Soylent Micronutrient Breakdown
Potassium (3500mg) from Potassium Gluconate (15,750mg) - Potassium is used in every animal and plant cell as the primary intracellular ion, used to maintain electrolyte balance and cell membrane potentials. These potentials, when released, provide a current spike that are crucial for neurotransmission, muscle contraction, and heart function. Potassium is produced commercially from the mineral Sylvite (KCl), most of which is used as agricultural fertilizer, since heavy crop production rapidly depletes soil of Potassium. Most Americans and Europeans consume less than half the recommended amount of Potassium in their diets. This amount of Potassium would require eating more than 8 bananas / day.
Sodium (1500mg) from Sodium Chloride (2100mg) - Sodium is the extracellular counterpart to Potassium, a cation used in pH balance and membrane potentials. Sodium is largely absent in plants and as such is difficult to get from a purely plant-based diet. Sodium Chloride is mass-produced by the evaporation of seawater and, due to our specialized taste receptor for the mineral, is highly desired in the diet. Americans on average consume more than twice the recommended amount, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Salt prevents the growth of microorganisms by drawing water out of their cells by osmosis, and as such was one of the first preservatives. Historically, incorporating additional salt into soil will prevent the growth of plants and as such is an effective way to punish the lands of your enemies. Chloride is also essential for the regulation of pH.
Calcium (1000mg) from Calcium Carbonate (2500mg) - Bones are made of metal. The mineral Calcium is used for signalling and pH balance, but the vast majority of it is used to structurally support bones and teeth. Calcium carbonate is primarily used in the construction industry as a building material and comes from rocks such as calcite and limestone.
Phosphorus (700mg) from Oat Flour - Phosphorus is used by all known forms of life. It is critical in providing part of the structure of DNA and RNA, and carrying energy as a major component of ATP. Originally Soylent used Monosodium Phosphate, but the oat starch alone now contains enough phosphorus to meet a person’s needs.
Magnesium (400mg) from Oat Flour - Magnesium has also been found in all forms of life due to its crucial interactions with phosphate. Over 300 enzymes require Magnesium, including all that interact with ATP. Originally Soylent used Magnesium Gluconate, though presently the oat content provides enough.
Vitamin Bp (550) from Choline Bitartrate (1375mg) - Choline (C5H14NO), is important for 3 crucial functions in the body, structural integrity and signalling functionality of cell membranes, synthesis of acetylcholine, a common neurotransmitter, and as a source of Methyl (CH3) groups for several biochemical pathways.
Vitamin C (90mg) as Ascorbic Acid - Vitamin C is an essential cofactor (non-protein chemicals that bind to proteins and facilitate that protein’s function) in eight different enzymatic reactions, most of which involve collagen synthesis, which is why its deficiency presents as scurvy. Most plants and animals can synthesize vitamin C but humans and simians have lost an enzyme required to complete biosynthesis. Today ascorbic acid is produced industrially from glucose by the Reichstein process, which won Tadeus Reichstein the Nobel Prize in 1933.
Vitamin B3 (16mg) as Niacin - Niacin is essential in several enzymatic reactions involving metabolism and hormone synthesis. Niacin deficiency, the deadly disease Pellagra, was common in the United States, especially among the poor, until 1938 when fortified bread substantially eliminated the condition. Thousands of tons of Niacin are synthesized annually from 3-methylpyridine.
Vitamin E (15mg) as Alpha-tocopherol - Vitamin E can be any one of eight fat-soluble compounds serving many purposes such as enzyme cofactor, gene expression modifier, antioxidant, and several neurological functions. The alpha-tocopherol version is by far the best studied and the best absorbed and accumulated in humans. Most Americans get their Vitamin E through fortified breakfast cereals.
Zinc (11mg) from Zinc Sulfate (27.5mg) - Zinc plays ubiquitous biological roles in humans. It is found in over 100 enzymes, across every enzyme class and plays a particularly important role in synaptic plasticity and learning as well as DNA and RNA metabolism and apoptosis. Over 12 million tonnes of zinc are produced annually, mostly for industrial use. Nearly a quarter of the global population suffers from Zinc deficiency, causing infection and diarrhea. It is also the most common micronutrient deficiency in agriculture as much of the cropland in Turkey, India, and China is now deficient of Zinc, leading growers to fertilize artificially.
