Choosing an oral vitamin D preparation for vegetarians or vegans

Amisha Gopal, Regional Medicines Information Pharmacist, London Medicines Information Service Published

An explanation as to why the source of vitamin D, or inactive ingredients (excipients) in products, may make preparations unsuitable for vegetarians or vegans.

Vegetarian and vegan diets

The European Vegetarian Union defines food suitable for vegans as foods that are not products of animal origin and in which, at no stage of production and processing, use has been made of or the food has been supplemented with, ingredients (including additives, carriers, flavourings or enzymes), processing aids or other substances that are of animal origin.

Vegetarian diets meet the same food requirements as vegan diets, with the difference that in their production or processing, the following ingredients (or their components or derivatives) may be added or used: milk and dairy products, colostrum, eggs, honey, beeswax, propolis or wool grease (including lanolin derived from the wool of living sheep or their components or derivatives).

Choosing a preparation

When choosing a preparation that is suitable for a vegetarian or vegan it is necessary to consider the appropriateness of both the active and inactive ingredients.

Excipients (inactive ingredients)

Certain excipients (such as gelatin) make a preparation unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. See our other work on excipients and vegan patients: Excipients: What are the general considerations for vegan patients?

Whilst a specific excipient may not be listed as present in a particular product, it cannot be guaranteed that the product has not been in contact with milk-derived or animal-derived products during the manufacturing process. Where necessary, contact the manufacturer for further information on the manufacturing process.

Active Ingredients

The BNF lists many different vitamin D preparations. Proprietary vitamin D preparations contain colecalciferol (vitamin D3) or ergocalciferol (vitamin D2).

There are no licensed oral vitamin D2 preparations.

Licensed Colecalciferol (Vitamin D3) preparations

Colecalciferol is synthetically produced using 7-dehydrocholesterol derived from lanolin (wool fat). Products originating from wool fat are unacceptable to vegans.

  • Lanolin sourced from the wool of live sheep, and not bred for slaughter for the meat industry, is considered suitable for vegetarians.
  • Lanolin sourced from the wool of sheep that have been slaughtered, or are about to be sent to slaughter, is unsuitable for vegetarians.

Suitable for vegans

There are no licensed vitamin D preparations which are suitable for vegans.

Suitable for vegetarians (not vegans)

The following preparations, in no order of preference, are suitable for vegetarians:

  • Colecalciferol 3000unit/ml oral solution (Thame Laboratories)
  • Desunin tablets (800, 4000unit)
  • Fultium-D3 drops 2740units/ml (Internis Pharmaceuticals)
  • InVita D3 2400unit/ml oral drops and oral solution (25,000unit/ml, 50,000unit/ml)
  • Plenachol D3 capsules (20,000, 40,000unit)
  • Stexerol-D3 film-coated tablets (1000, 25,000unit)
  • THORENS 10,000unit/ml oral drops and 25,000unit/2.5 ml oral solution

Unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians

The following preparations are unsuitable for both vegans and vegetarians as they include animal derived gelatin as an excipient:

  • Colecalciferol 1000unit capsules (Colonis Pharma)
  • Colecalciferol 20,000unit soft capsules (Tor Generics)
  • Fultium D3 capsules (all strengths)
  • InVita D3 capsules (all strengths)
  • STRIVIT-D3 soft capsules (all strengths)
  • THORENS 25,000unit hard capsules

Unlicensed Vitamin D preparations – available to buy

Many vitamin D products are classified as foods rather than medicines and are available to buy as supplements.

Unless they have a diagnosed vitamin D deficiency, people  will be encouraged to buy their own vitamin supplements as NHS England and NHS Clinical Commissioners recommend that vitamin supplements should not routinely be prescribed in primary care (except for treatment of deficiency).

The public may seek advice from healthcare professionals on which vitamin D supplement to buy if they are vegetarians or vegans.

Suitable for vegans

The following vitamin D preparations are suitable for vegans, in no order of preference:
• ColeDose D3 tablets (all strengths)
• DailyD 1000unit Vegan spray
• Ergoral D2 tablets (10,000units) and capsules (50,000units)
• Ergo-D2 tablets (12.5microgram) and capsules (1.25mg)
• HealthAid Vitamin D2 500unit tablets
• Natures Aid Vitamin D3 oral drops (both strengths)
• Pro D3 Vegan (all products)
• SunVit-D3 Vegan tablets (all strengths)
• Ultra Vitamin D gummies

Suitable for vegetarians (not vegans)

The preparations listed above (suitable for vegans) are also suitable for vegetarians.

The following preparations are suitable for vegetarians in no order of preference:
• Aciferol D3 tablets (all strengths), capsules (30,000, 50,000units) and liquid (2000unit/ml, 3000unit/ml)
• BioLife Vitamin D3 tablets (1000unit)
• ColeKal-D3 tablets (all strengths)
• Cubicole D3 tablets (400, 1000unit) and capsules (all strengths)
• DailyD 400unit spray
• E-D3 tablets (all strengths), capsules (all strengths), oral drops and solution (all strengths)
• HealthAid Vitamin D3 tablets (1000, 50,000unit), capsules (all strengths) and oral drops (200unit)
• Lamberts Vitamin D3 tablets (400unit), capsules (2000, 4000unit) and drops (200unit/drop)
• Hux D3 capsules (3200, 20,000unit)
• Kora LiquiD 3000units/ml oral solution
• Osteocaps D3 capsules (1000, 20,000unit)
• Pro D3 capsules (all strengths), drops (100unit drops), liquid (2000unit/ml, 3000unit/ml)
• Solgar Vitamin D3 capsules (600, 2200, 4000unit), liquid (2500unit), tablets and chewable tablets (1000unit)
• SunVit-D3 capsules, tablets and oral solution (all strengths), drops (2000unit/ml, 2740unit/ml)
• Ultra Vitamin D tablets (all strengths)
• Valupak Vitamin D3 tablets and capsules (1000unit)

Unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians

The following preparations are unsuitable for both vegans and vegetarians as they include animal derived gelatin as an excipient:
• Bio-Vitamin D3 capsules (all strengths)
• ColeDose D3 capsules (all strengths)
• ColeKal-D3 capsules (all strengths)
• DailyD Vitamin D3 capsules (400, 1000, 2000unit)
• Lamberts Vitamin D3 1000unit capsules
• RestorD3 40,000unit capsules
• Solgar Vitamin D3 soft gel capsules (400, 1000unit)

Calcium and vitamin D preparation for vegetarians or vegans

Other work is available which looks at the suitability of calcium and vitamin D preparations for people with a vegetarian or vegan diet – Choosing a calcium and vitamin D preparation for vegetarians or vegans

Further advice

Manufacturers may change the formulations of their products. Check the current information for the product ingredient origins with the manufacturer for the most up to date information.
The list of manufacturers of vitamin D products is not exhaustive. Contact individual manufacturers for further information where this is necessary.