Vegan D3: Apparently So

As promised in my post of July 29, Update: Vegan D3, I corresponded with Stephen Walsh, PhD of the UK Vegan Society about giving their seal of approval to the company Vitashine for vitamin D3.

Dr. Walsh said that they met with the company and that they were satisfied that the D3 in their product is vegan. Vitashine claims to get the D3 from lichen.

I then found a study that confirmed that at least some species of lichen grown in some locations contain vitamin D3:

Wang T, Bengtsson G, Kärnefelt I, Björn LO. Provitamins and vitamins D2 and D3 in Cladina spp. over a latitudinal gradient: possible correlation with UV levels. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2001 Sep 1;62(1-2):118-22. Abstract | PDF

The next logical question is whether vegans should go to the trouble of getting vitamin D3 instead of using vitamin D2. I would suggest that unless you are having problems raising your levels of vitamin D using D2, it is unnecessary.

One bit of advice I have is to take vitamin D with some fat to help increase absorption. I base this only on the fact that vitamin D is fat soluble – I do not know of any trials studying this.

98 Responses to “Vegan D3: Apparently So”

  1. Threonate Says:

    “One bit of advice I have is to take vitamin D with some fat to help increase absorption. I base this only on the fact that vitamin D is fat soluble – I do not know of any trials studying this.”

    I recall reading some studies about the fat soluble vitamins and absorption, though I do not remember the URLs or IDs. It is true. They need to be taken with fat to increase absorption, but it doesn’t end there. The type of fat makes a difference as well. Vegans may not want to hear this, but saturated fat is superior to polyunsaturated fat when it comes to absorbing the most fat solubles. This is because polyunsaturated fats are more hydrophilic, due to their structure.

    The goods news for vegans? There is a natural source of fat that trumps everything else, and it is plant-based: coconut oil! It provides the greatest absorption of fat solubles, even beating butter and olive oil. Not only is it almost entirely saturated (about 92% to 96%), but due to its unique levels of MCTs, it is easier to digest.

  2. Caren Says:

    Are you absolutely sure that the lichen aren’t ‘fed’ lanolin-based d3 like they do with mushrooms? I’m vegan and lanolin-allergic, and am constantly vitamin d deficient (even though I’m always outside). I currently take prescription d2 (50K per week) which keeps me barely sufficient. Would love a d3, lanolin-free alternative.

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:


    I’m not absolutely sure about that, but you could contact the company and ask them.

  4. Dima Says:

    Caren, who feeds mushrooms with lanolin-based D3? Where can I read more about it?

  5. Caren Says:

    Hi Caren,

    I still get email notifications of comments on this page, so really happy to contribute.

    We don’t feed lanolin to lichen. The growth speed of lichens is very slow (years) and natural growth environment is such that it would be impossible to effectively force feed. You’re absolutely right that companies have done that with mushroom, but they can be rapidly grown in lab environments. If you want to discuss further, always happy to help:


  6. Caren Says:

    Dima and Jack,

    Checked with company and they use Reindeer Lichen, which is apparently high in D3.

    Until this discovery all ‘vegan’ D3 was lanolin-based D3 introduced into mushrooms, so not actually vegan. Apparently the only truly vegan D3 comes from high-latitude lichens.

  7. Isis Says:

    I’ve never seen anything about mushrooms being fed lanolin, though there is the RAW Garden of Life scam that used to claim that their D3 product was vegan (later they called it ‘vegan-friendly’ because supposedly the lanolin was not retained in the final product – missing the point of veganism completely! – and after much protest they now finally label it vegetarian), but I don’t think their product ever contained mushrooms.

    It’s my understanding that there are certain mushrooms that do produce D3 on their own. Unfortunately no one seems to have been able to get clarity from Nature’s Plus about their Source of Life Garden mushroom D3. I believe the real controversy about their product is whether it’s really D3 or D2.

