Vegan D3? Doubtful

Last November, rumors surfaced that there was a vegan vitamin D3. I’m still occasionally getting questions about it, so I decided to write up what I know.

It appears that these claims have originated with two different brands: MegaFoods and LifeGive.

MegaFoods

I could not find anywhere in which MegaFoods is currently claiming that their vitamin D3 is vegan, but it appears that at one time, someone was claiming that it was. Click here for a write-up about how it is not vegan:

Excerpt:

They say that their vitamin d3 is from S. cerevisiae, and technically it is- however, they actually take regular old vitamin d made from sheep lanolin that anyone can buy in stores, and they ‘feed’ this vitamin d3 to the yeast in order to ‘Biotransform’ the vitamin d3 into what they claim is an effective and bioavailable form of vitamin d3 that is easily ‘utilized’ by the human body.

If you go to their website, Mega Foods doesn’t claim that their vitamin D3 is vegan. A page at Amazon.com claims that MegaFoods’ vitamin D3 does not come from fish and that it is suitable for vegetarians, which I suppose is technically true if they mean lacto-ovo vegetarians who are willing to use sheep’s lanolin.

This site, Whole Foods Vitamins, sells MegaFood’s Vitamin D3 and explains a bit about it:

Vitamin D-3 DailyFoods is formulated with 100% Cold Fusion FoodState nutrients, developed by Durham Research, Inc.

I’m not sure if that’s important to know, but now we do. Moving on…

LifeGive Sun D

LifeGive Sun D is being advertised by two companies, UpayaNaturals and Alive Raw, as being vegan vitamin D3. They both say:

LifeGive Sun-D offers a superior, naturally occurring vegan source of vitamin D3 with vitamin D precursors from Shiitake mushrooms and rice germ ex-tracts. Sun-D offers supplies [sic] pure and powerful plant source of living and life- supporting vitamin D for preventing nutrient deficiencies, supporting good health and preventing the development of threatening health conditions.

On November 18, 2009, I wrote UpayaNaturals to inquire about their product and never got a response. However, a JackNorrisRD.com reader, who also wrote them last November, got a response from the company saying, “All the information comes directly from our supplier’s web page.”

I could not find any more information about LifeGive – the company or their Sun D product.

At this time, no one else knows of any way to create vegan D3 and I would say that this casts doubt on whether LifeGive’s Sun D is truly vegan.

In large, single doses, vitamin D3 may be more effective than D2; but in smaller, sustained doses, D2 appears to be as effective. It might take some time to build up your stores of vitamin D by taking D2. Here are my recommendations.

Nature’s Plus Source of Life Garden Vitamin D3

See below in the comments for a discussion of Nature’s Plus D3. A quick summary is that I was not able to verify whether the lab that tested their D3 distinguished between D2 and D3.

69 Responses to “Vegan D3? Doubtful”

  1. Ron Says:

    AMI pet food claims to use a vegan source of vitamin D3, but they won’t reveal the source, as it’s “proprietary.” The D3 form is apparently exists in plants, but that doesn’t mean there’s a commercially viable source.

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0168-9452(02)00420-X

  2. Meg Says:

    I’ve heard that some D3, including the Ami pet food, may come from rye. Any info on this?

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Meg,

    I don’t know about this, but I’m pretty skeptical.

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > Have you checked into this supposed vegan Vitamin D3 (made from rye?) in
    “Solar Gum”.

    > http://store.veganessentials.com/solar-energy-gum-by-b-fresh-p2546.aspx?utm_medium=cse&utm_source=googlebase

    That’s the first I’ve heard of it and I do not know if it’s true or not. Apparently, some plants do have cholecalciferol, see here:

    http://tinyurl.com/2a5cgot

    Ricardo Boland, Mario Skliar, Alejandro Curino and Lorena Milanesi. Vitamin D compounds in plants Plant Science. Volume 164, Issue 3, March 2003, Pages 357-369.

