As some people have noted, there has been a recent, shall we say, fiasco in regards to the currently known recommendations of Rhinehart and Co. for dietary fiber. In my opinion, there are two things we can take from this discussion: (i) very few of us are qualified or capable (even with access to academic journals) of understanding why certain amounts of nutrients are recommended; (ii) there is some demand by us for the makers of Soylent to justify their choices behind certain ingredients or quantities of nutrients.
For instance, why does Rhinehart’s recent recommendation suggest 40g of fibre? Fibre recommendations vary enormously, and range from country to country. For instance, UK guidelines are 18g/day. What was the team’s logic for this choice?
I’d like to bring one question to the table: how much transparency do we want and do we need in regards to the Soylent formulation. It’s not outrageous to guess that a lot of Soylenters are educated in science (I assume, many engineers, biologists, health science majors, etc.). It would be very nice if we could obtain some justification for why, for instance, Rob has settled on 40g of fibre rather than 38g or 18g.
However, with this in mind, I note that most meal replacements sold on the market don’t go into detail on their formulation. There is no justification behind why their product contains a certain number of grams of protein or carbs. Many of them don’t have detailed breakdowns of vitamins and micronutrients. I assume they need to justify themselves just enough to the food boards to allow their product to be released.
On the other hand, I would argue that Rhinehart and Co. are marketing themselves as more (and as a better food substitute) than these typical meal replacements. They are marketing Soylent as a food product engineered using rigorous science; consequently, I’d argue that it’s necessary that they provide some justification (in the form of citations, for instance) for their design decisions.
For example, would the Soylent team be interested in writing a review article about their product, complete with citations and justification for certain choices? I’m sure this could be accepted into some sort of publication (even a popular science one), and would inspire interesting debate. Given what they have said about the research they’ve put into the product, and their collaborations with nutritionists, this wouldn’t be a stretch in terms of resources, I’d imagine.
I mention finally that Soylent is a very revolutionary product for a few reasons. One of the reasons behind its revolutionary nature is the sheer openness of the makers in its formulation and intent. This is a product that was funded on Kickstarter, and that has been associated with open-source. When was the last time that there was such intense debate and joint participation by laymen in creating a food product? Like I said, this is very different from typical meal replacement products that are created and designed behind closed doors.
I hope that Rhinehart and Co. will continue to be frank with us about their design of Soylent, and their use of rigorous scientific methods in engineering the product.