“High-oliec” sometimes throws people. Fats and oils are the same thing, but come in many different forms, and all of them are composed of different fatty acids. Yeah, oil is made up of acids. It’s weird. “High-oleic” means this particular oil blend is high in oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat is the simplest common form of oil. There are health concerns related to saturated fats; monounsaturated is generally considered the “healthy” fat.
So the main ingredient isn’t just sunflower oil, it’s oil that’s high in monounsaturated fat - and therefore lower in other fats.
As to why there it’s the first ingredient - simply, there’s more of it than anything else. Ingredient lists are required to show the ingredients in order by weight. The formula currently has more fat than protein or carbs… so the ingredient providing the fat shows up first on the list. The fat comes mostly from the oil, the protein comes mostly from the rice protein, the oat flour provides mostly carbs (but also some protein and fat), and the isomaltulose provides some more carbs. These four ingredients probably provide over 99% of the calories in the formula (calories meaning fats, carbs, and proteins - the macronutrients.)
If your question is more generally about why the oil level (and fat content) in the drink is so “high,” then the answer is simply that there’s nothing wrong with it. Soylent provides 210 out of every 500 calories in the form of fats. 42% may seem high compared to some other foods, but it’s low compared to others.
The science tells as that the following are important:
- Get all the micronutrients you need in your diet.
- Get enough protein.
- Get the essential fatty acids (this is just a gram or two of particular fats.
- Fill up the rest of the diet with enough calories for energy.
It turns out that the actual mix of stuff in number 4 - filling up with enough calories - doesn’t matter as much as people might think. You want to avoid certain forms of those calories - don’t eat a lot of saturated fats, don’t eat a lot of things made of nothing but pure sugar, etc. But the mix of them isn’t a meaningful concern. Our bodies are remarkably adept at dealing with a very wide variety of fuel mixes.
This latest version of Soylent - 1.4 - is higher in fat than the previous version, for a couple of reasons. They’re still experimenting with the formula. A lot of people had problems with gas on prior versions, likely because of the high fiber - both from the oat flour, and the other added fiber. At the same time, some people didn’t feel as satiated after a Soylent meal as they do after some other meals.
Raising the oil content addresses both those isses - fats are more satiating than carbs, especially when you’re not eating solid foods, and don’t lead to gas problems. However, it does make the drink more oily/greasy - some people call it “slimy,” but I think that’s just their perception of the oiliness.
The total fat content of Soylent 1.4, at 42%, is about the same as a cheeseburger - so it’s probably a familiar feeling as far a satiation after a meal is concerned. But Soylent is lower in saturated fat than a cheeseburger, so it’s healthier - plus Soylent is supplying everything else the body needs; cheeseburger does not.
I suspect the next version of the product - 1.5 - will have lower oil content than this version, but it will probably still be more than the prior version. I don’t have any way to know.
I hope this helped!