Thorne Verified: Vegan
Veganism is now a popular dietary lifestyle, with many individuals choosing it for ethical, environmental, and/or health reasons. On this page, we will help you navigate what being a vegan means, tell you how Thorne verifies a vegan-verified product, and answer some common questions you might have about veganism.
What is Veganism?
Veganism isn't new - it's been around for decades. The term "vegan" was coined in 1944 by the Vegan Society, a group of British vegetarians who wanted to differentiate themselves from dairy-eating vegetarians.
Although distinctions do exist among vegans, the broad definition is refraining from consuming meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and any other substances derived from animals (including insects, as vegans consider honey a non-vegan product). It is estimated that three percent of Americans, about 7.5 million people, adhere to a vegan lifestyle1 - a number that appears to be growing as more Americans self-identify as following a plant-based diet.
There are many reasons a person chooses to be vegan. Although reasons vary from ethically treating animals to reducing environmental impact, a growing reason is for positive health benefits. In a Nielsen survey, 38 percent of individuals surveyed associate eating plant-based proteins with positive health effects, and 14 percent believe there is no need to eat meat.2
Health Benefits Associated with a Vegan Diet
A vegan diet, as well as other plant-based diets, have certain benefits. According to studies:
- A vegan diet leads to a higher intake of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B1, folate, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.3
- A vegan diet helps individuals maintain healthy weight.4
- Plant-based foods help fight certain cancers.5
- A well-planned vegan diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fiber, and fresh fruits is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.6
Vegan Diets and Nutritional DeficienciesAlthough there are positive benefits to a vegan diet, individuals should be aware of potential nutrient gaps in this type of diet. This is especially true as snack and food companies cater to the vegan movement through heavily processed vegan foods like savory snacks, desserts, frozen dinners, vegan meats, and fries. The most common nutrient deficiencies observed in vegans and vegetarians, especially those who eat a poorly managed diet, include:7
- essential fatty acids
- vitamin B12
- vitamin D
A properly managed vegan diet - one that avoids over-processed snack or fast-food options marketed as vegan - can be nutritionally adequate for most individuals. Many vegans also take nutritional supplements to ensure they have all their nutritional bases covered. However, vegans should be careful because supplements can contain ingredients derived from animals.
What does Thorne do to ensure there are no hidden animal products in vegan-verified supplements?
Thorne's vegan-verified program involves a thorough vetting of every component of the nutritional supplement in question - from active ingredients, to "other ingredients," to the capsule. We started with a handful of products that are particularly popular with vegans because they help fill nutritional gaps that can occur when adhering to a vegan diet.
Even when a raw material does not appear to be derived from an animal source, we do not assume that it's not. Although the finished ingredient doesn't contain any obvious animal-derived ingredients, the process at some point might have involved a non-vegan ingredient. If that is the case, then the product is not vegan-verified. Once we confirm with each raw material supplier that every ingredient in a Thorne product is vegan, then that product becomes vegan-verified.
Thorne Products that are Vegan-Verified
These Thorne products are vegan-verified.
We intend to expand our verified-vegan portfolio in the future. However, it should be noted that just because a product is not vegan-verified does not mean it's non-vegan. For a product that is not on our vegan-verified list, refer to the following guidance to make an informed decision regarding your product choices.
How to know if a Thorne product is NOT vegan
There are six categories of non-vegan nutritional supplement products manufactured by Thorne.
The product contains a specific non-vegan active ingredient
- Any Thorne product that contains whey protein - whey is a dairy product
- Any Thorne product that contains a fish oil (NOTE: the DHA in VeganPro Complex is derived from algae, not fish)
The product contains bovine glandulars, porcine enzymes, or ox bile
- Adrenal glandulars - any product that contains an adrenal gland extract - whether whole or just the cortex, such as Adrenal Cortex and Cortrex
- Digestive enzymes - any product that contains pepsin, pancreatin, or ox bile
- The product contains vitamin D3 derived from cholesterol (from sheep wool lanolin). All Thorne products contain vitamin D3 derived from sheep wool lanolin except VeganPro Complex and Effusio's Immune Defense + (which contain vegan vitamin D3 from algae).
