The Supplement Issue: Vegetarians and Vegans

An estimated 23 million U.S. adults are largely following a vegetarian-inclined diet, according to a study of approximately 6,000 consumers by MMR Research Worldwide. And not surprisingly, the majority of vegetarians use dietary supplements. In fact, vegetarians are 27 percent more likely to buy vitamin and mineral supplements than non-vegetarians the research noted.

The vegetarian and vegan dietary supplement consumer base has been steadily growing for years and the reasons are many. People are cutting back on meat or going vegetarian, or vegan, as they embrace healthier lifestyle choices. And choosing a healthier lifestyle oftentimes means incorporating more dietary supplements. Others are choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet because of the impact meat production may have on the environment, or for concerns about animal cruelty. Vegans, in fact, avoid allanimal or insect sourced ingredients including honey, bee propolis and milk products. And lastly, as inflation goes up so do meat prices. Consumers are increasingly responding by going for the less expensive vegetarian protein sources.

This emerging vegetarian and vegan community has particular needs when it comes to dietary supplementation.  For example, complete proteins and nutrients like B-12 and iron can be more difficult to obtain in sufficient amounts from dietary sources alone, so many may turn to supplementation to offset any potential deficiencies. Also, popular products like glucosamine and Omega-3 largely come from non-vegetarian sources when it comes to dietary supplements.

And although this community continues to grow addressing their particular supplement needs can be tricky. In fact, for a long time in the natural products industry dietary supplement options for this burgeoning community were slim-to-none. For example, many of the early vegan supplements contained non-vegan ingredients like honey, bee pollen and dairy.

Even today there can be hidden animal constituents in ingredients labeled “vegetarian”. Take beta-carotene for example. Although the main source of the beta-carotene may come from a vegetarian source, like carrots, oftentimes the beta-carotene must be stabilized with a beadlet of animal-sourced gelatin. Regardless of the presence of gelatin the beta-carotene can be labeled vegetarian. The same could be said for some lycopene options. The original source of the lycopene can be vegetarian, tomatoes or marigolds for example, but it may also be stabilized with a beadlet of gelatin and labeled vegetarian.

One of the biggest challenges for the vegetarian or vegan dietary supplement shopper, “is that there is a lack of them,” according to vegan advocate Kayle Martin, from Cowgirls & Collard Greens

Regardless of the minefield of vegetarian issues, both retailers and manufacturers are responding to the growing demand with more shelf space and more products. The recent launch of the all-vegan supplement line, Source Naturals® VeganTrue ™, is just one example. “As a vegan, I personally understand the challenges vegans face in living out their lifestyle commitment. I am especially pleased to bring to market supplements that help make it easier for vegans to stay healthy while they promote a more humane and caring world,” said Ira Goldberg, Source Naturals®, Planetary® Herbals and Threshold Enterprises®, Ltd, Founder and CEO.

The Supplement Issue: Vegetarians and Vegans Julie Dennis has been a lecturer, writer and consultant in the natural products industry for over 20 years. Currently she lectures nationwide discussing health-related topics and intelligent usage of nutraceutical and botanical supplements. She graduated from Dr. Michael Tierra’s East West School of Herbology in 1996, contributed to major natural products industry trade publications, and assisted with editing on books including the American Botanical Council’s Clinical Guide to Herbs, and The Handbook of Clinically Tested Herbal Products, Haworth Press.


Posted on 3/24/2015