Nic Waller
Apr 3, 2018 · 5 min read

I put out a simple straw poll (ad hoc survey) asking people in Vegan and Vegetarian Facebook groups which supplements they used. The exact questions asked can be found here. A total of 146 responses were recorded, most of which were from people identifying as vegan. 5% of respondents indicate they do not reside in Canada, but their responses were included anyways. These results should not be considered scholarly or statistically significant. Here are the results!

Vitamin B12

Ensuring sufficient intake of Vitamin B12 is very important for long-term health. Using a vitamin supplement is popular, but B12 can also be obtained from various fortified foods.

  • 77% of respondents identifying as vegan are currently using a B12 supplement (compared to 78% among all respondents).
  • Among vegans not using a B12 supplement, 45% have had blood work done at some point in the past for the purpose of assessing nutritional status
  • 92% of respondents identifying as vegan are aware that plant-based milks are fortified with vitamin B12 in Canada.

Canadian vegetarians and vegans have excellent awareness about the importance of vitamin B12 and how to obtain it.

Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D comes in two varieties: D2 and D3. This survey only asked general questions about Vitamin D, and did not attempt to differentiate between D2 and D3.

  • 46% of respondents identifying as vegan are using a Vitamin D supplement.
  • 92% of respondents identifying as vegan are aware that plant-based milks are fortified with Vitamin D in Canada (compared with 91% among all respondents).
  • Among people using a B12 supplement, 53% were also taking Vitamin D. But among those not using B12, only 21% were taking Vitamin D. The use of a B12 vitamin appears to be a good predictor of whether Vitamin D supplements were also used.

Canadian vegetarians and vegans have excellent awareness that plant-based milks are fortified with Vitamin D. Using vitamin D supplements was less common than B12, but still the second most commonly used supplement.

Iodine

Iodine is a trace mineral that is important for thyroid function. It is found to varying to degrees in different soils, and this impacts the amount of iodine present in plant-based foods. The Dietitians of Canada do not make any special recommendation about iodine for vegans, while the Vegan Society UK recommends use of an iodine mineral supplement. The difference in recommendation is likely due to the different concentrations of iodine in soil in each region. Iodine deficiency may lead to hypothyroidism, but deficiency is rare.

  • 13% of vegans are using an iodine mineral supplement.
  • The use of iodine supplements was slightly more common (15% taking iodine) among vegans who have had blood work than among vegans who have never had blood work (9% taking iodine), but this difference is based on a small sample size of iodine users and should not be considered significant.
  • Among people using a B12 supplement, 16% were also taking iodine. But among those not using B12, only 3% were taking iodine. The use of a B12 vitamin appears to be a good predictor of whether iodine supplements were also used.
  • For the statement “Iodized salt or supplements are the only reliable source of iodine” the responses were 40% aware, 47% unaware, 13% disagree.

Iodine awareness is substantially lower than B12 and Vitamin D. Considering that 20% of all Canadians have a mild iodine deficiency and that iodine is less plentiful on a plant-based diet, additional communication about cooking with iodized table salt may be warranted.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral that is important for a wide variety of bodily processes, especially enzymes, hormones, immunity, and healing. A good variety of plant-based foods provide zinc, but mostly in small quantities. The most concentrated sources of zinc are not vegetarian. The Dietitians of Canada say that it may take planning to get sufficient zinc from foods. Males require more zinc than females, on average.

  • 23% of vegans are using a zinc supplement.
  • The use of zinc was approximately the same regardless of whether vitamin B12 supplements were used.
  • 40% of vegans are not using supplements for any of these four minerals: zinc, iodine, iron, calcium.

DHA

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is one of two long chain omega-3 fatty acids (the other being EPA) that are are commonly thought of as “fish oil” but are also produced by microalgae. DHA is not considered an essential nutrient because it is synthesized in human bodies from more basic fats like ALA, however some people believe that it is connected to cognitive function and may be more important for women who are nursing, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant. Dietitians of Canada recommend tofu, walnuts, and ground flaxseed as sources of omega-3 fats.

  • 46% of vegans are using a DHA supplement.
  • Among people using a B12 supplement, 54% were also consuming DHA. But among those not using B12, only 21% were taking iodine. The use of a B12 vitamin appears to be a good predictor of whether DHA supplements were also used.

Iron

  • 47% of vegans are using an iron supplement.
  • Among people using a B12 supplement, 55% were also consuming iron. But among those not using B12, only 21% were taking iron. The use of a B12 vitamin appears to be a good predictor of whether iron supplements are also used.
  • Multiple respondents commented that their iron levels had improved since going vegan.

Calcium

  • 20% of vegans are taking a calcium supplement.

Trusted Sources

Respondents were asked which sources they trusted for information about nutrition. Here are the sources that were asked about, ranked from most to least-trusted.

  • Registered Dietitian (69%)
  • Doctor, nurse, or medical professional (43%)
  • Holistic Nutritionist (35%)
  • PubMed (30%)
  • Dr. Greger (30%)
  • YouTube (16%)
  • Documentary films (14%)
  • Q&A website (4%)

Health Awareness

  • 25% of respondents have consulted with a Registered Dietitian
  • 52% of respondents have been encouraged to take at least one supplement by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional.
  • 73% of respondents have had blood work done to test their nutritional status.
  • 20% have used Cronometer to track their nutrient intake at some point.

Nic Waller

Written by

Vancouver

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