Soylent nutrition concerns


#1

playing devil’s advocate here with myself and my wife’s questions and concerns regarding soylent. i don’t mean for this to sound argumentative or negative, but i am really looking for answers. looking at the diy recipes i realize i am oversimplifying, but what is the difference or the real breakthrough between soylent and people just consuming some kind of filler with flavoring and vitamin pills crushed in? my wife thinks soylent has to have inadequate nutrition because it isn’t green/alive/whole food. how well does our body absorb crushed vitamins vs. whole foods with their spectrum of micronutrients? would there be a benefit to adding a chlorophyll/algae/seaweed supplement?

i look forward to continued worldwide research on and experimentation with soylent and longer-term results/studies.
thank you for any thoughtful input,
joe


#2

I’m not an expert on this stuff, but with pills you are going to be getting stuff that you aren’t taking the pill for. That coating is made up of stuff. Powder is more pure. I’d say Soylent is a lot more convenient than popping a bunch of pills as well.

I recently went to GNC to talk to them about adding more stuff to Soylent to make sure I’m getting everything. The first time I went I got a worker and he said I could add some of their multivitamins that had photonutrients along with other stuff and a flavoring. When I went back the next time I got a new worker and showed what was all in Soylent and what was recommended for me earlier. He reluctantly stated that I really didn’t need the extra powder because if I consume a pouch of Soylent a day, I really don’t need much else. Those were his words (slightly paraphrased). He tried extremely hard to sell me on something in their store and the best he could come up with was a caffeinated powder “for energy” and then some amino acid powder with flavoring. The first worker originally told me I could add probiotics (for digestion I think), but recommended the pill over the powder. He wasn’t clear why; maybe it was a sales thing? Both workers had a problem getting their head around the idea of not eating food anymore at all basically, and were basically against it, but they didn’t have any good reasoning. (I think part of the problem is most shake items are meant for working out or losing weight but Soylent isn’t.) Simple solutions such as throwing fruits and veggies in the mix were recommended to have some real food mixed in or to eat at least 1 real meal a day. These were GNC workers/managers and not doctors so take what you want from that.

About adding more stuff, you can certainly do that. I mean, when it comes down to it, Soylent is a powder. You mix it with a water. You can throw in foods and blend them in there. You can throw in nutrients, flavorings, and other stuff you think might be beneficial. That’s up to you. But judging by what the GNC people were saying, what I’ve seen here, what I’ve seen from haters/lovers elsewhere, there aren’t many known detriments to Soylent right now. The worst thing seems to be the unknown for the future, but the way I figure, other people that have been on Soylent longer will see those long-term problems way before I will.

That’s my very unscientific response, but the fact that GNC struggled to really find much of anything good to sell me made me feel better about Soylent (although admittedly, I was already pro-Soylent form other research I did).


#3

Gelatin in the case of most capsules, but also vegetarian capsules can be bought that are either made of fermented tapioca or plant cellulose.

There are emulsifiers in Soylent that have no function other than making administration easier (drinking), which is exactly what the capsule is for in pills.

As for your questions, OP, the only real downside to market ready multis are imbalance and lack of a few key nutrients and metals. You won’t find one that’s truly “complete” because it’s very difficult to put all of these things in a shelf-stable capsule. Soylent may very well be one of the first companies to develop such a pill, but that doesn’t seem too prudent an issue for them right now.

The whole foods fallacy is a common one, and nothing to pay too much credence to. Whole foods are made of chemicals. Soylent is made of chemicals. Both will have minute amounts of cross contamination. Both require some fine tuning for special case diets. At the end of the day, it’s about what you want. Whole foods will spoil faster, waste more water, have a higher possibility of contamination, require more calorie counting and macro math and generally cost more. Just a week ago a Whole Foods store in New York was caught price jacking literally everything in the store (higher weights on package labels, in some cases double the price).

In my not so humble opinion, Soylent doesn’t need to lie to you or present a bunch of complex science to win you over. It’s simple, clean, tasty DRANK and quite filling at that!


#4

Depends what you mean by “filler”. If you mean something indigestible and just a convenient medium for holding vitamins and minerals then Soylent is better because its “filler” provides essential amino and fatty acids.

Your body doesn’t care if the nutrients come from whole foods or individual vitamins. While some forms of vitamins are more easily absorbed than others if there really was an issue I and a lot of others would be dead by now from vitamin deficiencies. Also Soylent doesn’t use “crushed vitamins” Rosa Labs (RL) buys its vitamins in pure powdered form not pills that it then grinds up.

