What’s the Best Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement? Strengthen Your Bone Health the Healthy Way

BEST VEGAN VITAMIN D3 SUPPLEMENT

There's one special vitamin that most plant-eaters don't get enough of (it's not B12)...

...it's the hormone our skin produces when exposed to sunshine:

Vitamin D.

In this post we will look at the many health benefits of vitamin D, and how to find the best vegan vitamin D3 supplement to supercharge your health (that's also not made from sheep's wool).

OUR TOP PICK

MRM Vegan Vitamin D3 is an excellent choice for those that want a high-quality vitamin D supplement (that's not made from wool).

And per container we're looking at 60 servings of 5000 IU of vegan vitamin D3, or cholecaliferol, extracted from lichens.

What Exactly is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble steroid hormones.

These steroids are involved in a wide variety of critical body functions such as:

Regulating calcium levels in the body and supporting healthy bones (vitamin D deficiency is one of the leading causes for rickets in children), normal neuromuscular and immune function, reduction of inflammation and a whole bunch of other things. 

There are two variations of this vitamin, D2 and D3, which differ from eachother in terms of how bioactivity:

D2 Form

mushrooms-opienki-forest-litter-45205

Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is found in certain plants and mushrooms. It is produced as a response to UV radiation similiarly to how our skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

So wouldn't eating these plants and mushrooms be the obvious answer to vitamin D needs on a plant-based diet?

That would be great, but unfortunately there's a catch here.

D2 is nowhere near as potent as D3 in improving vitamin D status: 

D3 Form

sun

Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is the most biologically active form of vitamin D. 

D3 has been shown to be approximately 87% more potent in raising and maintaining Vitamin D blood levels, and produces 200-300% greater storage of vitamin D, compared to the D2 form.

Due to this difference in bioactivity, vitamin D3 also seems to decrease risk of all-cause mortality while D2 has no such effect.

Basically we want to focus our attention on vitamin D3 intake, and not D2.

This form of vitamin D is the one that's produced in our skin when exposed to UV rays.

Now there's also a small selection of natural dietary D3 sources in the form of animal products such as oily fish, liver, meats and eggs.

Though the amount of D3 provided by these foods is very small compared to our own endogenous production: 

For instance spending a day at the beach can produce an amount equivalent to ingesting 10.000 to 25.000 IU of vitamin D.

Compare that to the measly 87 IU present in 100 gram of eggs. 

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

sunshine on compass

Here's the million-dollar question:

'How much vitamin D do you need for optimal health?'

There's a lot of conflicting information on the matter - so let's break this down step-by-step so that it hopefully makes more sense.

The circulating form of vitamin D in the body is 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D, thus the total serum 25(OH)D level is considered the best indicator of vitamin D status. 

Currently the RDA set for vitamin D is 600 IU per day for adults, which would be enough to maintain a 25(OH)D level at or above 50 nmol/L.

These recommendations are meant to be sufficient to maintain bone health and normal calcium metabolism. 

Still hanging in there?

Alright good, cause here's where things may get complicated.

Why You Probably Need More Than The Current RDA

According to new research the current RDA at 600 IU per day to maintain 25(OH)D levels of 50 nmol/L may be far too low for optimal health.

Here's why: 

While the RDA may be enough to support healthy bones and prevent rickets... 

... as we know today, vitamin D is of critical importance for many other functions in the body, especially for the immune system.

Which means a higher intake of vitamin D can potentially offer many more health benefits than just for supporting bone health. 

And this is exactly what new evidence is suggesting: serum levels for 25(OH)D at a minimum of 75 nmol/L has been associated with:

  • Increased bone mineral density
  • Improved dental health
  • Reduced risk of fall fractures
  • Less colorectal cancer
  • Improved depression and wellbeing

Vitamin D and All-Cause Mortality

One meta-analysis, including 26916 participants, observed an association between low 25(OH)D and increased risk of all-cause mortality (from autoimmune diseases, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer)

The group with the lowest concentrations of 25(OH)D were 67% more likely to suffer premature death compared to the group with the highest levels. 

Now it could be that people who died prematurely already had low levels of vitamin D - meaning mortality caused the low levels of vitamin D, and not the other way around. 

However in randomized clinical trials vitamin D3 supplementation results in a moderate, yet statistically significant, reduction in premature mortality.

In fact vitamin D intake has such a large impact on mortality that it's estimated that doubling your 25(OH)D levels from 54 to 110 nmol/can extend your life with 2 years.

The chart below is from another meta-analysis - quite clearly illustrating serum 25(OH)D levels association with all-cause mortality.

hhe

Overall age-adjusted hazard ratios for mortality, in 32 studies of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in association with all-cause mortality combined

Another argument that can be made for higher intakes of vitamin D is that humans evolved to inhabit tropical latitudes.

In this type of environment we would've had serum levels of 25(OH)D over 100 nmol/L.

How do we know this?

Well, traditionally living populations in Africa with lifelong, year-round exposure to sunlight, have 25(OH)D concentrations of 115nmol/L. Way higher than the current recommendation of 50 nmol/L and also where it should be for optimal health.

More Sun Exposure, or Supplementation?

africa sun on desert

You might not be aware of it, but there's a high risk that your not getting enough of vitamin D to even reach the inaccurately low RDA:

Vitamin D insuffiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide.

