Why does Soylent not contain Gamma-Tocopherol in addition to Alpha-Tocopherol?

“Dr. Stephan Christen of the University of California, Berkeley, contends that consumers taking vitamin E supplements containing an imbalance of the two principal forms of vitamin E are depriving themselves of the protective value afforded by a mixture of tocopherols. His views are based on joint investigations by US and Australian researchers that confirm previous findings—namely, that gamma tocopherol possesses distinctive and protective biochemical properties not seen in alpha tocopherol, and plays an equally important but complementary role in limiting cell damage and disarming toxic metabolites.26 Accordingly, he and other scientists contend that vitamin E supplements should contain a ratio of alpha tocopherol to gamma tocopherol that is closer to what is found in nature.”

http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2006/4/report_gamma/Page-01 (worth reading)

I see it as a grave mistake to not include gamma-tocopherol with Soylent. To depend on our body to try to synthesize this form of Vitamin E is outright foolishness; given that we acquire both forms from our food. It’s not one of those nutrients that the body has evolved to effectively synthesize itself.

To make the balance issue worse, alpha-tocopherol is known to deplete gamma-tocopherol at high dosage. Gamma-tocoperhol has unique and beneficial properties that are absent in alpha-tocopherol. There’s the SELECT trial for hard data on the effects of Vitamin E. Dr Rhonda Patrick gives details explaining this and the roles of different forms of vitamin E in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgiZufI0oS8

I am not a microbiologist, but all the same, I would like to be given a satisfactory answer to this if not a solution.

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I cannot speak for Rosa Labs. However, there are numerous reasons why supplementary gamma-tocopherol (gamma) is not required:

  1. There is more gamma in the average American diet than alpha-tocopherol (alpha).
  2. In spite of that, plasma concentrations of alpha are generally much higher than gamma.
  3. Gamma is metabolized and excreted. Alpha is retained in the liver.
  1. If people are consuming Soylent for a good portion of their meals, it stands to reason that they would not be getting enough gamma-tocopherol and too much alpha-tocopherol.
  2. If concentrations of alpha-tocopherol become too high, it risks depleting gamma-tocopherol.
  3. The body demands certain nutrients, and it does what it can to acquire those nutrients. Just as there are different forms of vitamin K, there are different forms of Vitamin E. Each form has different properties and roles in our body. Some stick around longer than others, some are only used when they are called for, some are more bioavailable. The point being that the body needs a proper balance of certain forms of nutrients.

Soylent 1.5 contains canola oil, 35% of which, by weight, is gamma-tocopherol.


Well, that’s a relief! What is the ratio between the two forms? If the amount given by canola oil is insignificant, it won’t be enough. Then again, perhaps there is too much. And then there’s 2.0; does 2.0 contain a significant amount of gamma-tocopherol?

I don’t know, but I would guess that it is much higher than the amount of sunflower oil. I titrate canola oil in some of my recipes until omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are maxed out. I then add sunflower oil to add calories. My proportions are generally 6:1 canola:sunflower.

Yes, supplementing with isolated a-tocopherol depletes other tocopherols, tocotrienols, and vitamin K. (1–5)

Although moderate amounts of gamma-tocopherol are found in the US diet, there are almost no tocotrienols found in common food. It is especially important to supplement with tocotrienols as they have unique effects in the cardiovascular system, liver, and brain that is not supported by a-tocopherol. Its also important to avoid isolated/synthetic alpha-tocopherol so you don’t deplete the other vitamers.

A couple facts:

  • The body does not synthesize any form of vitamin E.

  • The plasma level of the various tocopherols and tocotrienols has no relevance to their role in health and disease.

  • Although the other vitamin E vitamers are metabolized more quickly than alpha-tocopherol, they are retained at significant concentrations in the fat and skin tissue (1-2 months). Either way, the pharmacokinetics have no relevance to their role in health and disease.

  • Canola oil is not 35% gamma-tocopherol by weight. The total amount of vitamin E in canola might be 35% gamma-tocopherol, but this would be a miniscule amount indeed relative to the amount of alpha-tocopherol added to the product.

Any product that claims to be a “meal replacement” should contain a naturally occurring ratio of vitamers. Soylent should replace alpha-tocopherol with a naturally diverse source of vitamin E, or remove alpha-tocopherol entirely. Alpha-tocopherol alone either provides no benefit, or in the worst case is associated with increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, and death – presumably because of depletion of other tocotrienols, tocopherols, and vitamin K. (6–20)

