Since one of the reasons that I follow a vegan diet for is the relatively lower ecological impact that it has on the planet, I was wondering whether there are some studies looking into the ecological impact of producing vegan supplements. Are there any challenges for the vitamin supplementation to scale if a major part of planet's population was to switch to plant-based diet?

For the purpose of this question I am looking mainly at vitamin D3 and B12, produced in a vegan manner.

  • It is conceivable, I would hope likely, that even if producing vegan B12 had a greater ecological impact than animal based B12, it would be greatly outweighed by the many other reductions in ecological impact due to a mass shift to veganism.
    – badjohn
    Nov 20, 2019 at 14:47
  • @badjohn Yes, I am of a similar belief but wanted to get some insight into whether it is actually a justified one. All in all, I am pretty sure the net sum will be positive but I'd like to know the negatives - eg. large areas of sea/ocean to grow the necessary algae or such. Nov 21, 2019 at 9:31
  • I completely agree. I was not suggesting that it is a bad or unnecessary question. Quite the opposite, I had considered a similar question myself after I was diagnosed as having low B12.
    – badjohn
    Nov 21, 2019 at 9:34
  • 4
    This older question is interesting. It does not answer yours directly so it is not a duplicate but it does talk about the production of B12. From that, I doubt that it has a serious ecological impact. vegetarianism.stackexchange.com/questions/89/…
    – badjohn
    Nov 21, 2019 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


I found one study that addresses the production of Vitamin D3:

The functional unit of analysis is 1,000 mg crystalline vitamin D3. In terms of dosage, 1000 mg of crystalline D3 is equivalent to 40,000,000 IU. Assuming a daily dose of 1000 IU, that's enough vitamin D supplements for 109 people for an entire year. To produce that functional unit, 251 grams of CO2 were released to the atmosphere. Other impacts are available in the data table.

It seems likely that industrial production of vitamin supplements has relatively low resource requirements compared to animal agriculture.

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