The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Garden of Life Vitamin D3 Derived from Lanolin

Posted on March 29, 2010 by The VRG Blog Editor

Garden of Life Vitamin D3 Derived from Lanolin;
a Provitamin D3 Made from Genetically Modified Yeast Is Available

by Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director

In November 2009, a VRG member asked us to confirm with the vitamin company, Garden of Life, what the company told him about their vitamin D3, sold as Vitamin Code Raw Vitamin D3:

A preliminary look at the Garden of Life website in November 2009 yielded confusion because the term “vegetarian,” (not “vegan”), was used to characterize their Vitamin Code Raw Vitamin D3. They told a customer that the vitamin D in the Vitamin Code products was from a single cell plant (yeast) rich in vitamin D3. Given that the usual commercial source of vitamin D3 is sheep’s lanolin, the VRG had questions for Garden of Life about its production methods and wanted to determine whether the product was “vegan.”

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. For a more detailed explanation, please visit our website”

The company said there is no known plant source of Vitamin D3. Wondering whether Garden of Life was correct about there not being a non-animal derived vitamin D3, I further examined the question. After searching patent websites and speaking with several doctors and scientists at biotech companies, vitamin companies and universities, we discovered that there is a patented process, discovered in the late 1980s-early 1990s by Amoco BioProducts Corporation in Illinois to produce a mutant yeast-derived provitamin D3. The patented process is considered “semisynthetic” because petrochemical materials are used in conjunction with the fermentation of genetically engineered yeast to produce the provitamin D3.

Then, during the manufacturing process, the yeast-derived provitamin D3 is exposed to light and transformed to “High Density 25-hydroxy
vitamin D3” used in poultry feed and as an injectable vitamin supplement in Europe. Currently, Roche holds the US patent while DSM holds the European version.

According to the scientists whom we interviewed, one of whom was directly involved in the genetic engineering of the yeast at Amoco which led to the patent and another who is a technical director at DSM, 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 made through the patented process is currently used in poultry feed in the United States because it “ameliorates the effects” of leg bone deformation while maintaining weight gain during the rearing process. It is produced in high yield, too. One source stated that its widespread use in the livestock industry suggests that it is economically feasible to produce it semisynthetically and saw no reason why it couldn’t be used in humans, too. He suggested that since lanolin was an abundant enough source of a vitamin D3 supplement, manufacturers lack an incentive to make it any other way for human use. Nevertheless, the patent application proposes that the semisynthetic process to make provitamin D3 could be “useful in a number of contexts, e.g., in topical pharmaceutical formulations (for the treatment of skin disorders or the like), in oral vitamin compositions, and as livestock feed additives.”

Several scientists told The VRG that 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 made through the patented process is used in injectable form throughout Europe to treat osteoporosis and other bone diseases in people. The VRG has not currently identified European doctors or clinics using this non-animal derived 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 in humans.

American vegan consumers who wish to see the semisynthetic, non-animal-derived 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 available in the U.S. for humans are encouraged to inquire of their healthcare providers and supplement manufacturers about the likelihood of its future use in humans as an injectable, or as an oral supplement like that in poultry.

1 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 31 03 11 13:45

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

10 to “Garden of Life Vitamin D3 Derived from Lanolin”

  1. c.e. evans says:

    petrochemicals do not concur with the vegan diet, lifestyle nor ethics.

  2. Dude says:

    C.E., if you may believe that petrochemicals have no part in a vegan lifestyle or ethics, I certianly hope that this means you do NOT own a car or use mass transit, choosing to walk or bicycle for your sole transportation.

    There’s nothing that says petrochemicals are non-vegan – while we’re entitled to our own thoughts, there’s nothing inherently non-vegan about them. I agree, we shouldn’t be ingesting them or abusing them rampantly, but let’s not blur the actual definitions of what is/is not vegan with our own interpretations. That’s where the problems begin.

  3. ravi says:

    i think it’d be easier to take vitamin d2 then to take gmo vitamins using gasoline in the process. gmo is banned in europe for a reason (links to damaging kidney, liver, etc.). i’m not interested in being a guinea pig for synthetic d3

  4. kerri says:

    I have been buying Garden of Life Raw Calcium for well over a year primarily because it did say “vegan” on the label. The ingredients listed food based D. The box was changed recently to read “vegetarian”. Their website states they purchase commercial grade D3 which they attach to the D2. I want to know where this comes from (the source) of their D3. Is it from a CAFO or other? I would think with Jordan’s glossy magazines in the vitamin stores showing his ranch, that he would use the lanolin from his own humanely raised sheep. Their website has so much double-talk about organic vegetables being fertilized with animal derived products, and vegans eating vegetables..therefore lanolin derived D3 is okay?? Again, what is the source of their D3 (purchased from where..China??)

  5. Trish says:

    “Source of Life Garden Vitamin D3” is vegan. It does not contain any animal based sources and none are used in the production process. Prof. Gary L. Francione spoke to the chemist who makes it and they went through the whole production process from beginning to end. No animal sources, no animal ingredients. There’s another brand which has a similar names “Source of Garden etc” and that is the brand that has lanolin as part of the production. I think people are getting confused between the two.

