Can you live on just vitamin pills?

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Say you got all the necessary vitamins and nutrients from pills at your local market. I was wondering if I could live off of these for an extended period of time. Obviously, I would need some sort of energy, so throw in spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or yogurt and I would also need to keep my digestive system workings so throw in some bread and fiber to the mix. Would this be a sufficient diet to survive on?
 

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  • #2
Evo
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Say you got all the necessary vitamins and nutrients from pills at your local market. I was wondering if I could live off of these for an extended period of time. Obviously, I would need some sort of energy, so throw in spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or yogurt and I would also need to keep my digestive system workings so throw in some bread and fiber to the mix. Would this be a sufficient diet to survive on?
Sure you might be able to survive if you ate enough. Would it be healthy, no. Pills are no substitute for a well balanced diet.

http://www.biology-online.org/7/8_balanced_diet.htm
 
  • #3
DaveC426913
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Say you got all the necessary vitamins and nutrients from pills at your local market. I was wondering if I could live off of these for an extended period of time. Obviously, I would need some sort of energy, so throw in spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or yogurt and I would also need to keep my digestive system workings so throw in some bread and fiber to the mix. Would this be a sufficient diet to survive on?

1] In addition to vitamins and roughage, you need the actual raw fuel to live. How would mere spoonsful of honey, sugar or yogurt get you up to 1200 or more calories per day?

2] Straight vitamins will not get into your system nearly as well as it would with a proper diet. Without adequate digestion, your GI would let most of the vitamins and minerals pass right through. Some vitamins are not simply water soluble. You would likely suffer vitamin deficiency even while ostensibly taking the proper daily amounts of them.

3] Carbs are fine but provide no long-lasting energy. You'd be crashing every hour. You need protein.

I could go on...
 
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  • #4
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3] Carbs are fine but provide no long-lasting energy. You'd be crashing every hour. You need protein.
Really?
 
  • #5
Monique
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Say you got all the necessary vitamins and nutrients from pills at your local market. I was wondering if I could live off of these for an extended period of time. Obviously, I would need some sort of energy, so throw in spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or yogurt and I would also need to keep my digestive system workings so throw in some bread and fiber to the mix. Would this be a sufficient diet to survive on?
What is your question?
1) you already determined that one cannot live on just vitamins alone
2) of course you can live off a diet that is formulated to include every nutrient that you need (but do we really know what we need?). Your proposed diet is too restrictive and won't work
 
  • #6
DaveC426913
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2) of course you can live off a diet that is formulated to include every nutrient that you need
No. There is more to a sustainable diet than simply nutrients, as I point out in post 3.
 
  • #7
Monique
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Ok, my comprehension of a nutrient doesn't match the dictionary. I meant "formulated to include every compound that you need".
 
  • #8
DaveC426913
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Ok, my comprehension of a nutrient doesn't match the dictionary. I meant "formulated to include every compound that you need".
No, I'm granting that it could include every compound. My point is there are non-chemical processes at work that, if absent, will interfere with the uptake of the nutrients.

You could take in 100% of all nutrients necessary, but if they aren't accessible by the body (say, because they pass right through, or are not made available by digestive processes breaking down the delivery mechanisms due to inadequate digestive action) then you're still going to end up malnourished.
 
  • #9
Monique
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It's no voodoo science, I'm sure a formulation could be made that would meet with our nutritional requirement. If the nutrient needs to be taken in a certain form to be accessible to the body, of course it would need to be taken in that form.

How much effort that would take is another point. I'm not saying that it is something that is currently available, but theoretically it must be possible. Such technology would obviously be interesting for long space flights.
 
  • #10
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Ok, my comprehension of a nutrient doesn't match the dictionary. I meant "formulated to include every compound that you need".
No, I'm granting that it could include every compound. My point is there are non-chemical processes at work that, if absent, will interfere with the uptake of the nutrients.
Monique's definition is tautological. If some substance is needed, whether it is to be digested or is to aid in digestion, that substance per her nomenclature is a "nutrient".

Or are you saying that some of the substances we eat aren't composed of "chemicals"? (You did use the word "non-chemical" after all.)
 
  • #11
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No, I'm granting that it could include every compound. My point is there are non-chemical processes at work that, if absent, will interfere with the uptake of the nutrients.
Do you have any examples of this? The only one I can think of off my head is the vitamin biotin being made unavailable by binding to the protein avidin (which is found for example in eggs).
 
  • #12
D H
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How much effort that would take is another point. I'm not saying that it is something that is currently available, but theoretically it must be possible. Such technology would obviously be interesting for long space flights.
Space agencies fund both long and short term research on nutrition. In the short term, the diets of the astronauts and cosmonauts need to be such that they the crew will still be alive at the end of their six month or longer stint on the space station. The diet also cannot present lesser problems. No musical fruits for instance, for a couple of reasons. The SBD aspect is one obvious problem. Another problem is fiber in general. The diet is very low in fiber to keep #2 volume down to a minimum.

