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What is Calciferol?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Calciferol is a synthetic form of vitamin D2 that can be taken as a supplement to improve or stabilize calcium levels in the body. When taken as directed, the supplement corrects low levels of available calcium so the blood does not have to rob minerals from bones. People who suffer from parathyroid disorders, malnutrition, osteoporosis, or genetic conditions that impair calcium absorption may be prescribed daily supplies of calciferol along with special dietary instructions. Many health food stores and vitamin retailers offer over-the-counter calciferol tablets, but a person should speak with a doctor before starting a vitamin regimen to make sure it is safe.

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient. It promotes strong bones and body systems by regulating the amount of calcium available in the bloodstream. When a person has a vitamin D deficiency such as rickets, his or her blood tries to compensate for low calcium by extracting the mineral from bones, leaving them soft, brittle, and highly susceptible to injury. Calciferol supplements can help to correct major vitamin D deficiencies when increasing dietary intake is not enough.

It is essential to follow a doctor's instructions about how much calciferol to take at a time, when to take doses, and what foods to eat. There are risks of major side effects and serious health complications if calcium levels rise too high in the bloodstream. A doctor can determine the proper dosage amount based on results from blood and urine tests, a patient's age and weight, and the specific underlying cause of the vitamin D deficiency. Weekly checkups are recommended for most patients to determine if dosages need to be stopped or adjusted.

Possible side effects when taking calciferol supplements include increased urination, nausea, muscle aches, and weakness. Signs of an acute overdose may include mental confusion, fainting, extreme fatigue, and sudden weight loss. Serious complications that require emergency medical attention can arise if there is too much calcium in the bloodstream. Patients can develop painful kidney stones, renal failure, thyroid dysfunction, and increased heart rate, among other complications. Rarely, an allergic reaction can occur that causes severe chest pains and breathing difficulties.

Most people who listen to their doctors do not experience major side effects. In addition to taking supplements, a patient may be instructed to either limit or increase his or her intake of vitamin D-rich foods such as fish, dairy products, and eggs. Depending on the underlying cause, a person may need to take calciferol on a daily basis indefinitely or stop once calcium levels become stable.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Mar 25, 2013

@simrin-- There is also a huge controversy between vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Chole-calciferol is vitamin D3 and ergo-calciferol is vitamin D2. Some say that these are exactly the same and work the same way. Others say that vitamin D3 is closer to the form of vitamin D our body produces naturally.

I'm not a doctor so I'm not sure. I take a calcium supplement with vitamin D in it but I don't even know what type of vitamin D that is.

By bluedolphin — On Mar 25, 2013

@simrin-- Obviously it's better for the body to produce its own vitamin D through sun exposure. But I wouldn't say that calciferol doesn't have any benefits.

Many people don't have access to sunlight year around. It also becomes necessary for the elderly and women in menopause to get more vitamin D than normal. If the body is not able to produce enough on its own, we can supplement with synthetic vitamin D which will do the same thing.

I'm in menopause and I'd much rather take my vitamin D supplement than to wait around for the sun to come out.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 24, 2013

My doctor told me to take calciferol and I've been taking it for several weeks. My friend told me today that synthetic vitamin D2 has no benefits and that I should take it in natural form.

Is this true?

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