    Abstract

    An appreciable number (15) of flowering plants, specially within the Solanaceae family, have been shown to contain vitamin D3 and its hydroxylated derivatives, including 1α,25(OH)2-vitamin D3 [1α,25(OH)D3], a pluripotent hormone in animals. …

    The quantity of vitamin D3 in the Solar Gum looks like a typo to me – .3 mg would be 300 mcg or 12,000 IU.

  5. Ron Says:

    I called the Solar Gum people and got the scoop. The D3 comes from a new proprietary process using algae! They’re tight-lipped about it because it will take a couple of years for their patent to be approved, but after that, they’ll make the process available to others.

  6. Tonttu Says:

    What about this one:
    http://www.naturesplus.com/products/productDetail.asp?criteria=search&searchVar=30735&productnumber=30735&category=15

    Source of Life Garden™ Garden Vitamin D3 5000 IU Vcaps™

    5000 IU Vitamin D3 – the first plant-source cholecalciferol, from a blend of eight different organic mushrooms

  7. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tonttu,

    At first glance, that looks like it might be the real thing – vegan vitamin D3. I should probably write them to find out if they have had it verified by an independent lab.

    Jack

  8. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tonttu,

    Nature’s Plus’s contact form was not working for me. I will try to call them when I get a chance.

    Jack

  9. Tonttu Says:

    Thanks for looking into this. Nature’s Plus is only a reseller, here is the site of the manufacturer: http://www.sourceoflife.com/contact.asp

  10. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tonttu,

    I just finally got around to writing them today. Sorry about the delay. I’ll let everyone know what I find out.

  11. Tonttu Says:

    Any news? I’ve been eating the Nature’s Plus capsules for a few weeks now.

  12. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tonttu,

    No, they never answered and I haven’t had a chance to write them again. Maybe you could? My guess is if they haven’t answered they either didn’t get it or they don’t have proof that it’s D3 (most likely the latter).

  13. Mahk Says:

    Major breakthroughs in vitamin development (and production) come from multi million dollar developement teams of giant corporations, not little, nobody chewing gum and designer petfood labels that refuse to give us more details for independent verification.

    We are being had.

  14. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Mahk,

    Tonttu sent me a verification from Source of Life that their product is D3. I want to write the lab who tested it to ask if they differentiate between D2 and D3 before writing more about it. But I haven’t had time due to trying to finish a huge article on soy which will be done soon…

  15. Mahk Says:

    Watch out for the “But we biotransform it first so it is ‘plant sourced’ ” scam. Quoting myself from a vegan forum on 5/19/09:

    “Biosan is the parent company that owns both Durham Research Inc. and the Innate Response brand, their in-house whole food vitamin pill production line. Durham Research as well as making the whole food vitamin formulations for Innate Response also sells their “Cold Fusion™ FoodState” formula to other whole food vitamin pill makers. Thanks to their heavy use of these trademarks and registered words I found other companies that use this exact same s. cerevisiae (nutritional yeast) “whole food matrix” (or food concentrate ) they make for their own Innate Response brand vitamin D3 pills. Here’s one of them, called Daily Foods, describing exactly what it is:

    ‘Vitamin D-3 DailyFoods; is formulated with ; Cold Fusion™ FoodState; nutrients, developed by Durham Research, Inc.* This means that the Vitamin D3 is first isolated from the lanolin of sheep wool, and then incorporated into a whole food matrix of nutritional yeast.’…”

    Unfortunatly my source link for this quote has since become invalid.

    Basicly they sprinkle D3 on growing yeast so it becomes “incorporated” (or algae? or rye? hmm…) and presto changeo, abracadabra, your sheep lanolin sourced D3 is re-virginized as being vegan!

  16. Mahk Says:

    Here are more details of the “plant sourced” D3 scam I just described above:

    “By the end of January 2010, as we continued to call and email Garden of Life, requesting more detail on their production methods and detection methods, we were informed by Barbara, a Product Support Supervisor at Garden of Life, that the yeast are “fed” lanolin as their starting material. Barbara stated: “The D3 that we use has been synthesized from animal cholesterol, primarily lanolin.”

