One of the things we like to do frequently on Vegan Food Lover is investigate popular products, like name brand snacks and beverages, to find out if they are vegan. We’ve recently noticed many popular breakfast cereals contain vitamin D3, which is derived from lanolin, so it seemed fitting to talk about what lanolin is and where it comes from.
Lanolin is a wax that is secreted by animals that produce wool – primarily sheep. Lanolin is often referred to as “wool wax” and “wool grease,” because that’s exactly what it is. Some people mistakenly refer to it as “wool fat” but it is not fat because it does not contain any glycerides; lanolin is wax. Lanolin and its derivatives are mainly used in cosmetic products and lubricants, but they sometimes find their way into food products, mainly in the form of vitamin D3.
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Most breakfast cereals mainly consist of simple grains that have been processed into refined flour, so they do not intrinsically possess many nutrients. Food manufacturers fortify their cereals with vitamins and minerals to make them appear healthier and more attractive to consumers. Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that often gets thrown into the mix, but vitamin D supplements only are available in two distinct forms: vitamin D2, which is plant-based, and vitamin D3, which is not. Since manufacturers only have two options for vitamin D, vitamin D3 gets used frequently, turning an otherwise vegan product into one that now contains an animal-based ingredient.
When food manufacturers fortify their products with vitamin D, they are not required to specify on the label whether it is vitamin D2 or D3, although sometimes they do. This means if a product’s ingredients label simply reads “vitamin D,” it could be D2 or D3. If you want to find out if a specific product that contains vitamin D uses D2 or D3, the best thing to to is contact the manufacturer and ask them; or you can check out our Is It Vegan? category, and maybe you’ll find the product you’re curious about.