Is Vegan D3 as Good as Regular D3?

Vitamin D3 is vitally important for human health. But many people who live in more temperate climates are highly likely to have a vitamin D deficiency [1] So most of us should supplement, vegan or not. But is vegan D3 as good as regular D3? The latter being commonly sourced from animals.

The answer is right below …

Is Vegan D3 as Good as Regular D3?

 Yes, vegan D3 is just as good as regular D3. The source doesn’t matter; your body processes it in exactly the same way. Some would argue that vegan D3 is actually better because it’s less likely to have been contaminated by (animal) agricultural processes. 

 

Watch: Dr Gundry on the 3 biggest vitamin D myths!

(Dr Gundry has a calm & reassuring manner!)

 

What is Vitamin D Needed For? … and What is It?

Hand held up closing fore finger and thumb around the sun. In the strictest sense, vitamin D is actually a hormone because it is produced by the human body (and other higher animals). To a much lesser degree, it is a fat soluble vitamin. Generally, when we discuss vitamin D we’re referring to the hormone.

It is produced in the body exclusively by a photochemical reaction in the skin [2] during exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight! Pretty crazy how amazing the human body is when you stop to think about it!

The liver and kidneys then convert vitamin D into a more active form which the body is more readily able to use. It is commonly referred to as a vitamin because it is available via the diet, albeit from a very limited set of foods, almost none of which are vegan!

However, even those foods considered relatively high in vitamin D contain nowhere near enough of the stuff to provide the human body with what it needs on a daily basis [3].

Even though we only need very small amounts of vitamin D, without it we become unhealthy quite quickly since the body is unable to store it for any length of time.

Vitamin D is needed for: [1] [4]

  • Efficient absorption of calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones.
  • Intestinal health.
  • Optimum function of the immune system.
  • Maintaining a healthy nervous system.
  • Circulatory system function.
  • Infection control.
  • Reduction of inflammation in the body.

There is also a rapidly mounting body of evidence to suggest a lack of vitamin D in the body is linked to negative outcomes when dealing with the treatment of a number of diseases including heart disease, depression, diabetes and even cancer [4].

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms and Treatment

Stylised image of a virus molecule. As confirmed by Dr Gundry above in the video, it is now generally recognised among health professionals that vitamin D deficiency is very common across the globe. In fact, some papers estimate up to half of the entire population on this planet are lacking vitamin D to some degree [4].

Being deficient in vitamin D is no joke! It causes serious illness and at its worst, can cause life-changing disability.

Lack of this essential hormone has not been shown to cause death directly but studies have established a link between increased mortality and low vitamin D levels [4]. This is likely due, primarily, to the critical role played by vitamin D in the healthy function of the immune system.

 

 

 -1. Maintaining a healthy immune system is one of the most important roles played by vitamin D and it has been shown to directly support the cells which make up the various antibodies mobilised by the human body when confronted with an infection [5].

So if you seem to often come down with colds and flu and it takes you a while to get over the infection, this could be a strong indicator of low vitamin D levels.

A number of large studies have shown a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and infections of the respiratory tract like pneumonia and the common cold [6].

You may have also noticed the advice to take vitamin D supplements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; another respiratory infection.

This is because, to fight this horrendous disease, your immune system needs to be in premium condition … and it’s known that many of us are low in vitamin D.

 

Woman holding her back in pain. -2. Pain in your bones and lower back is a very common symptom of vitamin D deficiency and this is no surprise as the relationship between calcium absorption and vitamin D is well documented [3].

For a growing body especially, it’s vitally important to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Before we knew just how essential D is for healthy bone development, rickets was a common disease among children.

These days, fortified foods like cereals have largely eliminated this painful affliction, at least in the ‘Western’ world!

There is also some evidence to support the theory that low vitamin D can actually cause the bone to degrade, especially in older people [4]. It’s often assumed a lack of calcium is the cause but the solution may just be to increase vitamin D levels.

 

-3. Extreme tiredness and fatigue is another one of many low vitamin D deficiency symptoms. Again, there are numerous clinical and observational studies which conclusively show a link between fatigue and low levels of vitamin D in the blood [7].

Many of these same studies also found when supplements were introduced the severity of the condition decreased and many people reported the tiredness vanished completely.

 

-4. Other common symptoms include hair loss [8], slower healing of wounds [9], depression [10], sore muscles [11] and easily broken bones [4]. You should also be conscious of the symptoms associated with type-2 diabetes as this can be an indicator of low vitamin D [4].

 

We have the vitamin D receptor present in almost every cell of our being so it’s no surprise this hormone has the potential to exhibit a profound effect on the human body.

In fact, we’re still learning just how important vitamin D is to our health.

Treatment of vitamin D deficiency is relatively easy. Exposure to sunlight is the obvious one but you do have to be careful and consider the risk of skin cancer. There is not enough in the food we eat to provide for our daily needs so the logical answer is to take supplements.

 

What is The Best Way to Get Vitamin D For Vegans?

Bowl of mushrooms on the table. As I mentioned above, most of the food sources of vitamin D are derived from animal products and animals are our friends, so vegans don’t use those products 🙂

We need to find other ways to get our vitamin D since it’s mainly fatty fish, pork and eggs which contain enough to be significant. Some mushrooms which have been exposed to sunlight also contain worthwhile levels.