    Source:

    http://www.vrg.org/blog/2010/03/29/garden-of-life-vitamin-d3-derived-from-lanolin/

    Garden of Life’s convoluted explanation page given in that link wont load in my IE browser for some reason, however this link does load for me using Firefox:

    http://www.gardenoflife.com/vitamin-code/d3/the-garden-of-life-process-of-growing-nutrients/tabid/1901/Default.aspx

    Their twisted logic (found in the last paragraph) is, paraphrased, “Well since plant sourced D3 doesn’t really exist yet, we feel we are helping our vegan friends best by offering this yeast which was fed animal sourced D3.”

    NOT VEGAN!

  17. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Mahk,

    Is Garden of Life one of the companies we were discussing above? Your mention of it is the first on this page from what I can tell. But all these company’s names are so similar that it’s hard to keep them straight.

  18. Mahk Says:

    Jack,

    Yes, the names are confusingly similar, true, but I think Garden of Life is independent of the others mentioned prior to my 03/23/11 post. They are however using the exact same “bio-transfered”- lanolin D3 -is-vegan scam, I believe.

  19. Source of Life Garden Vitamin D3 5000 IU Vcaps may not be vegan – Vegan.FM Says:

    [...] Source: http://jacknorrisrd.com/?p=1050#comment-10682 [...]

  20. Jack Norris RD Says:

    I emailed the lab, American Analytical Chemistry Laboratories, on March 22 and did not receive a response. I am mailing them a letter via the postal service tomorrow.

  21. Tommy Says:

    is there an update to the march 31st post at 2.56 regarding letter to analytical chemistry lab on vegan d3 issue?

  22. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tommy,

    I never received a reply from American Analytical Chemistry Laboratories as to whether their methods differentiate between vitamin D2 and D3. At this time, I am not convinced that Source of Life “vegan” D3 is actually vegan.

  23. Tommy Says:

    Thank you…but do you agree that d2 as a daily is sufficient?
    I have been vegetarian 30 years and Vegan now over a year and am vigilant about my whole food based vitamin regemine and from my research it seems that as long as I kep it regular …say 5000 iu per day I should be could.
    I have yet to start and my level is 40.

  24. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tommy,

    I recommend 1,000 IU per day of vitamin D2 for vegetarians unless they are getting plenty of sun. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) says that 40 to 50 nmol/l is the optimal level for vitamin D. Some researchers argue that it needs to be higher, but the evidence is apparently not great enough to convince the IOM.

  25. isis Says:

    I haven’t seen any indication that the Source of Life D3 is another hidden animal-source scam, but I do wonder if it’s really D3, and not actually D2. I thought the UV exposed mushrooms only produce D2. Greatly appreciate your continued research.

    Then there’s this creepy biotech firm that talks about ‘enhancing’ mushrooms with D2 and D3, I believe synthetically: http://www.totalnutraceutical.com/Mushroom_with_Enhanced_Vitamin_D2_Naturally_Suppresses_Alzheimers_Disease.shtml

    The Source of Life “D3″ is supposedly 5,000 IU. That’s a lot more than your recommendation on Vegan Health. Aside from whether it’s really vegan, or really D3, is it safe to take that much?

  26. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Isis,

    Unless someone has had their vitamin D levels measured and was found deficient, I would not take 5,000 IU per day. Maybe every 3 to 7 days. Or break the tablets up (assuming they are tablets).

  27. isis Says:

    Thanx, Jack. The Source of Life “D3″ comes in a capsule, so I guess one could pour out about 1/3 each time and mix it into food.

    I really am curious what you find out from the lab. Is there some other way to find out whether this really is D3, natural, and vegan, if the lab doesn’t respond?

    I would like to find out that this product is legit, but something else that makes me not want to rely on the company’s claims is that they say it’s ‘plant-sourced’ from mushrooms, but mushrooms aren’t plants:

    http://www.sourceoflife.com/products/product_details.asp?productNumber=30735&criteria=keywordSearchResults&category=15

  28. Peter Says:

    Thanks for doing all the research, highly appreciated.

