Argument pro Soylent Nutrition


#1

When first discussing with people newly acquainted with Soylent, the usual first reaction is that of why and how gross the actual product is. However, eventually, almost everyone I discussed this proposition with came back to the notion that it could not contain all the nutrients necessary for a human diet and was therefore an unhealthy substitute to “normal” food. One strict oversight that I feel almost every person does not consider is the reality of one’s dietary habits when not on a food replacement like Soylent. The idea that Soylent may only have 78% of the daily value of whatever polysaccharide and is thereby not the absolute perfect combination of chemical compounds possible is a ridiculous proposition. My viewpoint, as I believe many will agree, is that so long as Soylent has a better combination of the daily macronutrients that I need, then it is indeed healthier and better for humans. A simple fact is that most people do not diet in a healthy fashion and even those that do are very likely not getting all the nutrients and proper proportion of them. As such, I find that Soylent, statistically, must have a much higher likelihood of being better for people than regular food. Do you guys agree? Come to the same conclusion? I’m interest to hear!
-Andre Radensky (@aradensky)


#2

Of course. You’re mostly preaching to the choir.


#3

Right! My daily ramen lunch is much healthier! And all the egg mcmuffins I’m going to start chowing down for dinner on October 6.


#4

I find it just baffling how much controversy this product has caused among the people I know. Very intelligent, sensible people seem to believe that there is an inherent flaw in this product. Quite strange in my opinion.


#5

That’s what we’re here for! To thoroughly disabuse you of that belief.

Quite possibly.

But one perspective that I think some people have is: they’re not particularly interested in Soylent’s likelihood of being healthier overall. They’re thinking, for example, that maybe there’s something in a regular diet, something that we’re currently unaware of, that if missed from a person’s diet entirely (as it might be if someone was on 100% Soylent for an extended period) would result in some sort of catastrophic health outcome — for example, a vastly increased risk of developing some kind of cancer.

I’m not saying I think that’s a likely scenario. I agree that Soylent seems likely to be as healthy as a really good diet, and healthier than a lot of actual diets.

But I also think that science doesn’t yet have a great handle on diet and health effects. It’s a really, really complex area, right? “Health” isn’t a single axis. A 30-year 100% Soylent diet could, for all we know, radically reduce my risk of heart disease and diabetes, and make me go blind.

We need more, and better, long-term studies on diet and health, including studies on Soylent. (And I really do think Soylent could be very useful for studies on diet in general, given how controlled its ingredient list is.)

Given that, I don’t think it’s particularly irrational or wrong-headed for people to be wary of ideas like a 100% Soylent diet, especially when Rosa Labs are, in part, marketing Soylent as a potential 100% diet.

We won’t know what effect 30 years of a mostly-Soylent diet will have on people until some people have tried it.

Sure, it’s most likely pretty healthy. Sure, it’s unlikely that it’s missing some essential-yet-ill-defined substance (yay phytochemicals!) that people somehow do get from whatever crappy or semi-crappy diet they’re on instead. But I’m still not surprised that people think and worry about the possibility of missing something vital from their diet.


#6

We do know that 30 years of the Standard American Diet is quite unhealthy. The odds of Soylent being worse are minimal.


#7

But as I say, with diet and health, “worse” isn’t a single axis. It’s not one thing, and it’s not one thing to all people. As such, it’s not surprising or irrational for people to be wary of it until we have a more detailed and nuanced understanding.


#8

I just don’t see it that way. I’ve been trying to put together whole-food balanced menus because I love the taste of good food. It is virtually impossible to create a menu with balanced nutrients. These nutrients are already known to cause problems when either in deficiency or overloads. To think Soylent is somehow lacking something unknown (yet more important than anything else already known) just makes zero sense to me.

Whole food: known deficiencies.
Soylent: unknown yet far more important deficiencies.

Highly unlikely.


#9

The great thing about Soylent in my perspective Is that as deficiencies are found in its formulation, the product will likely be changed. On the other hand, if you take products like breakfast cereal, it has taken decades to do something simple like reduce the amount of sugar in some products. And let me point out that people do use breakfast cereal every day, and children use it, probably even more than adults, and are harmed by it.

So picking on a product that tries to be healthy such as Soylent and hardly worrying at all about products like Lucky Charms that don’t even seem slightly interested in being healthy seems counterproductive.


#10

I get that, but I think it’s the idea of 100% Soylent, and subsequent nutritional deficiencies, that some people worry about. They’re not saying “Hey, Soylent sounds like an unhealthy food to add to your diet, and is more worrying than other crappy foods.”

(Plus I suspect that most of these people don’t eat Lucky Charms for breakfast every day.)