That is highly debatable and is currently under investigation by various health organizations around the world. There is no harm in adding them if you want.


#5

There are “alive” elements in Soylent… By that I mean, things that come from alive things. Such as the oat flour, rice protein and algea oil, other oils and such.

In other words… Soylent isn’t really synthetic food which some skeptics may regard it as. It is basically normal food in powder form with some added oils, vitamins, minerals and so on.


#6

It’s not just vitamins and fillers. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, it provides the carbs, protein, fat, fiber, and calories that we need. There aren’t any fillers at all, in fact, although there are a couple ingredients that we don’t need which just make Soylent more edible(these are used in minimal quantities and are not used to increase product volume). Most of what’s found in Soylent could be extracted from natural sources, but Soylent uses synthetic sources for many things instead to reduce costs. There is literally no difference between the ascorbic acid(Vitamin C) in Soylent and the ascorbic acid in “whole foods” such as kale. Either way, it’s ascorbic acid. But the amounts in Soylent are controlled in a way that they can’t be in whole foods, to ensure a healthy balance.

If your wife still thinks whole foods are better despite that, maybe she would like Ambronite. It’s made of whole foods, but it’s terribly imbalanced as a result.


#7

first of all i want to say that i am pro-soylent and currently use it averaging one meal a day. sorry that this is very rambling in nature. by fillers i meant some of the larger ingredients in various diy recipes like corn flour, modified food starch,etc. things i don’t think of as being particularly healthy, especially if they are potentially grown with pesticides, etc. these are sort of random thoughts about reading your comments and my own and my wife’s concerns and questions. the soylent nutrition label for the pouch says that each serving has 35% of the recommended total fat so wouldn’t that be 140% total for the day?

also i’m not objecting to nutrients coming in the form of chemicals. and obviously nutritional deficiencies often accumulate over a lifetime, otherwise people who eat only fast food and processed foods that just cater to our sweet tooth would die much sooner. i would hope and expect that the official soylent recipe will add a broader array of micro-nutrients over time to make up for anything our bodies might be lacking by not eating whole foods. for example i read once that kids today being mostly indoors miss out on certain micro-nutrients that would be absorbed from playing in the dirt outside. i would think that we could use all the anti-oxidants we can get in our world overflowing with carcinogens. i myself breathe in plenty of car and truck exhaust walking to and from the bus stop each day.

of course soylent contains ingredients that were alive, but my wife has read that currently living greens are especially healthy to consume. obviously it wouldn’t hurt to complement a soylent diet with them, but i am interested in gaining some of their benefits with things that could be included in soylent like chlorophyll, algae, or seaweed in dried form perhaps. Ambronite sounds interesting. why would it be intrinsically imbalanced? they mention it being “100% of everything” which sounds a bit vague though.

i am aware that this is a 1.5 iteration of soylent and am really appreciative that the makers seem committed to constantly tweaking the product. i am especially interested in nutritional improvements. following nutrition all my life it seems like there are a lot of areas that are still not fully understood and we seem to hear conflicting reports all the time on various nutritional issues. i’m sure soylent has the broad nutritional spectrum covered, but i’m sure there are inadequacies that hopefully will be addressed as we know more. i’m sure soylent 2.0 for example will be a big improvement over 1.5.

take care,
joe


#8

We aren’t sure about the pesticides; we don’t even know who Rosa Labs’ biggest suppliers are, but it isn’t a major issue. Organic food is also grown with pesticides, and not all pesticides are created equal. We are using 100% of the available agricultural land on Earth and still struggling to feed our population, so I strongly encourage you reconsider this “natural” ideology. It would be a tremendous sacrifice both to productivity and the desperately hungry if we were to abandon our most advanced practices. Modified food starch is perfectly safe. There is a book length PDF on the article labelled “GMO” on Soylent’s site. It goes very in-depth, explaining which GMO’s are known to be safe and which are still being researched.