    5000 IU is not an overkill, It all depends on where you live and how much you expose yourself to the sun.

    Remember, being in the Sun for 15-20 minutes can generate up to 10 000 IU in your body.

    Check out the following PDF for general recommendations (Vitamin D included) for Vegans:
    http://earthsavebaltimore.org/files/Michael%20Greger%20MD,%20Required%20Nutrients.pdf

    If you haven’t heard about Dr Greger, you should definitely check out “Latest in Clinical Nutrition 2010″, available on Youtube. All the prior are there too, from 2007, 2008, 2009.

    Regards,

    Peter

  29. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Isis,

    > Is there some other way to find out whether this really is D3, natural, and vegan, if the lab doesn’t respond?

    Possibly. Someone could test their product at a lab, but if it turns out to be D3, there is no way to know if it came from mushrooms or not. If it turned out to be D2, then we would know the first lab got it wrong. I, however, am not going to pursue this as I think that D2 works, just not as well as D3 when taken in large boluses (50,000 IU) once a week.

  30. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Peter,

    I’d be pretty surprised if people who are not already deficient would need 4,000 IU per day. My understanding is that the skin has a mechanism to prevent vitamin D overload, whereas such a mechanism doesn’t exist when it comes to dietary vitamin D, though I don’t know how much evidence there is for that (it’s what we were taught in dietetics classes). 4,000 IU per day in the short terms appears to be safe, and even long term it might be safe, but I wouldn’t risk it if there is no reason to. Hopefully this week, I will be posting a big vitamin D update based on the most recent Institute of Medicine RDA release about vitamin D (which was past December but I had a lot of research to do before writing about it).

  31. Peter Says:

    Jack,

    Great, looking forward to see it.
    I’ve done some research, and as far as I understand, most people, at least living in the northern hemisphere, especially in the winter time, have Vitamin D deficiency.
    And 4000IU shouldn’t be any problem. But of course, one should go and check the 25-hydroxyvitamin D every now and then and perhaps regulate the supplementation after that value, something I haven’t done to be honest. :)

    Have you visited Vitamin D Council’s webpage? Seems like a good information source, although they aren’t that optimistic to Vitamin D2

    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org

  32. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Peter,

    > Have you visited Vitamin D Council’s webpage? Seems like a good information source, although they aren’t that optimistic to Vitamin D2

    Yes, I read some articles on it awhile back.

  33. Ivan Says:

    I found this interesting article that claimed a few varieties of oyster mushroom, specific to Sicily, did in fact contain D3. They are some of the varieties used in the source of life product.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/56845747/d-Nutritional-Value-of-Pleurotus-Taxa-Growing-on-Umbelliferous

    I can’t find anything else from a credible source stating that mushrooms have D3. I reckon that they are mistaken, but it would be cool if it were true.

  34. Ivan Says:

    The search is over. This stuff is vegan society approved. It’s the real deal. :)

    http://www.vitashine-d3.com/

  35. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Ivan,

    That is an interesting article that I haven’t seen before. In it they say, “According to Ramsbotton (33), fungi could turn ergosterol into vitamin D under the ultraviolet radiation action.” Ergosterol is the substrate for vitamin D2, not D3. So I think this might be another case of someone simply using D3 to mean D2.

    That article also found some species of mushrooms to have a fairly significant amount of vitamin B12. I don’t know what specific method they used to determine that, but I’m skeptical that it could distinguish between active and inactive B12 analogue.

  36. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Ivan,

    I’m going to look into this more with the Vegan Society.

    Vitashine’s website does not instill confidence with this statement:

    “…but D2 needs to be further converted by the body to become active.”

    Vitamin D3 also needs to be further converted by the body to become active. Whether it’s D2 or D3, both the liver and the kidney need to act upon it to convert it, respectively, to calcidiol and then calcitriol. Calcitriol is the active form of the vitamin.