1. Uchida T, Abe C, Nomura S, et al. 2012. Tissue distribution of α- and γ-tocotrienol and γ-tocopherol in rats and interference with their accumulation by α-tocopherol. Lipids. 47(2):129–39
2. Uchida T, Nomura S, Ichikawa T, et al. 2011. Tissue distribution of vitamin e metabolites in rats after oral administration of tocopherol or tocotrienol. J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. . 57(5):326–32
3. Tovar A, Ameho CK, Blumberg JB, et al. 2006. Extrahepatic tissue concentrations of vitamin k are lower in rats fed a high vitamin e diet. Nutr. Metab. . 3(1):1–6
4. Handelman GJ, Machlin LJ, Fitch K, et al. 1985. Oral alpha-tocopherol supplements decrease plasma gamma-tocopherol levels in humans. J. Nutr. 115(6):807–13
5. Lebold KM, Ang A, Traber MG, et al. 2012. Urinary α-carboxyethyl hydroxychroman can be used as a predictor of α-tocopherol adequacy, as demonstrated in the energetics study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 96(4):801–9
6. Yusuf S, Dagenais G, Pogue J, et al. 2000. Vitamin e supplementation and cardiovascular events in high-risk patients. the heart outcomes prevention evaluation study investigators. N. Engl. J. Med. 342(3):154–60
7. Salonen JT, Nyyssönen K, Salonen R, et al. 2000. Antioxidant supplementation in atherosclerosis prevention (asap) study: a randomized trial of the effect of vitamins e and c on 3-year progression of carotid atherosclerosis. J. Intern. Med. 248(5):377–86
8. Lai GY, Weinstein SJ, Taylor PR, et al. 2014. Effects of α-tocopherol and β-carotene supplementation on liver cancer incidence and chronic liver disease mortality in the atbc study. Br. J. Cancer. 111(12):2220–23
9. Petersen RC, Thomas RG, Grundman M, et al. 2005. Vitamin e and donepezil for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment. N. Engl. J. Med. 352(23):2379–88
10. de Gaetano G, Collaborative Group of the Primary Prevention Project. 2001. Low-dose aspirin and vitamin e in people at cardiovascular risk: a randomised trial in general practice. collaborative group of the primary prevention project. Lancet. 357(9250):89–95
11. Gaziano JM, Glynn RJ, Christen WG, et al. 2009. Vitamins e and c in the prevention of prostate and total cancer in men: the physicians’ health study ii randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 301(1):52–62
12. Kushi LH, Folsom AR, Prineas RJ, et al. 1996. Dietary antioxidant vitamins and death from coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. N. Engl. J. Med. 334(18):1156–62
13. Lee I-M, Cook NR, Gaziano JM, et al. 2005. Vitamin e in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: the women’s health study: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 294(1):56–65
14. Lippman SM, Klein EA, Goodman PJ, et al. 2009. Effect of selenium and vitamin e on risk of prostate cancer and other cancers: the selenium and vitamin e cancer prevention trial (select). JAMA. 301(1):39–51
15. Eidelman RS, Hollar D, Hebert PR, et al. 2004. Randomized trials of vitamin e in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Arch. Intern. Med. 164(14):1552–56
16. Heinonen OP, Albanes D. 1994. The effect of vitamin e and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N. Engl. J. Med. 330(15):1029–35
17. Stephens NG, Parsons A, Schofield PM, et al. 1996. Randomised controlled trial of vitamin e in patients with coronary disease: cambridge heart antioxidant study (chaos). Lancet. 347(9004):781–86
18. Lonn E, Bosch J, Yusuf S, et al. 2005. Effects of long-term vitamin e supplementation on cardiovascular events and cancer: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 293(11):1338–47
19. Sesso HD, Buring JE, Christen WG, et al. 2008. Vitamins e and c in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in men: the physicians’ health study ii randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 300(18):2123–33
20. Miller ER 3rd, Pastor-Barriuso R, Dalal D, et al. 2005. Meta-analysis: high-dosage vitamin e supplementation may increase all-cause mortality. Ann. Intern. Med. 142(1):37–46


You have provided a truly appreciable amount of understanding to the matter, and have argued the importance of including the right mix of tocopherols and tocotrienols into any substance considered to be meal replacement (if there is to be any inclusion).

Now the matter ought to be broached with the Soylent team. Hopefully the matter will then be evaluated and addressed with every due consideration.

I offer you my thanks for your contribution!

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It’s been mentioned many times that they read the Soylent discourse.

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Here’s my source:


What is yours?

gamma =~35%
alpha =~15%

The only mention of gamma-tocopherol I see is 79 mg per 224 g of oil. So 0.079 g divided by 224 g = 0.00035

So according to that link canola oil is 0.035% gamma-tocopherol by weight which sounds about accurate to me.

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You’re correct. I misread it as 79g. However, that does not change the fact that there is more than twice as much gamma as alpha in canola oil.

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Two teaspoons (10 mL) of refined canola oil is equal to 9g of total fat.

Soylent 1.5 is made up an estimated 23g of fat per serving. If we assume that all of the fat comes from canola oil (which it doesn’t), then there is an estimated 25.55 mL of canola oil in Soylent.

23g / 9g = ~2.55
2.55 * 10 mL = ~25.555 mL

The average density of canola oil is 0.92 g/ml

0.92 * 25.555 = 23.5106g

So if there is 79mg of gamma-tocopherol per 224g of oil, and if Soylent contains 23.5106g of conola oil, then there is 8.29mg of gamma-tocopherol per serving of Soylent.

The RDA for Vitamin E is 15mg. Divide this into 4 servings and then Soylent contains 3.75mg of Vitamin E per serving.

23.5106g = ~23510mg
224g = 224000mg

Solving for x:
x = (79 * 23510) / 224000 = 8.2914732142857

I have not done math like this in a long time, so please correct me if I have made any mistake (which I think that I must have to have gotten 8.29mg of gamma-tocoperhol per serving). It took longer than I care to admit do these maths.

We do have to bear in mind that Erik has a vested interest in cherry-picking only the research that supports his position, since he’s the creator of a supplement that claims to provide the best vitamin E from “superfruit.”


I’m a free agent, so it’s the other way around. I get to cherry pick the ingredient(s), based on the research.

Well, not quite the “other way around.” I can’t help but conclude you profit from people believing your statements. I don’t say this to denigrate your arguments, but I think we have to weigh it in the discussion. The conflict of interest necessarily tempers the neutrality of your argument.

That being said, it’s definitely a cool to be able to pick the ingredients for a product based on your reading of the research. A rare privilege.