140% fat is quite a lot, but most of it will be used for energy. The inclusion of a high number of fats means less weight overall, as fat is extremely energy dense. This won’t affect the 2,000kcal a day diet, it just means Soylent can use less.

i would hope and expect that the official soylent recipe will add a broader array of micro-nutrients

As it stands, Soylent has no need to do so. All known vitamins and minerals essential to life, and essential to keeping [nutrient deficient] disease at bay, have been included at the recommended levels, some slightly higher or lower (sodium is a tad lower because it is assumed that even 99%ers are going to snack). There are a few nutrients that might possibly be added in the future (PKK for example), but there isn’t yet a consensus on their necessity.

kids today being mostly indoors miss out on certain micro-nutrients

Aside from sunlight, which itself isn’t essential if you get enough Vitamin D in your diet, this is highly doubtful. If you can find the study I’m sure plenty of people here more research-savvy than I would be happy to take a look for you, but it’s more likely just poor science journalism misinterpreting the data.

Soylent contains many natural anti-oxidants already. The world is certainly overflowing with carcinogens, but it always has even pre-industrial era. Breathing in exhaust is bad, of course, but 99% of the materials around you contain carcinogens in one form or another. In a healthy adult, the body is equipped to fight quite a lot of these on its own. Having a good diet and regular exercise will help, but most cancers arise from sheer chance. You shouldn’t worry about something you can’t control.

Living greens do have phytonutrients in them, and if you want to include them that’s your prerogative. From some of our 100%ers here on the forum we know that they aren’t immediately necessary for survival, but research shows many of them do perform certain functions in the body. Some of them are actually bad for you, so be wary of claims. Phytonutrients and most other “health” supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

Because Ambronite uses solid foods, they are not using a bottom-up approach to nutrition and so you’re going to have some imbalances. They aren’t as bad as they were initially (some of the nutrients were nearing 1000%, and not the safe upper limit ones), but they still can’t hold a candle to Soylent… just sayin.

You seem extremely concerned with your dietary health. I admire that. It’s a good thing to take care of. But Soylent is not generally for that demographic. It is meant for people who want a balanced, simple diet that won’t spoil or require a lot of prepping. It would be more personalized if it were for the health-focused, as most of your health considerations beyond the baseline come down to who you are as a person. I think Soylent is a fantastic baseline to use, as Rob puts it “everything you need, nothing you don’t”, followed by your own additions as you see fit. It’s up to you and your wife, but I can tell you my personal experience has been fantastic. I haven’t regretted a single dollar I’ve spent on it.


#9

Yes. See the FAQ 1.5 Macronutrient Energy Ratio and a multitude of previous discussion here (search for fat; click on the magnifying glass in the top right to search the forum).

Not necessarily. For example, a Big Mac might not be healthy, but if you look at the Nutrition Facts you’ll see that it has a decent number of essential nutrients. It’s possible to craft a fast food diet that is deficient, but it is also possible to get everything your body needs. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to get too much of what your body needs: a caloric excess, which leads to excess body fat and its associated problems.

I’ve read something similar about possible advantages to exposing kids to pathogens in dirt (like bacteria or whatever, to strengthen the immune system by challenging it), but I’ve not read anything about absorbing nutrients from dirt. Do you mean absorbing nutrients through the skin, or actually ingesting dirt?

I’m afraid that antioxidants don’t neutralize carcinogens or repair the harmful effects of breathing automobile exhaust fumes. I’ve never read that before, at least.

It’s hard to argue with a belief if the evidence behind it isn’t presented. If that’s what she believes, she will never be happy with Soylent. Is there any truth to the idea? I’ve not seen any evidence for it yet.

I’m not familiar with Ambronite, but if I recall correctly they have much more than 100% of some things. They can claim “100% of everything” if they hit a minimum of 100%.

I just checked the Ambronite website and they have up to 500% of some nutrients (based on 2000 calories/day). That isn’t necessarily bad unless you consume a nutrient to toxic levels, which doesn’t look likely with Ambronite, at a quick glance.


#10

Exactly what makes “living greens” healthy? Answer that question, and then look into the Soylent ingredients to see if the same nutrients are available there. Just because something is “living” doesn’t mean it is healthy.


#11

This article will tell you everything you need to know about living greens vs isolated ingredients.


#12

i’m using this board as a sounding board for my thoughts and concerns. i would like to move toward a 95% soylent diet, but am not confident that our current knowledge of nutrition is that complete. comparing the timeline of astronomy to that of nutrition my highly unscientific opinion is that we’re at about the year 1600 and have a ways to go before we are really optimizing our nutritional health. or at least i’d like to think that we will be able to fine tune our nutrition a bit more for optimized energy levels, cognition, longevity, etc.

i am not saying that i or my wife believe in “vitalism” (that live foods contain some non-physical element, etc.), but that live foods may contain certain phytonutrients that are altered or diminished in drying or no longer being fresh.

as far as antioxidants, from nih.gov:
"Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage."
so i’m talking about cells damaged from environmental causes like pollution, etc.

i appreciate all of your thoughts and comments. obviously many people on this board know more about nutrition than myself.