    In a VRG article ( the author is not able to get conclusive evidence about the Nature’s Plus Source of Life Garden mushroom D3, but in the comments several people point to evidence that mushrooms can produce D3:

    One link ( links to a Korean study (in Korean, but with a chart in English showing D3 content):

    And in this article a researcher mentions that they found some mushrooms when exposed to UVB light can produce D3:

    I’ve been very excited about the lichen D3, but I’m not crazy about the soy-derived vitamin E included in the spray (I avoid soy), and the tablets have many other ingredients I would never take. I know that Vitashine has said that their ingredients are all organic, but I don’t see that reflected on the labels in the stores I’ve been able to find it in. If it’s not certified organic, I’m not going anywhere near it, especially if it contains soy, which in the U.S. is almost certainly GMO unless otherwise specified.

  8. M C Says:

    “Caren Says:
    October 15th, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Hi Caren,

    I still get email notifications of comments on this page, so really happy to contribute.

    We don’t feed lanolin to lichen. The growth speed of lichens is very slow (years) and natural growth environment is such that it would be impossible to effectively force feed. You’re absolutely right that companies have done that with mushroom, but they can be rapidly grown in lab environments. If you want to discuss further, always happy to help:


    Apparently “Caren” is really “Chris”? So “Caren’s” question was planted by a company representative? Good sales job.

    I will also repeat my comment above from 2012:

    “Although the phrase “Organic, non-GMO plant source” appears on the Details tab on the home page of the Vitashine website, it’s not clear whether this refers to the entire product or to the vitamin D3 only.

    On the Ingredients tab, there is no indication that any or all of the ingredients are organic or non-GMO.”

    To which JN replied:

    “M C,

    Chris says above that all the ingredients are organic and non-GMO, at least for the original product.”

    Frankly, I don’t believe anything Chris says. I tend to believe the ingredients list more as that, I believe, is what is regulated by law, not the company’s website and not blog comments made by their representatives.

    I don’t trust this company and will stick with D2 for now.

  9. Jack Norris RD Says:

    M C,

    That is weird, but I’m thinking it’s just a pasting mistake by Chris. For the record Chris’ IP address is not the same as Caren’s.

    Chris, do you know why your comment showed up as being from Caren?


  10. Isis Says:

    It looks to me like Caren contacted Vitashine, and simply pasted Chris’ response into a comment of her own. One of the messages from Caren that contains a message signed by Chris clearly addresses Caren:

    I was prompted by this continued conversation to again look at Vitashine, and aside from the lack of organic certification and the soy-based vitamin E, I also find it to be a rather expensive product at higher doses. At the 5 sprays dose it’s only 2,000 iu, and I wouldn’t use anything lower than 5,000 iu.

  11. Chris Says:

    Hi folks,

    Sorry – just my mistake. I was replying to Caren’s question from my cell and accidentally tapped her name in the field. It was early morning here in UK!


  12. Chris Says:


    I’ve previously clarified that our products are non-GMO and the lichen we use is both non-GMO and organically produced. I just come on here to answer folks directly; damned if you do, damned if you don’t I guess.


  13. Caren Says:

    Actually I’m a psychologist who lives in MN. Just trying to find a product that doesn’t make me ill nor involves the death of any animal. Thought I’d try to share what I found out, in case others have the same issues I do.

    Wow, no wonder we vegans get such a bad rap!

  14. Jeff Says:

    I would be very interested in hearing about anyone who has taken Vitashine D3 and raised their serum levels significantly, especially in cases of deficiencies and during the winter.

    If Vitashine has produced any studies on this, it would be interesting to hear about them.

    It would also be nice to be able to link to the results of the independent testing done at University of Sterling.

  15. Nesi Says:

    I was wondering the same as Jeff.

    Please we are waiting for someone to report their experiences and valid proves.

    Thanks a lot in advance.

  16. christina Says:

    what about Nordic Naturals D3 lichen sourced?