  37. isis Says:

    In the link below they claim this is from lichens, but are keeping the exact species of lichen ‘proprietary’. Trade secrecy doesn’t instill confidence in me either. This spray also contains ‘natural vitamin E’, but they don’t specify exactly what they mean with ‘natural’. Sketchy. They are expecting blind trust. I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation.

    And just exactly how is this grown and harvested? It doesn’t say it’s organic. That’s a deal breaker for me.

    http://www.vitashine-d3.com/vitashine.html

  38. Mahk Says:

    I agree Ivan’s linked to paper is confusing D2 and D3 based on the same paragraph Jack Norris pointed out and from my personal emails to Dr. Robert Beelman, one of the principal inventors of UV radiated , vitamin D rich mushrooms, who confirmed they, mushrooms, make D2 only, not D3, when I discussed the similar claim on the Source of Life brand vitamins label. He wrote me:

    “Hey Mark,

    This label statement is, I believe, in error. Mushrooms only make D2 when exposed to UV light by conversion of ergosterol.

    Best regards,

    Robert Beelman
    Professor Emeritus of Food Science
    Penn State University

  39. Brendon Says:

    Hi,
    Is there any update on whether Vitashine is genuine vegan vitamin D3?

  40. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Yes, Vitashine is genuine vegan vitamin D3:

    http://jacknorrisrd.com/?p=2081

  41. TheVeganScientist Says:

    Hi,
    I don’t know if you have seen the Vistashine Vegan D3 product,
    http://www.vitashine-d3.com/

    The website says it is registered by the vegan society. I contacted the company and they were very quick to respond with a letter saying it is a natural product of a lichen they discovered and no animal derived substances were used in any part of their process.

    I checked the literature and did find some papers describing D2 & D3 along with calcipotriol in various Lichen species.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1011134401001609.

    It looks legit.

  42. TheVeganScientist Says:

    I should read all the comments before I post, Ooops! My bad.

    I’m really excited about this, because D2 hardly cuts it for me. I need 2000+IU D2/day just to hit the 30ng/mL mark.

    I was actually thinking of trying to find a way to rig UV reptile lamps in my bathroom and calbrate the exposure, so I could get my Vit D in my morning shower, but the UV band for Pro-vit D3 production didn’t overlap the lamps as much as I hoped for and the UV output of the lamps were too low to make it cost effective.

  43. Shine Says:

    Why do we need to take Vitamin D supplements when we can get our vitamin D from sun exposure?

  44. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Shine,

    Not everyone needs to take vitamin D supplements, but if you are not getting sun multiple times a week for 10 to 15 minutes on a significant portion of your body (not just your face), then you most likely should be taking a vitamin D supplement. More details:

    http://veganhealth.org/articles/bones#sunshine

  45. evZENy Says:

    Here is one, which claims
    “Free of: Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, gluten, titanium dioxide.”. Doesn’t mention sheep lanolin.
    http://www.vitacost.com/Vitacost-Vitamin-D-Drops
    Has the same number as the previous one they sold, from NSI. Didn’t have the claim and in my opinion smells like fish oil.

  46. Mahk Says:

    We learn that the world’s largest producer of cholecalciferol, D3, is the company DSM, from their own literature, here:
    http://www.dsm.com//en_US/foodandbeverages/public/home/pages/prod-vitamin-d.jsp;jsessionid=38BFCD2F9789BAE4DB06F6942194B4FD
    And that they use sheep lanolin as the source, from here:
    http://www.dsm.com/en_US/cworld/public/media/pages/publications/cs_vitamin_d.jsp
    So I think you can safely assume that Vitacost stuff isn’t vegan, evZENy.
    It’s from “healthy live sheep” who might have undergone mulesing, a torturous act slicing away skin from the live animal in a very sensitive area I dare not even mention,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulesing
    based on their local where they tend to do this [yet never found a need to until it was accidentally discovered in the 1930's], and the sheep are probably, like hens and cows, killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan when their production diminishes so as to not waste feed, water, space, or other resources which would be more profitably spent on a newer younger animal, instead. [This is why people who consume eggs, milk, and lanolin, are still, effectively, killing animals.]