Amino acid products derived from keratin, which includes most Thorne
products that contain the following amino acids (either as stand-alone
products or as multi-ingredient products)
- L-tyrosine, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and leucine
- Regarding leucine, it should be noted that leucine can also appear in "Other Ingredients" - which would make the product not vegan
- NOTE: This category does not include Thorne's VeganPro Complex or Amino Complex - which contain naturally-occurring amino acids derived from vegan protein sources, including the L-tyrosine, NAC, and leucine
- The product is a softgel that contains an oil inside a gelatin/glycerin capsule - the capsule shell is derived from bovine gelatin
- Products that contain glucosamine sulfate derived from shellfish. NOTE: the glucosamine salt in folate-containing products comes from a vegan source
- Products that contain chondroitin sulfate derived from bovine cartilage
- Products derived using a non-vegan fermentation process - for example, PharmaGABA
What are some other commonly used non-vegan ingredients in nutritional supplements?
In addition to the ingredients discussed above that are non-vegan, many supplement manufacturers use other non-vegan ingredients, including:
Stearates: Usually labeled as stearic acid or magnesium stearate - stearates are manufacturing aids commonly used in the supplement industry. They are fatty acids that lubricate tableting and encapsulation equipment, which allows the active ingredients to flow smoother and more material to be packed into the tablet or capsule. Although many companies use vegetable-based stearates, some use animal-based stearates. But, because stearates can inhibit nutrient absorption in the body, Thorne does not use stearates in any form - vegan or animal - in any product.
Lactose: In addition to obvious dairy-containing products like whey protein, a product can contain hidden sources of dairy, particularly in the form of lactose, a sugar found in the milk of cows and other animals. Lactose can be used as a diluent in supplements and might not appear on the label if it was put in the raw material before the manufacturer purchased it. Vitamin D is a raw material that is often diluted with lactose by the raw material provider. Lactose is not only unsuitable for vegans, it can cause serious digestive problems for an individual who is lactose intolerant. At Thorne, we track every raw material back to the supplier who must verify the presence or absence of allergens, including milk. Thorne does not manufacture products that contain hidden lactose.
FAQs About Thorne's Vegan Products
Q: Does Thorne intend to verify more products as vegan in the future?
A: Yes. Although verifying and tracking every ingredient in a product is a time-consuming process, Thorne is currently working on verifying more products that can be verified as 100-percent vegan.
Q: Does Thorne have a vegan omega-3 product?
A: Yes. Although verifying and tracking every ingredient in a product is a time-consuming process, Thorne is currently working on verifying more products that can be verified as 100-percent vegan. A: At this time Thorne does not have a stand-alone vegan omega-3 product; however, our VeganPro Complex contains vegan DHA from algae.
Q: Is it true that most vitamin D3 is not usually vegan?
A: Yes, that's because much of the vitamin D3 on the market is made from cholesterol extracted from the lanolin of sheep wool. However, Thorne has two vegan products that currently contain vegan vitamin D3 from algae - VeganPro Complex and Effusio's Immune Defense +.
Q: What are the sources of the amino acids in Amino Complex?
A: The starting materials vary depending on the amino acid. All amino acids in Amino Complex are either synthetically or naturally derived, and all sources are vegan.
Q: Vegan diets tend to be low in vitamin B12. What do you suggest?
A: The only reliable sources of vitamin B12 in a vegan diet are foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a nutritional supplement. Thorne's B-Complex #12 is vegan-verified, contains all the B vitamins plus choline, and contains more vitamin B12 (600 mcg per capsule) than our other B complex multi's.
- Gallup. Snapshot: Few Americans Vegetarian or Vegan. https://news.gallup.com/poll/238328/snapshot-few-americans-vegetarian-vegan.aspx [Accessed Oct. 26, 2020]
- Nielsen. Homescan Panel Protein Survey. April 2017 (U.S.) https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2017/plant-based-proteins-are-gaining-dollar-share-among-north-americans/ [Accessed Oct. 26, 2020]
- Davey G, Spencer E, Appleby P, et al. EPIC-Oxford: lifestyle characteristics and nutrient intakes in a cohort of 33,883 meat-eaters and 31,546 non-meat-eaters in the UK. Public Health Nutr 2003;6(3):259-269.
- Turner-McGrievy G, Davidson C, Wingard E, et al. Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: a randomized controlled trial of five different diets. Nutrition 2015;31(2):350-358.
- World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous update project expert report 2018. Diet, nutrition, physical activity and colorectal cancer. www.aicr.org/continuous-update-project/reports/colorectal-cancer-2017-report.pdf [Accessed Jan. 13, 2020]
- Le L, Sabaté J. Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts. Nutrients 2014;6(6):2131-2147.
- Craig W, Mangels A; American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109(7):1266-1282.