  17. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > what about Nordic Naturals D3 lichen sourced?

    It’s legit.

  18. Chris Says:

    Hi Christina – Nordic Naturals uses our lichen Vitamin D3.

    Hi Jeff – we worked with independent labs to demonstrate that Vitashine is indeed Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol). It is the identical molecule and therefore performs identically to other sources. We conducted a formal blood trial with a client in India and we are constantly getting individuals reporting their positive results to us. This includes Dr Stephen Walsh of UK Vegan Society who told us of his own positive experiences with Vitashine I’m pleased to say.

    Best wishes


  19. Sam Says:

    Chris, I get a distinct feeling from vitamin D3 products that I don’t get when taking either D2 or vitashine D3. I don’t understand why we can’t see the lab tests from the university of sterling. A lab confirmation showing that your product contains D3 and not D2 would not be proprietary information.

  20. Chris Says:

    Hi Sam,

    If you send me your contact details I’m more than happy to discuss directly:

    Best wishes

  21. Sam Says:

    Chris, are you willing to share a lab test confirming the D3 content? If so I’ll be happy to contact you.

  22. Isis Says:

    I would like to see the lab test too, Chris, and I’m sure so would many other people. As we can see from this ongoing discussion here and elsewhere on this site, vegan vitamin D3 is something many care about.

    Rather than keep this private and confined to one on one discussions, why not just post a link to the test on your website and here, so that everyone can see it? If the test shows that it’s really D3, I would think there would be no reason not to share it with the world.

  23. Chris Says:

    Hi Sam, Isis,

    The lab test reports either simply show a D3 assay figure with a batch number (and nothing else) or show way more detail than we want to publish on a message board. We share data offline and have done with the likes of Vegan Society (and indeed Jack N). Feel free to email me.

    We assay each batch to meet European and US regulations plus the companies we supply Vitashine ingredient to (for use in their own products) conduct their own D3 assays as well.


  24. Sam Says:

    Ok Chris that’s fine with me, thanks. Does the product contain any D2 as well? Just wondering because a study on lichen states the lichens contain both D2 and D3.

  25. Sam Says:

    After testing it again, I do actually notice an anti-inflammatory feeling from vitashine that i get with other d3 products. Appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions Chris, you have a lifetime customer here for sure.

  26. Deep Blue Says:

    Be serious and do the math, even if you find D3 in lichen how much will you need just to fill a bottle of 90 X1000 UI caps?
    It take years to grow lichen so forget about farming it!
    And harvest wild lichen is prohibited in most counties??

  27. Bev Says:

    @ Deep Blue what you need to remember math-wise is that while 1000 IU Vitamin D3 may sound a lot, it’s just 25 micrograms (0.000025 grams).

    So your bottle of 90 x 1000 IU is only 2250mcg ( 0.00225 grams) Vitamin D3.

    Just 1 gram of Vitamin D3 would therefore make 40,000 of your 1000 IU caps. Plus 1000 IU is quite a high dose, 1g could make >120,000 caps at standard dosing. So even a low conversion from lichen to Vit D is perfectly viable.

    Lichens are grown in huge quantities for use across many areas including foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. I use iceland moss extract in topical products and I know this one for instance is widely used and widely available.

  28. Derek Says:

    Regarding the initial post, and the first comment, about not knowing any studies regarding D3 and fat helping its absorption, there was one done in 2015 that confirms this (I know the article was originally posted in 2011):

    Found it on your other page while looking at calcium, probably the best page on the net regarding D3/Calcium, etc.

  29. REY Says:

    this comment is for Chris from Vitashine.
    From the comments here it seems the d3 spray has soy.
    My question is does the tablets also have soy?

  30. Isis Says:

    REY, the component in Vitashine that contains soy is the vitamin E, which is derived from soy, and it looks like all Vitashine products contain it, listed as D-Alpha Tocopherol.