  47. Michelle Says:

    I wouldn’t worry about 5000 iu a day. I’ve been on 20,000 iu a day for 3 months. I was on 6000 iu for 2 years before that. My levels just won’t increase on the D3.

  48. TheVeganScientist Says:

    I just got my 25-OH Vit D blood test back after supplementing 2months on the 5000IU/day Vitashine D3.

    I started taking it on Feb 6,2012 and got my blood drawn on March 17, 2012.

    I was very happy to see a mid-range score of 49ng/mL

    My prior test result on Nov 29,2011 with 2000IU/Day ( for ~ year) of Vitamin D2 was 31.8ng/mL. Prior to that 1000IU/day (for months) D2 only got me to ~15ng/mL

    I live in Chicago, work 8a-4:30p, so sun exposure is non-existent during the winter months. I also don’t eat much processed/fortified food. So this is a pretty significant change and I think I found the ideal winter dosage for me.

  49. Ron Says:

    VeganScientist: It may be that the lab you used isn’t good at measuring D2. I don’t know about reptile lamps, but there are two sources of lamps for humans that I know of.

    Sperti/KDB: http://www.vitaminduv.com/

    And anti-vegan Dr. Mercola:

    http://shop.mercola.com//product/d-lite-system-tanning-bed,95.htm

  50. theveganscientist Says:

    I’ve seen those human vit d lamps, but can’t really justify the price, and now that there’s a vegan D3, that’s ~$6US/month I think I found the best winter option.

  51. Trish Says:

    “Source of Life Garden D3″ is vegan. A vegan friend called the chemist and went through the entire production process from start to finish. The production process and the ingredients contain no animal ingredients. The product works well. There is a product which has a similar name –Source of Garden which claims that it is vegan but it’s not.

  52. theveganscientist Says:

    Still very suspicious about any mushroom derived D3 as ithe D2 it provides will still show as being efficacious in a blood assay. I also don’t see anything on their website with any scientific data, literature, outside analytical results, etc… If this were truly a vegan version, I would think they would provide copious amounts of proof for the doubting public.

    I have a suspicion they contaminate the substrate with animal D3 that the mushrooms grown on and uptake in their bodies like other fake vegan D3 manufacturers.

    It seems very unlikely the mushrooms and the formulation described on their website can produce that much D3, whereas irradiating mushrooms with UV light produces very large amounts of D2.

    Vitashine vegan D3 is the only company that seems to have provided enough data to pass scientific scrutiny.

  53. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > Vitashine vegan D3 is the only company that seems to have provided enough data to pass scientific scrutiny.

    Agreed.

  54. Trish Says:

    > I have a suspicion they contaminate the substrate with animal D3 that the mushrooms grown on and uptake in their bodies like other fake vegan D3 manufacturers.<<<

    The vegan friend went through the whole process from start to finish with the chemist and unless he are lying, then "Source of Life Garden Vitamin D3" is vegan. The entire process and ingredients do not contain animal products. Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this product.

  55. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Trish,

    Did your vegan friend find out how it is that the mushrooms contain vitamin D3 when there is no sign that mushrooms normally contain D3? I wrote the lab that tested their D3 asking them if their test could distinguish between D2 and D3 and they never got back to me.

  56. theveganscientist Says:

    Trish,
    The devil is always in the details. I don’t know what questions your friend asked, but the substrate on which a mushroom is grown wouldn’t be considered an “ingredient” any more than the soil corn is grown on is considered an ingredient.

    What makes me extremely suspicious of this product is

    1). The source of Vit D are mushrooms which have not been observed to produce D3 or any precursors to D3, but produce exclusively D2 and precursors of D2.

    2). The formulation on the package says 500mg mushrooms is the source of the Vitamin D.

