Vitamin D3 Supplements: Lanolin vs Lichen

Vitamin D3 Supplements: Lanolin vs Lichen

Since vitamin D3 is naturally found in the human body, it is generally considered the preferred form of vitamin D supplementation, which is obtained (mostly) from lanolin that is sourced from sheep’s wool (lanolin).

The effect and safety of animal-based Vitamin D3 is proven.

There is another type of Vitamin D3 which is 100% vegan and vegetarian and sourced from lichen extract.

While, D3 sourced from Lanolin serves as a smart way to maintain optimal levels of Vitamin D3, the safety of utilizing the other supplement which is sourced from lichen is still unknown. 

Get ready to learn about lanolin vs. lichen.

Why is Vitamin D3 important?

Vitamin D3 shines like no other essential nutrient. To enjoy its many benefits – from calcium absorption to bone health to decreased inflammation – simply find the sun! Step outside for a few minutes and enjoy its ultraviolet rays. The sun’s rays reach cholesterol in our skin, jumpstarting the process.  Now you know why Vitamin D3 is known as the sunshine vitamin.

Despite the ease in which humans consume Vitamin D, studies show that Vitamin D insufficiency is highest among people who are elderly, institutionalized, or hospitalized. In the United States, 60% of nursing home residents and 57% of hospitalized patients were found to be vitamin D deficient.

However, vitamin D insufficiency is not restricted to the elderly and hospitalized population; several studies have found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among healthy, young adults. A study determined that nearly two thirds of healthy, young adults in Boston were vitamin D insufficient at the end of winter.

Another staggering statistic comes from D blood tests ordered by physicians and this cost Medicare alone to the tune of $323 million dollars in 2014. This shows the level of the issue at our medical institutions.

We believe that preventive medicine is the best medicine and much easier to prevent than to heal and play catch up. That is why all consumers must familiarize themselves with their vitamin D levels and ask their doctors to give them the values and not accept normal as the answer. This is because the normal is any number between 30ng/ml to 100ng/ml accepted in the medical community for blood levels of vitamin D. However, many believe that the healthy level is closer to 50 to 70ng/ml in the blood. 

Is Vitamin D The Same As Vitamin D3?

Any of a group of vitamins found in liver and fish oils, essential for the absorption of calcium and the prevention of rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. They include calciferol or ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3).

  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) – which is synthesized by plants
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) – which is made in large quantities in the skin when sunlight strikes bare skin

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the form of vitamin D that is naturally made by our bodies after the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. It can also be found in vitamin supplements and foods, such as fortified milk, fatty fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks.

Since vitamin D3 is naturally found in the human body, it is generally considered the preferred form of vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D₂ (ergocalciferol) can also be found in supplements and comes from plant and/or fungal sources that are irradiated.

  1. There is some controversy about whether vitamin D₂ should be used as a supplement because it is not the form of vitamin D naturally made by the body.
  2. Evidence also shows that our bodies can store vitamin D3 better than vitamin D2and that vitamin D3 raises blood levels of vitamin D quicker.

For the rest of our discussion, we will be concentrating on Vitamin D3

What Factors Cause Vitamin D Deficiency?

Having too little vitamin D can have negative health consequences. Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon, especially during the winter in the northern hemisphere. Not having enough vitamin D has side effects including tiredness, severe muscle and bone pain, and frequent stress fractures. It can also contribute to a number of medical conditions that range in severity from seasonal depression to heart disease.*

Factors that can increase your likelihood of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Environmental pollution
  • Using sunscreen (which inhibits UVB absorption and vitamin D creation)
  • Lack of sunlight or time outdoors
  • Having darker skin (higher levels of melanin prohibit vitamin D absorption)
  • Avoiding sunlight due to risk of melanoma (light skin individuals)

Lanolin-Based Vitamin D3: The Natural Origin

It may be hard to believe, but the best source for safe and healthy Vitamin D3 supplements originate from… sheepskin? Yes, it’s true. Sheepskin and sheep wool produce lanolin, a water-resistant layer found in sheep coats. The sebaceous glands of sheep secrete lanolin, which keeps their wool soft, moisturized, and guarded against the outside elements.  After processing, this coating is transformed into Vitamin D3 for human consumption.

In the United States, there are over 50 unique types of sheep. There are new breeds introduced all the time from a pool of over 1,000 different species available worldwide. Certain sheep are raised solely for their wool. Others are grown for their meat or dairy, while many types serve multiple purposes including Vitamin D3 production. 

Medical studies have proven that lanolin offers a safe way to provide the body with Vitamin D3. Many responsible companies use this base ingredient for their Vitamin D3 supplements.

Lichen-Based Vitamin D3: The Lab Version

Lichen, on the other hand, is a 100% vegan ingredient found in some Vitamin D3 supplements. Lichen, a symbiotic organism, is a combination of algae, fungi, and cyanobacteria. Vegan vitamin D3 was unheard of until recently. Lanolin, the most unsuspecting ingredient, has more research and clinical trials to back it up than lichen sources. It's tried and true! With that said Lichen is typically more expensive but can be an option for anyone following a strict vegan diet. 

Part of future research must identify chemicals present in different species of lichens, as well as to determine whether the concentration of chemicals can be harmful to humans. Currently, the medical industry disagrees with how chemicals created through lichen affect our bodies. Vulpinic acid, for example, is a common ingredient found in lichen-based Vitamin D3. Vulpinic acid can be harmful to humans. 

Should I Buy Vitamin D3 With Lanolin vs. Lichen?

So much is unknown about lichen’s based D3; it may be a good idea to shop for Vitamin D3 supplements, created from lanolin, unless you are a strict vegan

The safety of lichens when eaten is a topic that researchers still need to explore. 

They need to not only identify the chemicals present in the different species of lichens but also determine whether the concentration of the chemicals is harmful to humans. 

They also need to discover how the chemicals affect our body.

For example, lichens contain vulpinic acid which can be harmful to us, though this isn’t certain. If it is true, the toxicity may depend on the quantity of the acid in a particular lichen. 

Some cyanobacteria produce liver toxins called microcystins (hepatotoxins or liver toxins) when they live alone and sometimes when they are part of lichens. More research is needed to prove that the chemicals hurt us when we eat lichens.

Since so much is unknown about lichen safety and toxicity, it’s probably not a good idea to take vitamin D3 sourced from lichens at this time.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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