Iron (21.6mg) from Oat Flour and Rice Protein - Iron is found in every living organism, thanks to its flexibility as electron donor and acceptor. Humans mostly use iron as part of Hemoglobin, the most abundant protein in red blood cells, which carries Oxygen around the body. There are also dedicated proteins for transporting and storing iron, transferrin and ferritin. Despite how commonplace iron is in food it is one of the most common deficiencies, possibly due to its complicated metabolism. Iron accounts for 95% of the world’s metal production, over 1.5 trillion tonnes annually, most of which comes from China. (Edit: an earlier version of this post neglected to include the iron from rice protein. The correct amount of iron is now reflected)
Vitamin B5 (5mg) as Calcium d-pantothenate - Pantothenate is required to synthesize coenzyme-A and as such is essential to all forms of life. Due to its common presence in food and low daily requirements, deficiencies are rare. Pantothenate can be synthesized industrially from any lactone and beta-Alanine.
Manganese (2.3mg) from Manganese Sulfate (6.4mg) - Manganese ions are important because they serve as cofactors for many different kinds of enzymes in the human body. A particularly important enzyme in which manganese plays a key role is superoxide dismutase which binds and removes superoxide free radicals (which are an inevitable byproduct in systems that utilize oxygen).
Vitamin B2 (1.3mg) as Riboflavin - Riboflavin often reacts with other molecules to create complexes which serve as cofactors for a variety of different classes of proteins. Importantly, these cofactors then have the ability to function as electron acceptors or donors depending on the need. This allows for the extraction of energy from molecules such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Without Riboflavin, the body would not be able to create ATP (the main form of cellular energetic currency) from a variety of different pathways, including the citric acid cycle.
Vitamin B6 (1.3mg) as Pyridoxine HCL - Pyridoxine is a form of vitamin B6 together with pyridoxamine and pyridoxine, which are all converted into pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), the active form of vitamin B6 in the human body. PLP is a cofactor that facilitates a few different kinds of reactions; chief among them being the metabolism of amino acids (the synthesis through breakdown), synthesis of neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Dopamine, GABA etc., and Hemoglobin synthesis and function.
Vitamin B1 (1.2mg) as Thiamin HCL - Thiamine is important for the creation of cofactors for a number of biochemical reactions that include carbohydrate metabolism, nucleotide formation, and neurotransmitter synthesis. The most well studied cofactor derivative is thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), which plays a critical role in carbohydrate metabolism by converting pyruvate from glycolysis into acetyl CoA for the citric acid cycle. Deficiency in this vitamin can cause a host of neurological conditions including Beriberi and Wernicke’s Encephalopathy.
Vitamin A (900ug) from Retinyl palmitate (1636ug) - This vitamin is important for cellular growth and communication, the immune system, and vision. Perhaps best known for it’s role in helping to maintain healthy vision, an active form of vitamin A called retinol is a cofactor that binds to the opsin protein to create rhodopsin (the protein responsible for absorbing light in the eye, allowing us to see). Deficiency in vitamin A is common among children in the developing world can often lead to blindness. Promisingly, “Golden” rice has recently been engineered to synthesize Vitamin A and may serve to reduce this common deficiency in the developing world.
Copper (900ug) from Copper Gluconate (6429ug) - Copper is an important cofactor involved in a variety of proteins which function to promote the growth, development, and maintenance of a variety of processes in the body. It is notably involved in the creation of new red blood cells, a key element of the electron transport chain, and converting free radicals to more safe molecules. Since copper is so ubiquitous, deficiencies are fairly rare and often manifest themselves with other vitamin deficiencies simultaneously.
Vitamin B9 (400ug) as Folic Acid - Acts as a coenzyme in the form of tetrahydrofolate (THF) which is important for the formation of nucleotides and amino acids. Due to its importance in the formation of nucleotides, it is especially needed during times of cell division such as pregnancy and infancy. People lacking sufficient levels of Folic Acid often suffer from anemia and/or improper absorption of nutrients. Pregnant women lacking Folic Acid may give birth to infants with spina bifida at a higher than normal incidence.