    3). Irradiated mushrooms produce roughly 3000-16000IU/100g serving, of which ~92-95% is water, Thus, the math says there should be anywhere between 100IU-1000IU D2 in 500mg dry serving, yet no D2 is even listed in the nutrition info.

    4). Note that even with irradiating, the amount of D2 naturally occurring is very small in 500mg whole food. To find a mushroom (let alone mushrooms) that not only produce D3, but produce it at massive levels (5x the highest published D2 concentration) would be an extraordinary find and would capture the interest of the scientific community to study such a novelty, yet I cannot find a single paper on any of these mushrooms producing D3.

    seems way dubious.

  57. Miriam Van Zant Says:

    There are algal, grass, and lichen sources of vegan D3. I sent abstracts of the following two articles to someone affiliated with Vitashine but I think he is in sales and don’t know if he’ll pass it to the right people. Also, they probably spent a lot to show their lichens are a legitimate source, so they may not want or be able to move on to another organism yet. I hope they, or someone, jumps on these sources. If I knew how to do the extractions and purifications, I’d do it myself. The culture process is very straightforward.

    I’ve been a strict vegan for over 30 years and am also an environmentally conscious person with degrees in botany and plant biology. There are more things to be concerned about, in terms of doing the right thing, than just dietary purity. Lichens grow too slowly to be harvested the way they will be, if they are the primary source of vegan D3 as it finds a following. Nordic Naturals now also has a vegan D3 lichen extract for sale. I have some similar concerns about some of the mushroom sources even if they are making D3 on their own. Unless they are all cultured, or fast-growing common species, not always the case, they too could be over harvested. Lichens provide us with many valuable eco-system services. Lichens help to hold moisture in eco-systems, saving the lives of trees during droughts, and helping to create micro-climates on trees and other plants. Minute insects, frogs, and other small creatures find homes in these places, and provide the base of many food chains for larger creatures. Lichens help in some situations, to maintain the integrity of rocks, boulders, cliffs, etc. They also start the process of soil building after environmental destruction such as volcanic eruptions and severe fires. They grow, die and get composted, giving a start to slightly larger plants like bryophytes, which are followed in turn by ferns and more. It can take about 1,000 years for a boulder the size of a large human to be covered with lichens, and they are rarely in pure strands. The company says it is harvesting a single species without destroying the ecosystem’s integrity. I’m sure they mean well, but stripping out any species is questionable and the demand for vegan D3 is growing. There are better sources. Ask a pig or fish! Our skin makes D3 from UV light, but it requires tanning which is burning, causes age spots and skin cancer, especially now that we’ve done such a good job of damaging the ozone layer.

    Here’s an abstract from a journal article on a grass that makes so much D3 that it is a pest in pastures because it causes undesirable calcifications in livestock. The USDA does not list it as endangered for the U.S. I checked as some species with the common name oat grass are listed. It may be endangered somewhere else, but most weeds are not. It grows in the U.S., and seems to be a concern in Europe as well. The authors are German:

    The grass Trisetum flavescens (golden oat grass, Goldhafer) causes soft tissue calcification in cattle and in sheep. The calcinogenic principle of the plant is the active vitamin D steroid hormone 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3, the major physiological regulator of calcium homeostasis in higher animals. From comparison with synthetic vitamin D metabolites in different bioassays, it is concluded that T. flavescens contains the 25-glucoside of 1,25(OH)2D3. This compound, or rather the 1,25(OH)2D3 liberated by ruminal field, is the calcinogenic factor of the grass.
    C1 RAMBECK W A; INST PHYSIOL, PHYSIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY NUTRITION PHYSIOL, FAC VET MED, UNIV MUNICH, GERMANY
    SC Agriculture; Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; Endocrinology &
    Metabolism; Toxicology; Veterinary Sciences