We are simply not spending enough time in the sun.

Humans evolved in equatorial africa, running around naked and getting scorched by the african sun on a daily basis.

This is not the situation for many as of today due to our modern clothing habits, reduced time spent outdoors, usage of sunscreen and so on.

We work in offices doing stuff we hate, live way up north in Norway or Canada, wear sunscreen that reduces vitamin D production, are not naked except for the activities of showering and having sex.

Then what's the solution here, do I really have to move to Africa and get naked? 

There are two options:

1. Getting enough exposure to sunlight (which most of us fail to achieve) 

2. Supplement with a vegan vitamin D3.

Number 1 doesn't seem to be that effective for us - vitamin D deficiency is prevalent even in sunny countries like Greece as the angle of the sun rays from autumn to spring doesn't stimulate enough production of vitamin D.

How Much Should You Take Per Day?

supplements

Our goal with supplementing vitamin D3 should be to reach the optimal levels for health - at around or over the golden range of 75-100 nmol/L of 25(OH)D.

The traditional recommendation that would bring the majority of individuals up to 75 nmol/L is to take 2000 IU per day.

But here's the thing:

Just recently it was discovered that there had been a statistical error in the estimation of the RDA for vitamin D.

When correcting for this error, it turns out the actual requirements might be way higher than previously thought. 

Taking into account for this error and that we do get some vitamin D from sun exposure, it's suggested in a recent paper that 8000 IU per day is advisable to reach 75-100 nmol/L of 25(OH)D (with practically zero risk of toxicity).

Ideally you would want to get blood tests to assess your current 25(OH)D levels, and then test again after a couple of weeks of supplementation. 

However available clinical trial evidence shows that 10,000 IU per day of vitamin D3 is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects in almost all individuals. 

What To Avoid When Buying Vitamin D Supplements

Beware fellow vegan brethren and sisters.

It isn't as easy as walking into your supplement store and buying the first best vitamin D3 supplement- there are a couple of factors that you have to consider.

First of all, as we've established you don't want to purchase a vitamin D2 supplement as they aren't nearly as effective as the D3 form.

But the majority of vitamin D3 supplements aren't vegan as they're produced from lanolin, a waxy substance derived from sheep's wool.

Yeah, that is correct, vitamin D supplements are made from sheep. Isn't that f###ed up? 

Luckily, there are indeed a couple few vegan D3 supplements on the market. Instead of using lanolin, the D3 is derived from a plant called lichen.

And as always when buying vegan supplements, you have to make sure that there's no animal products such as gelatin in the formula (which would be very strange to find in a D3 supplement based on lichen, but you can never be to sure).

Recommendations For Great Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplements

MRM-Vegan-Vitamin-D-3-5,000-IU

MRM Vegan Vitamin D3 is an excellent choice for those that want a high-quality vitamin D supplement (that's not made from wool).

Per container we're looking at 60 servings of 5000 IU of vegan vitamin D3, or cholecaliferol, extracted from lichens.

Reason why this is my top pick is that this supplement contains large amounts of vitamin D3: the form proven to reliably improve vitamin D status and reduce risk of all-cause mortality.

Most other vegan vitamin D supplements on the market contains the less effective form D2.  

Moreover, this supplement is free from common allergens such as soy, wheat, egg, gluten, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, soy, and milk products and it's also GMO-free (if that's your thing).

All in all, this is a no-frills plant-based vitamin D supplement that does what it promises to do - reviews mention that taking this supplement succesfully raised their vitamin D status from deficient to optimal.

PROS

  • 100% vegan vitamin D3 extracted from lichens 
  • High dosage of vitamin D at 5000 IU per capsule
  • Guaranteed GMO-free and produced in a GMP certified facility. 
  • May help raise their vitamin D to optimal levels for health
  • Small and easy to swallow capsules
  • Free from common allergnes such as soy, wheat, gluten, peanuts, fish, shellfish and tree nuts

CONS

  • Contains additives such as maltodextrin and sucrose which I feel like doesn't really need to be included 
DailyD Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement

DailyD Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement delivers plant-based vitamin D extracted from lichen in a liquid drop form.

We're looking at vitamin D in it's most bioavailable form: Vitamin D3. Great!

Another positive feature is the large amount of servings per container:

In total there's 365 servings or drops in this flask, each providing 2.500 IU. Of course if you want to up the dosage a container will not last as long, but it's still great value.

There's not much else to add here, it's a basic vegan vitamin D supplement that delivers what is promised.

It's been third party tested for purity, manufactured in a GMP certified facility and is free of known allergens and GMO's. 

Now one major drawback is the actual delivery system: it's almost impossible getting only one drop beneath your tongue with the dropper bottle design.

PROS

  • 100% vegan vitamin D3 from cholecalciferol extracted from lichens 
  • Many servings per container provides great value 
  • check
    Clean ingredient list

CONS

  • Delivery system can be improved upon

I hope this article was helpful and that you gained some further insight into the topic of vitamin D! 

What's next? If you're interested in other beneficial vegan supplements check out this page.

🙂


Hey there! I’m Alex and I’m obsessed with a vegan diet, strength training and bodybuilding, as well as health and nutrition. When I’m not writing articles on here I am either in the gym, playing electric guitar or cooking vegan food!

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