#13

Wow, the criticism section really provides the hammer blows. The Bertrand Russell quote sums it up nicely. I’ll paraphrase it to apply it to this case, “We must either develop a Soylent like product that provides the body with all the nutrition it needs, or we must find the reasons why this is impossible.”

I gotta keep that quote.


#14

You are welcome to add phytonutrient blends, I know a few people here do and it’s not at all a silly thing to do. I would agree that we don’t have a complete picture of human nutrition, but we know what not to eat and we know what we need to keep from developing certain diseases. Soylent addresses all of these concerns and “keeps you going”, so to speak.

There’s nothing you or anyone else can do to complete our puzzle overnight, and new research always takes time (and repetition) to become established knowledge, so the best you can do is go on what we do know today. It is curious that so many supplement themselves with such random things because we don’t know how nutrition works so “might as well try everything”. There’s nothing wrong with that approach; your body is yours to do with what you please. But it isn’t the most scientific approach and not the most efficient way to get results.


#15

Entirely possible. Fortunately, the Soylent formula is flexible. Any scientific advances in nutrition will be reflected in the Soylent formula.

From the former diet I’ve seen in myself and my friends, Soylent is a huge leap forward in nutrition. Is it perfect? I doubt it, but It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a huge improvement for me.


#16

I’d encourage you to keep reading:

Vegetables and fruits are rich sources of antioxidants. There is good evidence that eating a diet with lots of vegetables and fruits is healthy and lowers risks of certain diseases. But it isn’t clear whether this is because of the antioxidants, something else in the foods, or other factors.

High-dose supplements of antioxidants may be linked to health risks in some cases. For example, high doses of beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. High doses of vitamin E may increase risks of prostate cancer and one type of stroke. Antioxidant supplements may also interact with some medicines. To minimize risk, tell you of your health care providers about any antioxidants you use.

(emphases mine)

Soylent already contains dietary antioxidants as a result of being nutritionally complete. I haven’t seen any evidence that adding supplemental antioxidants to a staple food is necessary or without risk.

There is some crossover between foods and medicines, but Soylent is firmly on the “food” side of that line. If you think it’s wise to supplemental antioxidants, I agree with NIH: talk to your doctor first!


#17

i’m not talking about high-dose antioxidants. of course different doctors will make different suggestions. my previous cardiologist really likes Dr. Weil and promoted things like high-dose Niacin which i subsequently remember hearing didn’t have the benefits that were initially thought. that’s part of what is frustrating to me, that nutritional information varies a lot from one doctor to the next. i’m all for food’s first qualification being that it “do no harm”, but i’m glad that the people involved with soylent seem to be forward-thinking and interested in scientific developments in nutrition. i sort of hope they are to nutrition what Elon Musk is to cars.


#18

When I saw you reference carcinogens and pollution I thought you were talking about supplemental antioxidants, since Soylent already contains antioxidants. In retrospect, perhaps you weren’t aware that some of Soylent’s ingredients are antioxidants: ascorbic acid (vitamin C), for instance.

Any nutritionally complete diet will by necessity include antioxidants. Well, as far as I can tell; I’m not an expert. :sweat_smile:


#19

I hope Musk gets into the mining business eventually.

I’ve heard conflicting things about Niacin too. I’ve heard the costs can out-weigh the benefits, but then everyone is different and there are many cases where people never have any negative side effects.

I hope you don’t feel that anyone here is discouraging you from learning about supplements or anything. I think that’s a wonderful thing to study.

The company has hinted at offering a wider array of products. The “Soylent” product is likely going to stay as a baseline type of service, while others might actually offer blends of phytonutrients, legitimately healthy supplements, etc. I think it will be interesting to see.


#20

The OP asks a great question, that got obscured by a rehash of the well-trodden “chemicals vs. real foods” discussion. Basically it boils down to:

  1. Is it that hard to get all the essential nutrients, given that you accept that the chemical route is OK?
  2. Once you’ve gotten the essential nutrients, what else does Soylent really bring to the table?

For example, compare one day of eating Soylent to the following day’s cuisine which is somewhat cheaper:

  1. Two MET-Rx bars.
  2. A can of beans.
  3. Doritos, enough to get to whatever calorie threshold you choose.