  6. Lily says:

    I had just spoken with a Product Information Specialist from The Vitamin Shoppe regarding Food Factors Vitamin D3 5000 IU that is manufactured by the Garden of Life and labeled as vegetarian. This is the information that the specialist had provided for me: “Food Factors Vitamin D is cultivated from specific raw, whole food ingredients.The process to make this utilizes a single isolated vitamin D – in this case cholecalciferol derived from lanolin – which is then fed to yeast called S. cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast). This process mimics nature, just like when a plant takes nutrient that is naturally occurring in the soil and absorbs it into its roots, the plant becomes rich in that nutrient. The vitamin D included in Food Factors™ Vitamin D3 formula is delivered in a whole food form as Food Factors™ Whole Food Nutrients.” I was looking for a vegan alternative, but this is certainly not vegan. I apparently am deficient in Vitamin D and my doctor told me that I need to take Vitamin D3, not D2. Initially I received Vitamin D3 in gelatin capsules from my pharmacy, which really upset me. So, I decided to head over to the Vitamin Shoppe and out of all the Vitamin D supplements they had available, the Food Factors Vitamin D3 was the best choice for me to take. I also found a Vitamin D3 supplement that claims to be totally vegan. They also offer a D3 serum, but that one is vegetarian and specifically states that “Vitamin D3 is produced from bacteria that have been fed lanolin.”

    Here is the link to the vegan Vitamin D3:

  7. jc says:

    If you OK eating yeast that was fed lanolin to produce D3…why not just eat the lanolin sourced D3 to begin with? Either way the end result is your getting your source of D3 from an animal in the process of producing D3.

  8. Delicious Mystic says:

    A few thoughts..
    On petro-chems in a Vegan lifestyle; This goes much further than having to walk or ride a bike… The bike tires are petrol, the vegan rubber is petrol, the plastics that bag your kale chips are petrol.. it would be virtually impossible to find a manufactured product suitable to the vegan lifestyle, that did not incorporate chemicals and plastics at any point in the supply chain. Think of the bottle that holds each of your vitamins, and think of all the bottles you have already sent off to be inefficiently recycled by giant machines that run on oil-based fuels. The restrictions inherent in your lifestyle regarding boycotting the use of animal products necessitates some level of cooperation with the industrial supply mechanisms in our culture. Really the only way to get around it is to go primitive, but that would certainly require hunting animals and using their parts to create the tools you would need for survival in a sedentary culture that excluded all form of petrochemicals..

    On lanolin and CAFOs; The lanolin comes from wool producers. That wool is being turned into textiles. Regardless of your position on the virtues and value of wool and it’s method of production, it should be reasonable to consider the lanolin’s origins. It is certainly not coming from small breeders that harvest their own wool, and sell it to local craftspeople to card, and spin, and knit. It is coming from wool commodities producers who buy the dirty wool by the ton, and wash so much of it, that to just dump the waste lanolin would probably be an environmental nightmare and costly, so instead, they sell the lanolin to people who will turn it into other things( very similar to the aluminum companies selling their toxic waste, known as fluoride, to municipalities and dental hygiene companies). Now, I suppose small wool producers could send the lanolin off to somewhere, but they would have to separate it themselves, and find buyers that could only use small batches of lanolin, or they would sell it to up the river of commerce to dump it in with all the other lanolin, so that it could then be cleaned up and shipped out in bulk. So, I think logic tells us that this is random lanolin, from CAFOs, being fed to yeast in order to make D3.
    Yeast; yeast is alive, so why is it that the life of yeast, billions and billions of yeast seems to be of different value, than that of the sheep, or honey bees, or a thousand other things to which we seem to arbitrarily label and derive a value from? It’s funny to me that the evils of petrochems came up as a reason, but not the lives of the yeast; and of course the lives and well-being of the sheep was almost as important to the conversation as our own sense of human entitlement and the arrogance of our perspectives. This life, this world is about the choices we make, and for those of us who have decided that the choices we make are important while maintaining our connection to everything around us. We have to remember that the universe strives for diversity, and versatility which teaches us that the world is not always as simple as it seems, extremes complicate the already complicated, and when All or Nothing is your motivation, Nothing will always yield to the All. And as we are all ourselves, ultimately, one single organism, one tiny speck of matter in the universe, we choose acceptance rather than audacity, and keep in mind that we are severely outnumbered by yeast.. 😉 and if they are content, eating lanolin to supply my with D3 to keep me healthy and happy, since the north’s Sun won’t show itself to my warm smartwool covered feet, I’m okay with that. The sheep, the plastics.. that can be done by us with more integrity, and more love.

  9. Rob says:

    Have you confirmed with the yeast that they are content eating lanolin to supply you with D3? Your entire comment was a failed attempt at being clever.

  10. BJones says:

    Wow so let me think about this for a second you’d rather have a “GMO” bacteria, which was created by the same big agricultural companies who are destroying heirloom/ organic efforts worldwide, grow your D3 so you can remain 100% vegan. Rather than use lanolin which is renewable and necessary part of raising sheep in a warm climate. I though being a vegan helped you think more clearly!?.

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