In the long term, growing or manufacturing food in space is rather important to the very long missions that might eventually take place.
 
  • #13
bobze
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Say you got all the necessary vitamins and nutrients from pills at your local market. I was wondering if I could live off of these for an extended period of time. Obviously, I would need some sort of energy, so throw in spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or yogurt and I would also need to keep my digestive system workings so throw in some bread and fiber to the mix. Would this be a sufficient diet to survive on?
No because as others pointed out you need essential http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_macronutrients" [Broken]) would not be sufficient to sustain life. From vitamins your body could not synthesize the proteins, fats and carbs it needs.




3] Carbs are fine but provide no long-lasting energy. You'd be crashing every hour. You need protein.
Really?
No not really. Carbs, specifically complex carbohydrates, provide long lasting energy and allow you to build up glycogen stores in the liver and muscle. I think Dave might be confusing simple and complex carbs. Simple carbs, like table sugar, would in deed be "short term" energy bursts. Consider runners the night before the "big run". You eat lots of complex carbs because they are slow to metabolize and allow better maintenance of carbohydrate stores. Glycogen is a "medium" way for your muscles to generate ATP, but not as fast as say--Phosphocreatine, which is quickly utilized by the muscle. Depending on how well your body is trained and what you ate (complex carbs), glycogen stores can last a long time (again think marathon athletes). After and when, you eventually deplete your glycogen stores you jump over to fatty acid metabolism (obvious there is overlap, its not a "binary system"). However, because of time constrains on usage FA metabolism isn't best used for sustained muscle activity--better for replenishing ATP debts during exercise--Glycogen is though.

Even better for longer lasting energy is short and medium chain fatty acids. Protein metabolism, contrary to what Dave wrote (:smile:) isn't actually a very efficient way for our bodies to produce ATP.



2] Straight vitamins will not get into your system nearly as well as it would with a proper diet. Without adequate digestion, your GI would let most of the vitamins and minerals pass right through. Some vitamins are not simply water soluble. You would likely suffer vitamin deficiency even while ostensibly taking the proper daily amounts of them.
Right on Dave. Because certain micronutrients don't readily cross the GI epithelium on their own. Consider fat-soluble vitamins--ADEK (The fat cat lives in the ADEK! Har, Har). They require fatty acids to be taken up by the body. Without them, you simply poop the vitamins out. In fact, in a clinical setting you see people fat soluble vitamin deficiencies (ADEK) normally secondary to fatty acid metabolism or uptake problems.
 
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  • #14
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I think people should give digestive systems more credit for being able to handle very bad diets! I mean, c'mon! In famine/civil-war torn countries, people live off just a handful of rice a day, for years! They really do! Some may die in the process and there are rampant vitamin deficiency diseases, but death is not inevitable, it is just more likely as the quality of your diet diminishes and you become more susceptible to ailments.

Between the ages of ~8 and 12 I ate nothing but Nutella spread sandwiches for lunch, then baked beans and sausages, with milk, for evening meal. (Oddly, after 4 years, one lunch time the Nutella sandwiches made me feel sick, and I have never eaten one since! That might indicate something about the limits of mono-diets!!)

While I was at University I lived off nothing but potato chips, chocolate biscuits and 4 to 6 pints of milk a day for 4 years! (And just a very occasional beer. :shy:) I find eating food is just a boring, time consuming necessity and do not seem to derive the same sort of pleasure other people do. I am not unique in having odd mono-dietary preferences. I read of someone who is allergic to essentially everything except Spam, and has eaten nothing else since childhood!! (I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the story, but I have no reason to doubt it.)

Whereas others seem to accept it as part of their way of life; I am lead to believe some Asian religious orders serve up a form of starchy gruel for their monks as part of their 'pure' life, and that's their lot!

Our need for food is an organic one, from which the body then constructs the substances it needs. Is the definition of 'Vitamins & essential minerals' not simply those things our body needs that it cannot produce for itself from carbohydrates and proteins? I thought this is exacly what it meant?

Edit wrt post #13; But I do agree that vitamins taken 'unnaturally' are unlikely to pass into the system in the same way.
 
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  • #15
DaveC426913
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Monique's definition is tautological. If some substance is needed, whether it is to be digested or is to aid in digestion, that substance per her nomenclature is a "nutrient".

Or are you saying that some of the substances we eat aren't composed of "chemicals"? (You did use the word "non-chemical" after all.)
And I am granting her definition, whether accurate or not.

My point is that, simply introducing substances to the body does not mean the body is able to use them. There are physical processes involved in digestion. For example, keeping the substances in the GI tract long enough so that they break down from their binders and can be metabolized, as opposed to simply running through the body unabsorbed. The GI tract was not made to take nutrients without bulk.
 
