin d receptor and in part based on those studies that do one big dose of the two different forms and find that d2 drops faster than d3 in the body when given

In one big dose rather than supplemented every day that said in rodent studies when mice and rats were given ergo calciferol vitamin d2 it actually did improve for instance bone health in them multiple aspects of bone health like bone density for instance um now to be clear we’re not rodents right we have different metabolism and such and not a big fan of animal

Studies regardless one because of the ethics and two because we’re not the same but evidence from rodents suggests that ergo calciferol d2 is doing something in the body perhaps now there was a study in actual people so in people for instance with end stage kidney disease where there’s all sorts of electrolyte and mineral imbalances in the body that can impact bone

Health and people with end stage kidney disease uh the use of ergo calciferol vitamin d2 actually did improve bone parameters and mineral parameters in these people now unfortunately most studies in people are at least you know most of what i’ve found in trolling the literature most of the studies simply are comparing circulating levels of active d2 and active

D3 following supplementation there aren’t many studies looking at these important functional endpoints um in terms of well gee what happens in people with low vitamin d when you take d2 versus t3 um you know like this study i just cited is their immune function better is their bone density better is their absorption of calcium better there hasn’t been a whole lot

Of work looking at that so there’s that so to wrap it up here we go here’s d2 versus d3 some but not all of the studies show that oh something i want to point out actually yet one more complicating factor some but not all of the studies that are looking at supplemental d2 in people found here’s something weird that supplemental vitamin d2 increased circulating

Levels of active vitamin d2 i said that already that makes sense but some of the studies found that that supplemental d2 decreased circulating levels of active vitamin d3 got that supplemental d2 and some but not all studies decreased circulating levels of active vitamin d3 so i don’t know what the hell is going on there and that wasn’t found in all studies

So we don’t know if that is real or an experimental artifact if it is real what does it mean that getting d2 in the body can lower active d3 does that have any functional impact on the body who the hell knows we don’t know right now but it is a complicating issue to think about many people both in the health and science community and you know other people do

Functionally equate vitamin d2 and vitamin d3 so you know you see fortified cereals and fortified dairy and such with t2 and some doctors saying yeah it’s fine they’re the same it’s the same dose blah blah blah blah but other scientists and health people conclude that d2 is perhaps not so helpful because we do know that it is cleared faster and we do know that

It doesn’t bind quite as tightly to the vitamin d receptor to activate it but i would say that neither point of view that they are functionally equivalent d2 and d3 or conversely that d2 is not helpful i don’t think either of those points of view um is really based in the truth based on the data at hand meaning that it’s more of a gray area in that the story

Is more complicated than that um and so all of this is less of an issue and healthy folks who are getting uh the requisite ten or so minutes of sun exposure on their skin daily and none of this means you should stop eating your mushrooms but it does mean when you’re reading about mushrooms as like a wonder source of vitamin d or that you’re reading that mushrooms

Are useless in terms of providing vitamin d to look at both of those conclusions uh take those with a bit of a grain of salt look at those critically so if you’re if you’ve made it this far as i say good job sometimes i get a little technical in these talks uh thank you for listening if you do have any questions in terms of clarifying what i’m talking about here

Go ahead and plug them into the comments section i always do like to look at those and respond and if you have any experiences uh in terms of nerding out on vitamin d2 and d3 in your own body and want to share them feel free anyway again thanks for watching and be well y’all

Transcribed from video
Monday's Mushroom, Episode 16: What's the deal with mushrooms & vitamin D? By Anna Marija Helt PhD Herbalist