Experiment in chemically defined lab mouse nutrition


J. R. Pleasants et al., lab mouse study on chemically defined nutrition

Rob and others working on soylent formulations may want to read this paper. Although it falls a little short of being totally conclusive, it was successful enough to bear close study. Also its diet ingredients list may at least provide a handy checklist for comparing our own DIY formulae, also perhaps indicating specific forms of various nutrients (i.e., chloride, gluconate etc.) that would be most useful.

It has occurred to me that ideally we should be aiming at a final soylent formulation that would be entirely free of food ingredients as such (oat powder and olive oil, for example). One of the most crucial aspects of soylent as an ongoing experiment in human nutrition is this question of a chemically-defined diet. From my own perspective as a CRON participant I can say that I’m quite aware of the extent to which nutrients are also physiological stressors – we inevitably “dig our own graves with our teeth” because so many foods also carry with them toxic elements. One of the potential advantages of soylent may be freedom from toxic components – if we can come up with a purely chemically-defined formula. For that reason the above experiment report should be of interest to us.


Why should the ideal final formulation not have any food ingredients?

I’m not sure there is any value in a purely synthetic food, when natural ingredients work just as well. If sourcing, or allergies are problematic, that’s one thing, but synthetic for synthetic’s sake? Maybe I’m missing something.

Also, the experiment was on animals without gut bacteria, which is a non-ideal environment and not recommendable for a human. I’m not sure how that translates to the soylent project, as we are looking for an ideal human diet that coexists with our bacteria, not for a sterile human.


I don’t say that Soylent should be purely synthetic, necessarily. But from Rob’s initial blog posts I think he probably had that possibility in mind. What I do say is that a purely chemically-defined version of Soylent would (a) be free of any and all possibilities of food allergies, (b) be free of inherent negative and toxic aspects of organically derived substances such as phytates and animal proteins, and © go a long way towards settling the question of supposed mysterious still-undiscovered factors crucial to nutrition. It would truly open the way forward towards the looming problem of how to feed economically a world population of ten billion or more – a problem we don’t have quite yet but which will become acute probably within a couple of decades barring some population-decimating world disaster.

Since it’s already becoming obvious that there will probably be more than just one version of Soylent, maybe it’s reasonable to think about also developing a chemically-defined version with no food-derived ingredients. Does that make sense?


I like the idea of finding a thoroughly chemical source for many reasons, chief among them that ultimately, if you have food sources, the item itself will change in price, quantity, availability, and sometimes in terms of base nutrition over time as you use it and acquire it regularly.

Having a 100% chemically derived formula ensures that this does not happen, and also ensures a tighter control and tighter outcome on the actual nutrition values.

With that said, looking at my own formula (which I haven’t published yet), I am relying on olive oil for 100% of my fat intake. In what ways might I chemically replace fats with a dry chemical source?


@Julio_Miles just mentioned that the official formula is using a powered oil now.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium-chain_triglyceride << MCTs can be dry.

They are still made from food though, I don’t know of any useful oil that could be made from something else.


I had never heard the term Chemically Defined Diet. Googling it resulted in some very very interesting papers showing up. I can’t read them now but I’ll leave the link here and crowdsource the effort.


The study you linked investigated germ free mice. We don’t live in a germ-free environment, which might change quite a bit. Actually, we are basically consisting of parasites, which make up 80%(!) of our body cells.

And the study said that the ingredients had to be adapted compared to normal mice. Then there is the thing with the sudden deaths due to low magnesium input (which did not seem too low when compared to standard guidelines, but still obviously was).

-> I am a bit wary of chemically defined diets. I feel we know too little about our body and how it works. Hell, we don’t even know for sure how muscle soreness is generated and that is only one little element in our system.


The components for a Chemically Defined Diet doesn’t necessarily mean that all items are synthetic. Any raw material is open to different contaminations, allergic reactions, and market fluctuation. There is no inherit value getting glutamine from a rock, corn, or oil, except that corn is renewable.

I think the impetus behind a CDD is not the sourcing but of the meals but creating a “perfect” food from raw chemical components. Those chemicals can come from anywhere. In fact, Soylent is a CDD based on our nutritional requirements.

The idea of an entirely synthetic product is putting the cart before the horse. The goal is nutrition, not chemicals.


@thinkingsites My own about CDD is that its goal and/or justification is not to have a synthetic product for the sake of synthetic as such, but rather to eliminate as thoroughly as practicable the possibility of food allergies and of enzyme, vitamin and mineral antagonists (as, for example, phytic acid), and thereby to reduce to a minimum the physiological stressors in the diet. There is a good chance that eventually, once the right formula was arrived at through experimentation, trial and error, use of Soylent could carry the benefit of improved health, better biomarkers, and even greater longevity. At any rate, I don’t think those possibilities should be ignored through any prejudice against synthetic or non-organically-derived ingredients; and I believe Rob is probably pretty aware of those possibilities, judging from what he has written in his blog.


The flip side is that industrial processes can leave side their marks too, introducing their own set of toxins. If an ingredient is extracted that is 100% pure, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.


Y[quote=“thinkingsites, post:11, topic:3035”]
If an ingredient is extracted that is 100% pure, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

Yes, quite so. But items like oat powder don’t represent a pure extract of anything, but just a handy expedient – an easy way to provide some carbohydrates. (And I say that as a big-time oat lover – I have nothing against oats, but I have to admit that they have a big load of phytic acid and very little phytase content wherewith to neutralise it, so probably don’t represent the best choice if one is looking for an innocuous carb source with no allergic or antagonist factors.) I would like very much to see one version of Soylent available which would be compounded solely from chemically pure ingredeints, if indeed that is even possible at the present state of the art. I’ll freely admit I don’t even know that – I’m no food indiustry chemist!


Well, there are no 100% pure ingredients (at least not when it comes to mass-producing food) and even milligrams of stuff can do weird things to organisms. Hormones, anyone? Adrenaline, testosterone, oestrogene, cocaine, nicotine, LSD all need only milligrams of stuff to work.

To put this into perspective: 1 milligram is 0,0001% of one kg, so having completely controlled food is an illusion you can discard.