"Vitamin Supplements are a placebo" and Soylent - Discussion

Was told recently by a doctor that vitamin supplements only work as a placebo and that your body doesn’t effectively absorb the nutrients (I’m doing my best to paraphrase). They were citing a recent medical study that I have no idea how I would find.

Fist of all, if anyone has seen this study, please share the link.

I see on these forums people talking about supplementing Soylent with supplements, did this work? Did your supplement increase the nutrients you were lacking? Or did a future test show no difference?

What about Soylent; is any portion of Soylent essentially vitamin supplements that can’t be absorbed?

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All the vitamins in Soylent are essentially “vitamin supplements”. If what your doctor says is true then I for one would be dead by now from massive vitamin deficiencies. For the last year and a half I have eaten nothing but Soylent during the week and mostly Soylent on the weekends. I really wish this “the body can’t absorb supplements” meme would go away.

The people you see taking supplements in addition to Soylent are drinking less than 2000 calories per day and are concerned they may not be getting enough of the vitamins.


Vitamin supplements are basically a placebo in the cases where the individual is already eating a varied diet and isn’t lacking anything. Getting more vitamins than you need isn’t healthier, it can even be unhealthy. The idea with Soylent is it has enough vitamins and minerals, and not much else.


And carbs and fats and proteins.


Would the way that soylent gives you these vitamins effect your ability to absorb it at all – drinking it in powdered form as opposed to swallowing a pill?

You’re obviously proof that it’s not an issue for soylent, but what about other pill forms?

Do you have any links to reputable studies on nutrient absorption from multivitamins?

I’m with you on I wish this meme would go away. I encounter it a lot and would like to be armed with solid facts and evidence to enter the conversation with.

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My understanding of the issue is that vitamin supplements go overboard and don’t do much in the presence of a healthy diet. In addition, some vitamins are fat soluble, and consequently won’t absorb properly without some fat to tag along with. In regards to water soluble, if it’s absorbed all at once, it basically maxes out the capacity and then the rest is filtered out.

Soylent avoids these issues by a) only providing as much as you need instead of following the logic of “if some is good, then a lot must be even better!”, b) are mixed in with healthy fats, and c) are consumed with fiber and throughout the day, providing a steady stream of nutrition that is more efficacious then a single burst


@livingparadox, interesting. So it would seem that a vitamin supplement on it own is potentially useless (depending on which vitamin it is) if it wasn’t mixed with healthy fats to aid absorption.

My doctor responded to my email with the article on supplementation. It would seem they perhaps didn’t read through to the conclusion that gives a nice summary. The summary agrees with @Tordenskjold that if you are already consuming a healthy diet, the excess just gets pissed away. Other vitamins in excess do harm, such as Vitamin A.

The article is from uptodate.com and she copy and pasted the info into an email. Here is the URL.

Vitamin supplementation in disease prevention
Kathleen M Fairfield, MD, DrPH
Section Editor
Timothy O Lipman, MD
Deputy Editor
Lee Park, MD,

SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS — In general, vitamin supplementation is not necessary for most adults who eat a balanced diet and get regular sun exposure or drink vitamin D–fortified dairy products. However, many people take multivitamins, and common formulations, generally containing 0.5- to 1.5-times the daily reference intakes of individual vitamins, are likely safe in nearly all people. Because some vitamins in larger doses can be harmful in some people, high-dose vitamin recommendations should be tailored to individual patients:

●A balanced diet with fruits and vegetables promotes health not only by providing known vitamins, but also because it contains fiber and other less well-defined nutrients and replaces meat and animal fat. People on restricted or special diets, or those living in regions of the world with widespread malnutrition, may have additional needs for vitamin supplementation. (See ‘Special diets’ above.)
●For adults with a balanced diet, there is no convincing evidence that taking multivitamins in the usual doses of 50 to 200 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is either helpful or harmful. If the multivitamin includes vitamins E and/or A, these should be in low doses (eg, no more than 30 units of vitamin E; no more than 2500 international units of vitamin A).
Physicians should strongly recommend vitamin supplements in the doses and clinical situations in which they are known to be beneficial (see below) and against vitamin supplements in doses or clinical situations in which they are harmful (see below).
For people on balanced developed-world diets (ie, those eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins), we suggest not taking multivitamin supplements (Grade 2B). Clinicians can tell patients that such supplements are unnecessary, but should understand that many patients want to take vitamins based on their own belief systems and not struggle against that practice as long as it is harmless. (See ‘Multivitamins’ above.)
●Patients are at increased risk of vitamin deficiency in some clinical situations (table 2). Classical vitamin deficiency syndromes such as scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra do exist in special clinical populations and more generally in resource-poor regions of the world. (See ‘Vitamin deficiency’ above.)
●Testing for vitamin blood levels is not indicated in healthy adults and should be undertaken only if there is clinical suspicion of vitamin deficiency, such as measurement of B12 and/or methylmalonic acid levels in patients with macrocytic anemia and vitamin D levels in the evaluation of established osteoporosis. (See ‘Testing’ above.)
●Vitamin supplementation is known to be effective in some specific clinical situations:
•In women who could become pregnant, we recommend supplementation with folic acid (Grade 1A). (See “Folic acid supplementation in pregnancy”.)
•In most older adults, particularly those at increased risk of falls, we suggest supplementation with vitamin D (Grade 2B). We administer 1000 units of vitamin D daily, depending on dietary intake. Other experts, including other authors for UpToDate, use somewhat lower daily doses of vitamin D. (See ‘Falls’ above and “Vitamin D deficiency in adults: Definition, clinical manifestations, and treatment”.)
In children in developing countries, vitamin A supplementation reduces mortality, presumably by strengthening the immune system against common infections.
●High doses of vitamins, especially fat-soluble vitamins, are toxic and some may be risky even at doses short of toxicity.
Vitamin A supplementation is known to have harms, particularly in certain populations:
•In women in the first trimester of pregnancy, vitamin A at doses >10,000 international units increases the risk of birth defects. (See ‘Birth defects’ above.)
•In unselected adults, vitamin A supplementation may increase the risk of osteoporosis, especially in women at increased risk or in people with a high dietary intake of vitamin A. (See ‘Fractures’ above.)
•High-dose vitamin A may increase cardiovascular mortality. (See ‘Cardiovascular disease’ above.)
•Beta-carotene apparently increases the risk of lung cancer in adults at increased risk because of smoking or asbestos exposure. (See ‘Cancer’ above.)
High-dose vitamin C apparently increases the risk of kidney stones. (See ‘Kidney stones’ above.)
●A large and growing research literature suggests many other harms and benefits of vitamins, but so far without high enough quality evidence to change clinical decision-making, except as noted above. Specifically, the possibility raised by observational studies that folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 supplementation might prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering homocysteine has not been consistently supported by results of randomized trials. Similarly, the hypothesis that antioxidants prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer has also not been borne out by results of randomized trials. Also, in adults in developed countries, vitamin D supplementation appears to have little or no effect on bone mineral density in the short term. (See ‘Antioxidant vitamins’ above and ‘Osteoporosis’ above and “Overview of homocysteine”, section on ‘Supplementation in the general population’.)
●Genetic factors may affect how vitamins are metabolized and the consequences of supplementation in various clinical situations and doses. Not enough is yet known to use genetic information to guide clinical decisions about vitamin dose and deficiencies, but that information is likely to become available. (See ‘Introduction’ above.)


Eating only a version of Soylent that did not have the added vitamins would not be a balanced diet.

Soylent is vitamin supplemented to try to achieve the perfect average human balance.

So, does it? Not sure, but I think Soylent is doing ok. @horsfield is not dead.


I’ve been hearing the “you don’t need vitamins: just eat a balanced diet” crap for years. The problem for me is that I don’t want to eat a “balanced diet.” I hate salads and don’t particularly enjoy vegetables; they’re OK as an occasional snack or as a supplement to meat, but that’s it. I’d rather just take a vitamin pill and then eat what I want instead of trying to measure my leafy green intake.


But only in mega doses over several weeks. Most of those kind of articles make it sound like if you got over the upper limit (UL) just a little just once your inside will melt.


The argument that “you’re just going to pee it out” is a valid argument against the practice of drinking water.

Ask them to think about that.

Then, add this: urine come from the kidneys, which filter it out of the blood. If vitamins come out in the urine, then they WERE absorbed, because they got into the blood as surely as if they had been injected, and the blood bathes all your bodily tissues.

The real question is what effects the water-soluble vitamins have before some of it passes into urine.


You claim that for the last year and a half you eaten nothing but Soylent during the week and mostly on the weekends. Have you lost weight, increase in stamina… Increased libido.lol. Anything you can share… I just started drinking Soylent and LOVE IT.

I lost a lot of water weight when I first started. I have lost about 5ish pounds of actual weight since. I wasn’t overweight to begin with. I did notice that I wasn’t groggy in the morning when I first got up. My blood pressure has dropped to normal numbers. My cholesterol numbers improved. Haven’t gotten around to checking my blood sugar. I am not nearly as irritable as I was before.


Thank you for the information… This was very helpful… How often did you consume Soylent and last during the first week I would get headaches periodically… Did you also encounter this?

It took me a few weeks to finish eating all the solid food I had in the house at the time.

The general consensus on what is causing the headaches is the sudden drop in sodium and sudden increase in potassium causes our cells to swell. Some people are sensitive and it causes headaches. The good news is that this is temporary and once your body adjusts to the new levels the swelling will go down and the headaches will go away. The only recommendation I can make is to either up your salt intake or to slow your transition to Soylent. Also keep in mind sometimes a headache is just a headache and may or may not be related to your Soylent intake.


This information was most helpful… I really appreciate it

Alternatively add a little salt to each Soylent.

My apologies, for some reason I associated that with solid food salt content, not Soylent.

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Only if they are in the form of a normal pill, instead of an effervescent, dissolving tablet. Those have almost 100% bioavailability, as opposed to only 30% from normal tablets.