    This next article describes a micro alga that French scientists found in a sewage overflow pond in Morocco. It produces lots of D3. As D2 is not mentioned anywhere in the article, they must mean D3 when they just say D. There is an English abstract. I searched the article for D3 and got the gist without translation. There must be many similar organisms if the idea of an organism originating from a sewage pond doesn’t work for marketing. They grew it in a simple mineral medium so the price of culturing is probably inexpensive. Their tables are easy to read. Here’s the reference: REVUE DES SCIENCES DE L’EAU, Rev. Sci. Eau 18/4(2005) 471-483 Composition en acides aminés libres et combinés et en vitamines de la microalgue Micractinium pusillum Fres. issue d’un lagunage naturel free and combined amino acids and vitamin composition of Micractinium pusillum Fres. isolated from a wastewater stabilization pond. L, BOUARAB*1′ G. BOURBIGOT2, M. SIMON2, Y. DE ROECK-HOLTZHAUER2,
    M. LOUDIKI1

    Another problem with a workable solution, but requiring funding to go somewhere.
    Thanks for clarifying the problem.

  58. Miriam Van Zant Says:

    This UK blog has more information on Trisetum and D3. I followed the link for the abstract. It shows there have also been papers on D3 in leaves of two species of plants in the Solanaceae. This is the family which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and sweet and cayenne peppers. It is a private blog which I didn’t join. You may want to. They would also benefit from reading this one as they are also trying to sort out this issue.
    http://veganpeople.livejournal.com/3484886.html

    Thanks again.

  59. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Miriam,

    Thank you for the very interesting posts. I recommend D3 to people whose vitamin D status does not improve upon taking D2, but for most people vitamin D2 should be fine. And if someone feels they are doing less harm to the environment or animals by taking non-vegan D3 over vegan D3, I can certainly understand doing that. Chris from Vitashine was monitoring my post Vegan D3: Apparently So. I’ll let him know about your comments.

  60. Chris Says:

    Hi Miriam,

    (and thanks Jack for letting me know about the comments)

    You should come and work with us, fantastic research links there!! We did look at Trisetum in the past but found it wasn’t viable. As for microalgaes, we love them and in an ideal world we would utilise a source rich in D3 that we can grow in controlled conditions (like we do for our Omega-3s). So far this hasn’t proved to be feasible.

    In terms of the environmental aspects, we absolutely agree this is of the utmost importance and we take it incredibly seriously. We use dedicated and very carefully selected growing sites and take every care not to upset the flora or fauna.

    I’m delighted to share that Nordic Naturals is using our Vitashine D3 technology.

    Best wishes

    Chris
    Vitashine

  61. Angela Says:

    Hi! I’m happy to see Nordic Naturals product on the vegan list. Any updates on the Source of Life D3? Thanks!!

  62. Dan in Newcastle Says:

    So where do I buy vegans d2 and or D3 please advise! Interesting reading however thanks everyone

  63. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Dan in Newcastle,

    If you Google it, you should find plenty of options.

  64. Lester Says:

    Regarding Nature’s Plus Source of Life Garden Vitamin D3, I would just like to point out that the ingredients include spirulina – so with the mushrooms and the algae in there, I guess this might actually be a lichen D3 source.

  65. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Lester,

    I don’t follow – what do mushrooms and spirulina have to do with lichen?

  66. Lester Says:

    A lichen is a symbiotic organism consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, like a green alga or a cyanobacterium.
    Mushrooms = fungi. Spirulina = cyanobacteria.

  67. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Lester,

    Interesting, and I didn’t know that about lichen (I assumed they were just pure fungus). But I’m still skeptical that lichen can be mushrooms plus spirulina, or that mushrooms plus spirulina can produce D3. Do you have evidence that either of those can be true?

  68. Isis Says:

    My understanding is that lichen are themselves part fungus and part algae. But that doesn’t mean that combining just any fungus and algae creates lichen.

    Perhaps what you mean is that if lichen provide vitamin D3, then a combination of similar organism might also, Lester?

    But I don’t think all lichen contain vitamin D3, and not all mushrooms do either, and I’ve never heard of spirulina having any. I think it takes specific lichen and/or specific mushrooms to provide vitamin D3.

  69. Lester Says:

    It is just a guess on my part.

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