Although, this is vitamin D2 which is not as bioactive as its D3 counterpart.

Anyway, if you tried to get enough vitamin D from eating eggs, for example, your cholesterol levels would be through the roof! So vegans and carnivores alike are not going to get enough vitamin D from food. End of story!

 

The Answer … Learn to Like Lots of Lichen!

Rust coloured lichen on a rock. Yes … it’s true. The solution to this particularly tricky problem is lichen! Because it’s rich in vitamin D3 and many would argue, more pure than its animal sourced counterparts.

It occurs in abundance on rocks, trees and mountain sides; it grows easily and is sustainable. More importantly, it is completely cruelty free so is the perfect answer for vegans.

But before you go off into the wilderness and start grazing on rocks carpeted in lovely lichen, you’ll be pleased to learn there are some bright sparks out there who’re already on the case, supplying vegan vitamin D3 supplements in convenient pill form 🙂

You can get it all over the internet and in most good health food stores these days.

One of the best vegan vitamin D supplements we’ve found is the Vegetology Opti3 multivitamin & mineral supplement which contains 26 vitamins and minerals … all 100% animal friendly!

You will also find plenty of options on Amazon.

 

Vitamin D3 is Important, Especially for Vegans!

Sunflower at sunset. If you don’t live in a nice warm, sunny country where your daily walk to the shops in a t-shirt is probably enough for your body to generate the vitamin D3 it needs, you’ll need supplements.

Paying attention to the needs of your body is important and since vegans exclude most of the foods containing vitamin D, we need to be extra vigilant.

Keep your bones healthy, your mind sharp and your immune system in tip-top condition by taking a vegan vitamin D3 supplement every day. Your body will thank you for it 🙂

 

Veganism Must be Wrong Because …

Some people might argue that veganism cannot be a natural way to live if we have to go to such great lengths to obtain dietary elements such as vitamin D3. Why would we have evolved in this way if we weren’t supposed to eat animal products?

It’s a valid question but fails to acknowledge that our ancestors would have lived their lives outside a lot more and so would’ve been far less susceptible to vitamin D deficiencies. We evolved to produce this hormone in our skin when in the direct sun!

Plus all of these kinds of arguments against veganism fall down when you consider the ever onward march of evolution. Why continue to do something we’ve always done if we’ve found a better way of doing it?

Evolution is just that, finding better ways of doing things. I’d argue that veganism is evolution!

 

I hope this article has provoked some thought and offered genuine advice. If you’ve found it useful please share with your friends and those you care about. We’re all in this together! Please leave your comments below and I’ll do my very best to respond as soon as I can 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Rohan.


This post was originally published on Jul 11, 2021 at 09:01 and updated with fresh content on Oct 4th, 2022 at 16:07.


Sources:

[1] – Harvard T.H. Chan | School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source; Vitamin D https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/

[2] – Anthony W Norman, From vitamin D to hormone D: fundamentals of the vitamin D endocrine system essential for good health, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 88, Issue 2, August 2008, Pages 491S–499S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/88.2.491S

[3] – Harvard Medical School | Harvard Health Publishing: Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopes. May 17th 2019 https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/vitamin-d-and-your-health-breaking-old-rules-raising-new-hopes

[4] – Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Apr;3(2):118-26. doi: 10.4103/0976-500X.95506. PMID: 22629085; PMCID: PMC3356951. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/

[5] – Martens PJ, Gysemans C, Verstuyf A, Mathieu AC. Vitamin D’s Effect on Immune Function. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 28;12(5):1248. doi: 10.3390/nu12051248. PMID: 32353972; PMCID: PMC7281985. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7281985/

[6] – Jat KR. Vitamin D deficiency and lower respiratory tract infections in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Trop Doct. 2017 Jan;47(1):77-84. doi: 10.1177/0049475516644141. Epub 2016 May 13. PMID: 27178217. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27178217/

[7] – Johnson K, Sattari M. Vitamin D deficiency and fatigue: an unusual presentation. Springerplus. 2015 Oct 7;4:584. doi: 10.1186/s40064-015-1376-x. PMID: 26543719; PMCID: PMC4628075. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26543719/

[8] – Gade VKV, Mony A, Munisamy M, Chandrashekar L, Rajappa M. An investigation of vitamin D status in alopecia areata. Clin Exp Med. 2018 Nov;18(4):577-584. doi: 10.1007/s10238-018-0511-8. Epub 2018 Jun 4. PMID: 29869122. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29869122/

[9] – Ding J, Kwan P, Ma Z, Iwashina T, Wang J, Shankowsky HA, Tredget EE. Synergistic effect of vitamin D and low concentration of transforming growth factor beta 1, a potential role in dermal wound healing. Burns. 2016 Sep;42(6):1277-86. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2016.03.009. Epub 2016 May 22. PMID: 27222384. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27222384/

[10] – Okereke OI, Singh A. The role of vitamin D in the prevention of late-life depression. J Affect Disord. 2016 Jul 1;198:1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.022. Epub 2016 Mar 9. PMID: 26998791; PMCID: PMC4844780. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26998791/

[11] – Tanner SB, Harwell SA. More than healthy bones: a review of vitamin D in muscle health. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2015 Aug;7(4):152-9. doi: 10.1177/1759720X15588521. PMID: 26288665; PMCID: PMC4530385. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4530385/

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