Is Vitamin D3 Vegan Friendly?
We all know that we need certain vitamins and minerals in our diets for our bodies to function at peak performance. But, if you have certain dietary restrictions or make ethical choices, like choosing a vegan lifestyle, your intake of certain vitamins, including vitamin D, becomes more difficult.
The primary sources of vitamin D are sunlight and dietary sources like fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as milk, all of which pose a problem if you’re vegan. An easy answer to this problem is supplementation but not all vitamin D supplements are created equally and most aren’t vegan.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorous from food, two compounds that are in turn responsible for building strong bones and teeth. Children without sufficient intake of vitamin D develop rickets, a condition that causes bone and skeletal deformities. Adults with vitamin D deficiencies are at risk of osteoporosis—a condition that weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break.
There is also some evidence of vitamin D’s role in the body beyond the bones. Vitamin D may play a vital role in supporting the immune system and there seems to be a correlation between autoimmune disease and decreased vitamin D levels. In a research paper, the authors stated ”Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection.” (1)
Observational studies have started to link vitamin D deficiency to depression. A meta-analysis and review of the data concluding “The observational studies to date provide some evidence for a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and depression, but RCTs are urgently needed to determine whether vitamin D can prevent and treat depression.”(2)
Given the detrimental health effects of vitamin D deficiency, it is unfortunate that many American adults lack enough vitamin D in their bodies. Studies have indicated as much as 40 percent of the population has a deficiency, up to 80 percent in certain groups. One of those groups is those who choose to adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet. Additional risk factors are race, wearing sunscreen, and spending a lot of time indoors.(3) If you are in any of the at risk groups, you may want to consider a supplement.
Vitamin D Supplements for Vegans
Vitamin D2 comes from plant sources, including mushrooms, and is the most common form in fortified foods— which is great news if you’re vegan as it’s always vegan friendly. Unfortunately, there is some evidence that it is less effective than vitamin D3. It also seems to be less shelf-stable, losing efficacy over time, and scientists have made a case against considering vitamin D2 equal to vitamin D3. (4)
Vitamin D3 is the same form of the vitamin that the body makes when skin is exposed to sunlight—it is stored in fat, which is why animal products are such a rich source of it.
While there are many vitamin D3 supplements on the market, most of them are derived from the same animal sources you’re avoiding as a vegan, usually fish oils and lanolin. Some may make the case that lanolin is processed extensively, turning it into a product so far removed from animals that it is no longer recognizable as an animal product. Lanolin doesn’t come from the direct killing of animals, but it is extracted from sheep wool, which most vegans, and all ethical vegans, oppose.
Luckily there is one reliably vegan source of D3—lichen.
Lichen is a small plant that normally grows on rocks and trees. It is a symbiotic wonder of fungi and algae, growing together to help each other flourish, and it has an interesting adaptation—it often grows in places exposed to heavy amounts of sunlight so it needs to protect itself from UV radiation. As its defense mechanism, lichen manufactures vitamin D3 just like animals do but without the animal—a perfect solution for vegans in search of a suitable dietary supplement.
For those looking for an extra incentive to use lichen-based vitamin D3 here’s a big one— since they are small organisms that are easy to grow, lichen is considered a sustainable source in supplements as well.
Other Considerations for Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplements
Two more things to note when you’re weighing your supplement options—the recommended daily allowance and the filler ingredients.
The National Institute of Health recommends a vitamin D daily intake of at least 600 IU while the Endocrine Society recommends between 1,500-2,000 IU daily to maintain proper serum levels in the blood. The safe upper intake level is 4,000 IU.
While filler ingredients are normally avoided, in the case of vitamin D3, they are necessary. Since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, for the best absorption they need to be encapsulated with oil. There are many plant-based oils so if your supplement maker went through the extra step to make sure the D3 is lichen based, you can be sure they will do the same for the oil.
Sadly, sourcing quality vegan-friendly vitamin D supplements can still be a bit of a chore. That’s why we’re highlighting this vegan-friendly Vitamin D3 Liquid from Pure Encapsulations. It ticks every box that you would expect from a top notch lichen-based D3 supplement, including a balanced 1000 IU dose and medium chain triglycerides as a fat source to assist absorption.
Thank you for taking the time to read Is Vitamin D3 Vegan Friendly?
Please note: All information presented to you in this website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. We cannot, and will not give you medical advice. We strongly recommend you consult your physician for any and all specific health issues. If you have any questions or contributions, please contact us via email or phone-call. We are constantly looking for new information to promote wellness – and hearing from you would make our day.