Dietary supplements are big news.
Two thirds of people in the UK take a vitamin or mineral supplement.
Every year in the US alone, $4billion is spent on vitamin and mineral supplements.
The most popular are multivitamins and Vitamin D supplements.
But what is the really story - do we need supplements or can a healthy, balanced diet give us all the vitamins and minerals we need? Why are people taking Vitamin D supplements and is there really any need?
We take a look at the history of diet supplements, the need for Vitamin D and the Vitamin D3 source you need to know about if you are following a plant-based diet.
The History of the Vitamin Supplement
One of the first recorded uses of vitamins was in 1749 when Scottish surgeon James Lind discovered that citrus fruits could help prevent scurvy. The Royal Navy adopted his recommendations to use lemons and limes to avoid the disease.
But it wasn’t until 1912, when Dr Casmir Funk discovered that untreated rice hunks were rich in amines (Vitamin B1). A year later, scientists at Yale and the University of Wisconsin studying animal diets with butterfat and cod liver oil discovered the first vitamins. Throughout the 1920’s there was a decade of discovery and development of supplements, from Vitamin C to D and K.
But it wasn’t until the 1930’s and 1940’s that we started to see the explosion of what would become the £600million industry in the UK every year. During the second world war, amid fears that rations meant people weren’t getting the nutrients they needed, people were encouraged to take supplements.
But we aren’t at War anymore. Surely we can get a lot of our vitamins and minerals from a healthy balanced diet, be that plant-based or otherwise? Not quite.
A Lot of Us Aren’t Getting Enough Vitamin D
Public Health England (PHE), the government body who exist to protect public health, said in a report last year that a lot of us aren’t getting enough Vitamin D all year round. This is partly because of climate and the source of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for proper absorption of calcium and phosphates. It has many amazing functions but Vitamin D helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, heart, lung and brain functions, and a healthy immune system. Pretty important then?
So it’s a bit worrying that a lot of us are not getting enough Vitamin D.
Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin
Unlike a lot of vitamins, your body actually produces its own Vitamin D when your bare skin is exposed to enough natural sunlight. Now maybe we can begin to see why in countries like the UK, Public Health England are saying a lot of us aren’t getting enough of the stuff! In our climate, we don’t get enough concentrate of UVB rays all year round. That’s why experts think up to 70% of us could be Vitamin D deficient.
What about our diet?
Unlike a lot of vitamins, it’s really hard to get enough Vitamin D from our food sources. This is because there are two main types of Vitamin D – Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3.
Most foods don’t give us the kind of Vitamin D our body needs. The vitamin D in foods is mainly Vitamin D2, whereas the sunlight gives us Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 – the basics
So without going too deep into the science of it, there are two types of Vitamin D – Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3, and one is much more useful to us than the other, so it’s important we know the difference. This can be confusing when we’re trying to work out if we are getting enough Vitamin D.
Vitamin D3, sometimes called calciferol, is the stuff that is produced when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight. It’s all ready for our body to take in, metabolise and use. This is the form of Vitamin D we want to be getting.
Vitamin D2, sometimes called ergocalciferol, is the other form. It’s like the analogue version of Vitamin D. There’s a complex process that needs to take place in the body for Vitamin D2 to be ready for the body to use. That’s why a lot of scientists agree that actually Vitamin D2 isn’t really that helpful for our body, as it isn’t the type we are used to absorbing and utilising.
So we want to be getting more Vitamin D3 than Vitamin D2 because that’s what will help keep us healthy and will be the most beneficial.
Origins of Vitamin D3 Supplements
Most supplements for Vitamin D3 aren’t vegan and vegetarian friendly. Why? It’s to do with the source of Vitamin D3 in supplements. Vitamin D supplements developed for those on a plant-origin diet have traditionally been with plant-based vitamin D2, which we know isn’t as effective.
There have traditionally been two main sources where Vitamin D3 is derived from for supplements –
If you have chosen to follow a plant-based diet, or want to live more ethically, with a view to being more planet friendly, neither of these are really solutions. Lanolin, far from being a natural pure option will likely have been contaminated at some point with sheep dip or pesticides.
That’s where Vegetology come in. At Vegetology, we love science. We spend our time researching what our bodies need and the best ways to get those minerals and vitamins, whatever your diet, whilst protecting the planet.
Vegan Vitamin D3
At Vegetology, we didn’t like the idea of deriving Vitamin D3 from lanolin - we wanted an animal-free, sustainable, eco-friendly, cleaner source.
That’s when we discovered lichen, a plant-based source of Vitamin D3 that is vegan and vegetarian friendly Vitamin D3, and created Vitashine, a vegan Vitamin D3 supplement.
What is Lichen?
It’s a small unique plant species consisting of a symbiotic association of a fungus with an algae. It’s naturally found on mountainsides, rocks and trees in abundance. It’s a natural source of Vitamin D3 with no negative effects on the environment.
Who is it suitable for?
Well, the short answer is everyone! Although it is the world’s first Vitamin D3 source approved by the Vegan and Vegetarian society, it isn’t just for those following a plant based diet. Lichen isn’t just animal-free, it is also a more sustainable way of creating a Vitamin D3 supplement. Because it comes from a plant source, it is arguably a purer source, it isn’t contaminated by sheep dip or pesticides. It is easy to grow and naturally occurs in large quantities, so it isn’t having a negative effect on the environment, making Vitashine a great environmentally conscious choice.
How will I know if I need a Vitamin D3 supplement?
Why not download our free guide, How To Get More Vitamin D3 In Your Diet to find out more about Vitamin D3, those most at risk of becoming Vitamin D deficient and how you and your family can make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D3 while following a plant based diet and making ethical, planet friendly choices.