Iodine (150ug) from Potassium Iodide - Is an essential trace element that is incorporated most notably as a key part of thyroid hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (Triiodothyronine). Each of the hormones contains 4 atoms of iodine in T4 and 3 in the case of T3. Thyroid hormones are essential for governing the rate of metabolism. Due to the importance of this element, salt is often fortified with iodine.
Vitamin K (120ug) as Phytonadione - Is a fat soluble class of vitamins which assists with the creation of proteins that assist with processes that include regulating metabolic pathways in bone and proper blood coagulation. One way that a member of the vitamin K family regulates bone density is by inhibiting the formation of too many osteoclasts, which are bone cells that are important for demineralization (taking minerals out of the bones). Warfarin, a popular anti-coagulant drug inhibits an enzyme (vitamink K epoxide reductase) that allows for the recycling of vitamin K after it has played a key role in the clotting process. Vitamin K is abundant in leafy green plants because it functions well as an electron acceptor during photosynthesis.
Selenium (55ug) from Sodium Selenite (120ug) - Is a trace element that functions as a cofactor to that allows for the regeneration of enzymes with antioxidant properties. One such enzyme is thioreduxin reductase, which regenerates a number of antioxidants including vitamin C and allows them to continue to neutralize harmful free radicals. Interestingly, mercury is highly reactive with selenium and thus exposure to mercury may cause the irreversible inactivation of these enzymes, thus leading to an increase of oxidative damage (especially in the brain where oxygen consumption is so highly). Notably, Selenium also serves as a cofactor in proteins that affect the activation of thyroid hormones.
Molybdenum (45ug) from Sodium Molybdate (98ug) - Is a principal component of the molybdenum cofactor which is a critical part of enzymes which break down key intermediates in different metabolic systems. One such enzyme is sulfite oxidase, which oxidizes sulfite molecules and thus is important in metabolizing sulfur containing compounds. Molybdenum cofactor deficiency, which can occur via genetic mutations that affect the ability of the cofactor to form, can lead to the accumulation of sulfites and usually results in death. Molybdenum deficiency by itself is almost never seen except in a few cases of parenteral nutrition (which is one reason why we made sure to include it!).
Chromium (35ug) from Chromium Chloride (106ug) - Chromium is a trace element present in many foods and water sources and holds a controversial place in the nutritional world. The only recorded cases of chromium deficiencies have been due to parenteral diets. It is often included in small amounts in vitamin blends just to be on the safe side. Even if it is not essential, since it is present naturally in many different food sources it is at worst quite benign.
Vitamin B7 (30ug) as Biotin - Is a key cofactor in several carboxylases (enzymes that add COOH onto other molecules). This is important for synthesizing fatty acids, amino acids such as isoleucine and valine, and carbohydrates such as glucose. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause a whole host of symptoms including anemia, skin and hair conditions, as well as lethargy. Interestingly, this deficiency can sometimes be caused by the habitual consumption of egg whites which contain a protein called avidin that binds with high affinity to biotin, preventing absorption by the body.
Vitamin D (15ug) as Ergocalciferol - Is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for allowing the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate. It may be consumed orally as well as synthesized from cholesterol by mammals exposed to sunlight. A deficit in vitamin D is known to cause osteomalacia—a softening of the bones (Rickets in children). Interestingly, vitamin D is produced industrially by exposing a sheep’s wool grease product or alternatively yeast or mushroom extracts to intense UVB light.
Vitamin B12 (2.4ug) as Cyanocobalamin - Many of vitamin B12’s functions can be covered by folic acid (B9) and B12 can also be used to recharge folate. However, there are a few functions specific to vitamin B12 which include the isomerization of methylmalonyl-CoA to succinyl-CoA which is an important intermediate in the citric acid cycle (and thus important for extracting energy from carbohydrates). B12 also plays an important role in myelination of the nerves and generation of blood cells. Thus perhaps it is no surprise that deficiencies in this vitamin can cause different forms of anemia and neuropathy.