  • #16
Monique
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The GI tract was not made to take nutrients without bulk.
D H just informed us that astronaut diet is designed to reduce bulk. Dietary fiber is also a nutrient, pick one: inulin, oligofructose, pectin, chitosan, cellulose, methylcellulose, beta-gucans, polydextrose, resistant dextrins, fructooligosaccharides.
 
  • #17
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D H just informed us that astronaut diet is designed to reduce bulk.
My information is apparently out of date.


Healthy diet of Russian cosmonauts ruins NASA's space toilets
09.06.2009
The recent toilet scandal on board the International Space Station became the subject of many news stories all over the world, when US astronauts denied their Russian colleague access to their toilet. What is going on with space toilets in Earth’s orbit? ...​
See http://english.pravda.ru/science/earth/09-06-2009/107747-space_toilet-0/ for more.
 
  • #18
If you don't eat actual food, the body will stop the digestive process. This happens in people with anorexia. It is extremely dangerous to not eat solid food for a prolonged time.
 
  • #19
Say you got all the necessary vitamins and nutrients from pills at your local market. I was wondering if I could live off of these for an extended period of time. Obviously, I would need some sort of energy, so throw in spoonfuls of honey, sugar, or yogurt and I would also need to keep my digestive system workings so throw in some bread and fiber to the mix. Would this be a sufficient diet to survive on?
Live off of vitamins + honey? No. You need fat too, so maybe vitamins + honey + ramen noodles :rofl:.

Seriously? Yogurt is dairy based and is fairly nutritious. With vitamin C tablets you'll fight off scurvy. I think you could last years on it. I'm not 100% sure though. Ideal nutrition does not come in a pill, and with certain notable exceptions, those who take vitamins receive highly questionable benefits.
 
  • #20
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You need fat too.
The body (liver) makes its own fat from carbohydrates/sugars, no? I thought it built up glocogen reserves from sugars first, then once it is stuffed with glycogen it starts churning out fats.

Else, you are saying eating sugar can't add to your fatty pounds!?
 
  • #21
bobze
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The body (liver) makes its own fat from carbohydrates/sugars, no? I thought it built up glocogen reserves from sugars first, then once it is stuffed with glycogen it starts churning out fats.

Else, you are saying eating sugar can't add to your fatty pounds!?
Yes and no. Some fats your body cannot produce on its own; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_fatty_acid" [Broken]
 
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  • #22
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Yes and no. Some fats your body cannot produce on its own; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_fatty_acid" [Broken]
Oh, OK, for sure. Omega-X oils. But you'd never get fat on those!!!

I think (/thought) for the purpose of the question, we're considering the use of artificial supplements for all 'essential' substances; vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids (all of which you'd find in a good 'one-a-day' type supplement - any others need a mention?).

So I'm still a bit unclear on whether there is a particular consensus to that question? If all essential substances are administered in some artificial form*, can a basic mono-nutrient (e.g. consuming a pound of sugar a day) then be sufficient for healthy survival?

(notwithstanding their limitied uptake efficiency - let's assume they are taken up in sufficient quantity)
 
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  • #23
Monique
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So I'm still a bit unclear on whether there is a particular consensus to that question? If all essential substances are administered in some artificial form*, can a basic mono-nutrient (e.g. consuming a pound of sugar a day) then be sufficient for healthy survival?
First, sugar with all essential substances added is not a mono-nutrient.

Here are two studies showing the current state of (public) knowledge at NASA:

Space rodents surviving on nutrient bars:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900709004109" [Broken]

NASA and human nutrition:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01982.x/full" [Broken]

From an earlier publication:
Nutrition. 2003 Nov-Dec;19(11-12):947-54. said:
The Foodbar's semi-purified formulation permitted criteria such as nutrient consistency, high nutrient bioavailability, and flexibility of formulation to be met. [..] Results indicated that NASA Rodent Foodbars meet the physical and nutritional criteria required to support rodents in the space environment and thus may be used successfully as a standard diet for short-term space flight studies.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=foodbars nasa"
 
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  • #24
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In addition to the laundry list of vitamins you require for proper enzyme function etc, you need a certain amount of carbohydrates to be converted to glucose to fuel your metabolism. You also need to consume proteins and break them down into amino acids for protein synthesis. I also think you need fat and cholesterol for lipid and membrane maintenance. If these processes are not sustained, you will die. DO NOT try a "vitamin only" diet. Before you ever switch to any diet CONSULT your doctor first.
 
  • #25
Well the body needs a whole lot more than just Vitamins but I'm guessing you're asking if you can live off just supplements. Theoretically, yes. In practice its not so simple because various foods contain such a wide range of different essential and beneficial nutrients and compounds that there are no supplements out there that incorporate all of that.
 

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