  31. Luke Bucci Says:

    The Vitamin E in Vitashine D3 is NOT soy – it is the newer sunflower-derived source. I confirmed this with their US agents, who receive their information from the founding scientist at Vitashine/Vegetology.
    BTW, Nutralliance brokers AOM Argentinian nonGMO Brassic napus (rapeseed – some call it canola) Vitamin Es, from alpha to mixed tocopherols, as raw materials for products, that is standardized with sunflower oil.

  32. Isis Says:

    Thanks for letting us know that Vitashine now apparently uses sunflower-derived Vitamin E, Luke.

    I would welcome the Vitamin E not being made from soy anymore, but I was told by Chris from Vitashine that it is, and he’s not contradicted my concern here since. I believe that conversation occurred in another comment section elsewhere on this site. So I hope this information is accurate.

    I wish Vitashine would include these details in their ingredients list, so that changes to the formula don’t come as a surprise. In this case the change is a positive one, but it could just as easily go the other way. So more details would be most confidence inspiring.

    Assuming that there is no longer any soy in the product, I think my last remaining concern now is that it’s not certified organic. So one more step, and I’ll finally be ready to try it.

  33. Chris Says:

    Hi Guys,

    Sorry – I haven’t been getting notifications of new comments recently for some reason, so I’m a bit behind looking at the latest few. I got an email today re. the Vit E question.

    Yes it is correct we moved to Sunflower-origin Vitamin E, as thankfully the supplier was able to provide all quality and certification assurance (inc. Non-GMO Project accreditation) we needed and therefore the move from Soy-origin was an easy decision.

    Best wishes


  34. Lal Says:

    May I know the alternate manufacturers of lichen or plant based vegan vitamin D3, other than Vegetology (Vitashine)?

  35. K-Marie Says:

    In Northern lattitudes (above 30 degrees North or so) birds have been noted to eat lichens on trees — for nutrients and their winter sunshine vitamins. Lichen is a good whole food with D3 and D2 for reindeer and other animals as well. It unfortunately doesn’t contain B vitamins studies have revealed. The circumpolar peoples use lichen to feed their herds. Today the tribes spend 2 weeks or so with the herds, then trade off and a new team comes out from a local village to do herding for the next 2 weeks. Like team “blue” or team “green.” Or they rotate herding duties as needed. During the winter there is only 1 hour of light during late DEC early JAN, so the peoples, the flocks obtain as much D as they can from food. I always include bark with lichen on it around my bird feeders in the winter months. Birds absorb D from sunshine of course too — some from the powder on their wings, others from the areas around their eyes, I’ve heard. To my mind lichen is like the algae of ponds, but grows on trees! I eat my D especially in winter from the Vita shine, also spend about 30 min outdoors from about 1pm to 2pm or so on a break from work. Last time I had my D blood levels checked (25(OH)D) it was about 50 points total — 2 points from D2 and the rest from D3. Nuts and veggie oils have saturated fats in them, so there is no lack of saturated fats in a vegan diet. I sprinkle nuts on soups and salads. Olives are a good whole food to gain access to fats, rather than processed oils. Also olives are great chopped in hummus or veggie spreads. D3 has been found to keep melatonin levels at bay (the “sunshine” vitamin) if taken at bedtime, so I would use the sprays and supplements before say 2pm or so. In parrots the birds that got both sun time (10-20 min during the day) and D supplements had the least osteoporosis. In the summer I go outdoors before lunch (cooler), then wintertime after lunch (warmer), The skin absorbs a maximum of 3000 IU a day, so I don’t go over that on a supplement/day. With diet it’s all a sense of balance and equanimity. 1000 to 2000 IU a day or on most days, would seem good for the body and soul if we aren’t right on the equator. UVB is less effective above 35 degrees North or South, due to the angle of the rays. It’s present between 10am and 2pm or so at full strength, or 11am and 3pm DST.

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