Research paper on effect of Soylent on gut flora


An undergraduate research team at UC Berkeley have published a paper on the effect of 100% Soylent on the composition of gut microbes. I have put a summary and discussion of this paper, with link to the full text, here.


Interesting. but with such a microscopic sample size and such a short period of time, I’m not sure it means much. I’d love to see the results of a large scale, multi-thousand-person study, conducted over at least months if not a year or more. But hey, this is a good start!


Yeah, like I said in my linked summary, this does not appear to be an expensive study nor a difficult one to do. So there’s no reason that any meal replacement company couldn’t duplicate it, or sponsor researchers to duplicate it, with more subjects.

The basic study plan – have participants send swabs to uBiome and tabulate the results – could be applied to lots more subjects and to subjects with a wider range of ages than just UC undergrads. And for a longer period – just extending the Phase B (Soylent) period to two weeks would pretty definitively answer the question about long-term effects.

It could also be applied to studies of people with diagnosed Crone’s or IBS, with the potential for a major P.R. win if the results are improved flora diversity.

And what does it cost? It can’t be more than $100 per subject day, so $1M would cover 10,000 subject-days, and provide real, solid answers to a host of interesting questions – and probably lay to rest many of the nagging questions about “is it really healthy to eat manufactured food long-term”.


Yeah I agree, this would be a really cool thing to see done! And if your cost estimates are right, it sounds like it wouldn’t take much in the way of grants etc. to make it happen. Here’s hoping!


Isn’t there a publicly funded organization that funds this kind of study? I think there is something odd in begging the company that would be affected by the research to pay for it. Maybe this is the way such things are often done, but I still think it’s odd.

Wouldn’t RF be buying a revolver that would either kill it or have no effect on its sales? Does someone think that if Soylent did well it would help RF much? I have been using Soylent daily for years with nothing but great effects.


Hmm… which kinda begs the question: "How hardy are these gut flora?"
Would the good flora really be expected to die off in 4 days if the diet was missing some critical elements?
That seems unlikely…

From what I’ve heard people who go off red meat for several months might have some GI distress on return but certainly not 4 days…

I suppose the quest here was to discover if Soylent helps the flora… but if one wants to see if the absence of something in Soylent would cause a diminishing of certain gut flora I’d think you’d have to do this experiment for at least a few months…

But then I’m not a biologist… so what do I know.


I think the FDA used to do more research like this, but budgets are always being cut. Now a lot of the time it’s the interested companies that fund the studies, which calls into question how honest the studies will be; maybe the company paid trustworthy researchers, or maybe they paid a group that will deliver the results you ask for if the price is right.

In this case it looks like an undergrad research project, which is a fun idea but has very limited funding, which is why the sample size and test duration is so short.


Yeah I’m glad less of my money is being stolen to fund lobbyists pet projects