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Vegan Vitamin D

Posted by tinako on January 8, 2010

OK, this posting is going to have even less authoritative information than my typical post.

I have been searching for vegan vitamin D since my blood test came back deficient and my doctor recommended 5,000 IU vitamin D3 per day for 8 weeks, to be followed by another blood test and then a maintenance dose of probably 2,000 IU per day.  This isn’t a vegan problem – my doctor added the D test to my annual blood test because she said she was finding many of her patients were deficient.

After much searching online and in stores, I have come to the conclusion, though I have not seen it stated, that D3 is by definition from animal sources, typically either fish oil or lanolin (sheep’s wool oil).  It’s called cholecalciferol.   It also is usually in a gelatin capsule. Here is the Wikepedia entry.

One manufacturer‘s rep got back to my inquiry stating that while their vegetarian D3 is derived from lanolin, there is no lanolin in it.  I can’t put my finger on it, but that seems like an odd thing to say.  It’s like telling me a product with whey has no milk in it, or that chicken broth has no meat in it.  I guess technically that’s true, but it still has a part of the whole.  Also, while I find most animal products disgusting, I don’t think I would be any more grossed out than anyone else to eat something that had been scraped off the greasy fur of a sheep.  It isn’t the lanolin per se that I object to, it’s the sheep industry – I want no part of it.

So I moved on to looking for D2.  That is much easier, as ergocalciferol is (or apparently at least can be) derived from a fungus.  The above manufacturer also sells a vegan D2 derived from wood pulp (presumably the fungus that grows in the wood, slightly more appealing than sheep’s underarm oil), but it is only 400 IU, and I don’t want to choke down 12 pills per day.

A very helpful woman at the natural food store spent time with me looking for vegan D.  If you have ever stood in the supplement aisle of a store, you know how utterly bewildering and overwhelming it is, so her help was invaluable.  She was surprised when she called one D3 manufacturer and was told that the vegetarian supplement was from lanolin even though it didn’t say it on the bottle.  The rep told her it clearly said cholecalciferol, and that’s what it was.  She wondered aloud to me why they wouldn’t print lanolin on the bottle.  I think it’s so cute when non-vegans are surprised that manufacturers don’t want to advertise the unappealing sources of their products.

Dan Akroyd shilling the Bass-O-Matic on SNL

A friend had a similar question last night at an Asian restaurant: “The menu says what’s in the Thai entrees.  If the sauce has fish in it, why wouldn’t they say so?”

Maybe because pureed dead fish is gross.  See illustration.

(Fortunately, this restaurant puts the fish in separately, so I was able to have Mussaman Curry for the first time in a long while.  Yay!)

Anyway, Country Life makes a 1,000 IU D2 called “Dry D” which they verified is vegan.  My doctor said that it will be OK for me to take five of these per day, so away I go.


10 Responses to “Vegan Vitamin D”

  1. tinako said

    Follow up. Original blood test vs. retest after 3 mos on 5000 IU D2 (all units ng/mL):

    25-OH D2 was <4, now 26
    25-OH D3 was 26, now 12
    25-OH total was 26, now 38

    I'm now in "optimal" range of 30-80 but my doc says she would rather it were at least 50, so I'm to take an additional 2000 IU per day and retest in 8 weeks. That's seven pills 😦

    I was told by someone last night that there is a synthetic vegan D3, and she is going to get back to me on that, but probably not right away. It’s possible there’s such a thing, but we also need to watch out because manufacturers such as Tropicana often consider lanolin-derived D3 to be “synthetic” and “non-animal source.” Go figure.

  2. tinako said

    OK, my blood test Tuesday shows my vitamin D total (no breakdown given) sank to 35, and now I am told to take 10,000 IU per day. That’s TEN pills. 😛 My doctor said she thinks I am not absorbing it well and she has seen this happen before.

    I heard again from the woman who had told me she had vegan D3. She found out what I suspected, it’s not. Manufacturers insist their sheep-derived vitamins are vegan. The term vegan is pretty straightforward, so I’m not sure what their confusion is.

    Here is a typical discussion on the topic:

    And here is the page where the manufacturers of LifeGive Sun-D referenced in the discussion pretend that their product is vegan (or as they call it, “vegan friendly”):

    Here is the Vegetarian Resource Group’s FAQ.

    • tinako said

      Most recent blood test showed:

      25-OH D2 was <4, then 26, now 34
      25-OH D3 was 26, then 12, now 14
      25-OH total was 26, then 38, now 48

      My doctor would have preferred the total be 50. She said my body doesn't seem to be converting it well. She tentatively asked whether there was a D3 I could take, I said no, and we agreed that we would leave it at that.

      She suggested getting some sun, I'll take 2,000 IU D2 daily and check it again at my blood test in the fall.

  3. Huckleberry Sin said

    Hey there- Found you on Yahoo Answers (I wrote the response about the D3 yogurt). Nice blog and I take the same D2, although I only take 2000/day. I’d love to see how D2 actually affect vitamin D levels as I know it’s not quite the same as D3. Still, I’m glad your doctor “approved” since so many of them don’t get the vegan lifestyle. Take care!

  4. Huckleberry Sin said

    Oh, and I wanted to mention that finding D3 in a vegetarian capsule isn’t difficult at all.I work in supplements and can recommend one, if you find that you need to resort to that. I’d love to see how your bloodwork comes out next time you get tested. Keep me posted!

    • tinako said

      Thanks, Huckleberry. My dilemma is that I’m vegan, so it’s the lanolin-derived contents that I don’t want. I’m not super-concerned about it – it seems like my levels aren’t too bad. I’m taking 2000/day now as well. I’m not sure my doctor gets it; she’s just not pushy. Thanks for the offer, though, and thanks for stopping by!

  5. tinako said

    New, much lower recommendations on Vitamin D:

  6. tinako said

    Continuing vitamin D saga:

  7. Latrice Vormelker said

    You can always get free Vitamin-D by just exposing yourself in the morning sun. The skin can manufacture its own vitamin-d. ^

    <a href="Remember to visit our webpage

    • tinako said

      That apparently isn’t enough for everyone, enough by those higher standards anyway. My blood tests didn’t change taken every other month from Dec to July, and I am especially careless about sunscreen in the spring and fall.

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