#11

I think it’s less likely that we’ll discover something important is missing from Soylent, than that we’ll discover that one of the ingredients in Soylent is harmful when consumed constantly. At that, it’ll probably only apply to some subset of Soylent users.


#12

True but I suspect there’s a non-zero number who do and won’t admit it.


#13

The argument of long term effects of 100% Soylent use often comes from people that have no interest in using it. This is because we like to think in absolute terms and focus on single risk factor, then magnify it by all-or-nothing scenario, while ignoring the well-known surrounding risks.

People feel that they need to warn you about prolonged 100% use because they assume you will do 100% for years, and you will ignore signs of organ failure until it’s too late.

Meanwhile, they will continue to indulge in consumption of refined sugar, grilled meats with HCA/PAH, gut-inflaming spices and alcohol, because that stuff is safe in “moderation”.


#14

Quote of the day, very succinctly put.


#15

Yup. Just ask what do they eat everyday and how perfect is it? I compare Soylent to a typical unhealthy North American diet of fast food, processed food and junk food. Not to a healthy diet like whole grains, fresh veggies, lean meat. I replace the former, not the latter, with Soylent.

When people ask what I’m drinking (Biolent right now actually, not Soylent), I just say its a new protein shake or meal replacement shake, but it has extra vitamins, etc. I tell them its to help me on the days I would usually reach for crappy food. Sometimes I say I’m working on making my own perfectly balanced shake from oats, vegan protein powder, multivitamins, etc. I show them the ingredients of Soylent and my DIY Soylent. Without saying “Soylent”.

They tend to be very interested and receptive to all that. But as soon as the word “Soylent” & the idea of "replacing food " gets into their heads, it’s a huge controversy, very negative reactions, and their mind shuts down to any further conversation. So I usually don’t bother even going there.


#16

Having said that though…

@pauldwaite – Excellent points that have crossed my mind as well! There is a lot nutrition science just doesn’t understand yet (eg, phytonutrients). Even that which is understood is incredibly complex and reduced to pop-science via media to us.

Reducing meals to a simplified product of 100% Soylent daily can be concerning for exactly the same reason eating nothing but Lucky Charms and pizza – or even say, only apples & bread – everyday for years is just as worrisome.

So if this is the point an “anti-Soylenter” is making, I can agree (that’s why I’m creating my own Soylent with a wide variety of high quality ingredients that I trust). But if they eat Lucky Charms and pizza everyday themselves, yet get alarmed about Soylent, then yeah, its kind of silly.


#17

Soylent assumes that % of required RDA vitamins/minerals tracks perfectly with % of RDA calories. Is there any basis to think that? I ask because the web site says that most people drink less than 2,000 calories of Soylent a day. This means most users are NOT getting than their RDA of vitamins/minerals a day. This is okay if a person’s need for vitamins/minerals tracks with their need for calories. This is not okay if they need the full RDA of vitamins/minerals even if they don’t need as many calories.

Anyone know the health science on this?


#18

There are multiple threads about it. You can use the search function (the magnifying glass in the top right).


#19

I was given a useful link on this recently:


#20
  1. Soylent might be that thing that revolutionizes your health - I don’t believe there is any such thing. Nutrition can be adequate, or it can fall short of adequate. If you’re competing in the Tour de France, I’m sure there is an optimal nutrition target which you must hit or suffer measurable negative consequences. For well over 100 years, Americans have been searching for that super good nutrition target with great benefits for normal, non-tour-de-france life and if such a thing existed, I think they would have found it by now. I think in 1941 when the whole country showed up at the draft board and Jethro Kloss’s Back to Eden was 20 years old, they would have noticed if a particular region outperformed all others in a way that could be attributed to what they were eating.

  2. Soylent might give you too much of something - This premise has far more merit. I found this article on smoothies about problems that can come up when you eat certain vegetables every day. This is likely not relevant to Soylent as it contains no spinach or anything like it, but this is more likely to be a real problem than any of the other anti-soylent warnings that I’ve seen.

The nutrition aspect is the least interesting thing about Soylent. That it might have health benefits over regular food seems fairly likely to me. That alone wouldn’t have motivated me to try it. It’s economic impact on my life and potential impact on the whole rest of the supply chain are where it really gets me excited.

Coming back to the topic of health and longevity, I really enjoyed this TED talk about the “Blue Zones” the places in the world where people live a lot longer than other places. Unlike most talks about potential health benefits or problems, this one focuses on actual outcomes observed in the real world. None of the information in here really justifies the idea that the food is the whole answer to why some people live much longer. It could be that lifestyle is a lot more important.