Most plant-derived vitamin D is vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). However, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is traditionally sourced from lanolin (the pale-yellow oil found in sheep's wool), is better absorbed and utilized by the body, claims Nordic Naturals.
However, many firms are keen to find an alternative that doesn’t use animal products, ESB Developments director Mark Broughton told NutraIngredients-USA at the Expo West show in Anaheim earlier this year.
“There is a real demand from vegans and vegetarians, but many other people are also surprised to find that vitamin D3 comes from lanolin or other animal sources and would rather get it from a plant source as well,” he said.
“They are also worried about sheep dip and undesirable compounds getting into lanolin-derived D3.”
One of the first completely vegan sources of natural vitamin D3 on the market
Nordic Naturals’ vegan D3 is suitable for vegans, strict vegetarians, and consumers who prefer a non-lanolin form of vitamin D3, and is available in a 1-ounce bottle with a dropper. Each serving provides 1,000 I.U. of vitamin D3.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Keri Marshall said: “We are pleased to announce that this lichen-based source of Vitamin D3 is one of the first completely vegan sources of natural vitamin D3 on the market.”
On a cost in use basis, you use so little that it is very competitive
ESB Developments’ Vitashine vitamin D3 is sourced from an edible form of lichen that grows on rocks, trees and other locations in North America, Asia and Scandinavia.
“Clearly lichen-sourced D3 is more expensive than lanolin-source vitamin D3, but not massively so”, claimed Broughton. ”On a cost in use basis, you use so little that it is very competitive.”
He added: “We researched a lot of candidate plant materials – lichen, mosses, mushrooms and so on- to see which contained cholecalciferol and we came across a species of lichen that allows us to get virtually the same concentration as from lanolin.”
Alternative production methods explored
The lichen is currently collected in buckets and washed at source, and then put through a multi-step process of extraction, purification and concentration in the UK before it is added to a vegetable oil carrier (medium chain triglycerides). It is then shipped over to the US in canisters to be made into finished products.
However, ESB is exploring whether it can be manufactured via a fermentation process as well as wild harvested, said Broughton: “The lichen is actually a combination of a fungus and an algae, so we could grow it in big vats and feed it with simple sugars.”