I have known what the issues with Soylent are since I first saw the ingredients list. I didn’t post anything about it because I didn’t have time and I thought Rosa Labs would catch their mistake and correct it in future versions. When I saw all the complaints about gastrointestinal problems and headaches I said to myself, “well that was bound to happen”, and went about my day. All the while I kept waiting for someone to speak up about what the problem was. I expected the next version to fix the ingredients…
I slowly came to the conclusion that Rosa Labs and the Soylent community are actually at a loss for what the issue really is. After reading about version 1.1 and what “improvements” they have made by adding digestive enzymes I knew I had to speak up. So, after much ado, I give you the solution to all the Soylent problems:
NOTE: I have provided references where I thought them appropriate. You don’t have to take what I’m saying as fact; I encourage you to do your own research. I already have, and know the following to be true.
There are two ingredients that are bad. The first is Magnesium oxide.
Magnesium oxide has very poor bioavailability. citation citation This is due to the fact that it is not well absorbed by the body. citation Poor absorption of magnesium creates an osmotic effect and causes water to be retained in the intestines. citation This can result in a laxative action citation citation. It’s actually not just a laxative action, from experience I can say nausea is among the symptoms.
This effect is not subtle. You can compare the reviews of magnesium supplements on Amazon to see the problems magnesium oxide can cause.
Calcium carbonate is the second bad ingredient.
Calcium carbonate can also have a poor bioavailability (again, poor absorption) this is true in healthy adults citation; but is especially true in people with achlorhydria (low stomach acid) and the Elderly citation citation. This is because Calcium carbonate is an antacid. In fact, Tums brand antacid is just flavored calcium carbonate citation. Antacids neutralize stomach acidity, increasing the PH. Gastric acid needs to stay acidic to digest food properly . Therefore, by lowering the acidity you are making it more difficult to digest food. Making Soylent more difficult to digest probably leads to more gastrointestinal upset.
This theory is reinforced by the fact that Rosa Labs has seen some improvement in the gastrointestinal upset by adding digestive enzymes to version 1.1. If the addition of digestive enzymes improves gastrointestinal upset then it would seem apparent that people were having trouble digesting the stuff.
The US National Library of Medicine lists some known side-effects of calcium carbonate on their website, among them are “upset stomach” and “increased urination” citation.
That brings me to my last point. Soylent is likely causing dehydration. This most common symptom of mild dehydration is headache. As cited above, magnesium in the intestines causes an osmotic effect. This draws fluids from the body and retains those within the intestine citation. When you couple this with the increased urination from the calcium carbonate, it’s obvious to me that the combination would lead to some level of dehydration.
So now, what’s the solution? The solution is calcium citrate and magnesium citrate. These compounds do not have any of those problems. Honestly, they shouldn’t need the enzymes if they fix the ingredients.
A discussion has started here about potential (though rare) dangers of calcium citrate. I wanted to point out that calcium citrate and magnesium citrate are not the only possible solutions. Here are a handful of other options that are also easily absorbed:
calcium lactate citrate
calcium lactate malate
Again, this list is also incomplete and may even have compounds that pose other risks. From the research, it looks like gluconate is the best bet. Though it is the most expensive choice.
There has been some discussion about the real impact that the calcium carbonate has on stomach pH considering that when Soylent is mixed with water it’s actually slightly acidic. I wanted to point out that this is actually irrelevant. Calcium carbonate does not neutralize the acid simply by being a base and “diluting” the acid. There is a chemical reaction going on between the calcium carbonate and the hydrochloric acid in the gut that causes the change in pH. Specifically, the formula is:
CaCO3 + 2HCl -> CaCl2 + H2O + CO2
I noticed I’m not the first person to bring this up here:
I have a hunch that Soylent may be inducing a magnesium deficiency in people. This is because a magnesium deficiency does not show up on a blood test since magnesium is stored within tissue and not in the blood. citation Therefore, the bloodwork used to test Soylent in the early stages would have overlooked this. The best way to test this hunch will be to poll full-time users for the symptoms. I am going to create a separate thread to do just that.