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Could Soylent Replace Food?

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Printed Date: Apr 10 2020 at 6:07am

Topic: Could Soylent Replace Food?
Posted By: PurplePhase
Subject: Could Soylent Replace Food?
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:28pm
Who's ready? LOL

Could 'Soylent' replace food? The drink that claims to contain all the nutrients the body needs

Wednesday 07 May 2014

Rob Rhinehart likes to joke that he’s entirely made up of Soylent. That’s because the 25-year-old entrepreneur has been living off his chalky “food substitute” invention for almost a year now.

He likes to think that all his body’s cells have regenerated from the nutrients it provides, but what is perhaps more certain is that his Los Angeles-based company is set to make him rich, with tens of thousands of orders for his potion, a $1 million venture capital investment and reports that it’s to be tested by the US military.

If this sounds like a sinister plot from a dystopian film, where the joy of food is banished, that’s because in its name at least, Soylent was inspired by the dark 1973 science-fiction film Soylent Green.

Thankfully for Soylent’s investors, its customers don’t seem to be making the playful link with Soylent Green, where Charlton Heston discover a new “high-energy plankton” feeding the starving masses in a futuristically bleak New York, is actually made from human flesh.

Rather the modern drink is a refined version of Mr Rhinehart’s homemade combination of carbohydrates, fatty acids, protein, fibre, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins and zinc. His company website boasts this provides all the essential nutrients “required to fuel the human body”.

That’s a big claim for an electrical engineering graduate who hasn’t studied food science, but Mr Rhinehart goes on to details how that the drink will, for just £40 a month, provide a healthy “food substitute” that’s far cheaper than real food and can be prepared in minutes.

Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart holds a bag of finished product (Getty)

Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart holds a bag of finished product (Getty)

And this month, in a move that will put that claim to the test, the firm shipped the first 30,000 units of factory-made Soylent. One of the first recipients was Jennifer Roberts, a playwright from the San Francisco, who already on her sixth day of a Soylent diet.

She says, “I liked what he [Mr Rhinehart] had to say about efficiency of getting everything you need for your body without the time-consuming hassles of shopping and planning for, and preparing meals. I often found myself either skipping meals because I was either writing or not prepared to stop and fuel or too busy to get or make healthier food choices. It's frustrating how much time is spent on dealing with food.”

Perhaps that frustration is why she doesn’t mind the “neutral taste” of Soylent, which she compares to drinking “an un-sweet cake batter”. The same can presumably be said for the 10,000 customers a day now placing orders online.

Shipments to Britain are reportedly in the pipeline, but despite this Mr Rhinehart declined to be interviewed for this story. However in a long profile in the New Yorker earlier this week, he recounted how he first developed Soylent after the cost of food became a “burden” while working for a cash-strapped tech start-up in California.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he says his potion, which he created after reading up on nutritional data from the American Institute of Medicine and US Food and Drug Administration websites before buying the ingredients online, “changed his life”. And in his blog he says that drinking it for the first time left him feeling like the “six million dollar man” with “clearer” skin, “whiter” hair and a “notably improved” physique.

The logic, he told the New Yorker was that, “you need amino acids and lipids, not milk itself” and “you need carbohydrates, not bread”. This food eccentricity apparently extends to his personal life too, where he posts comedy sketches and images of kittens on his blog and reportedly only wears two pairs of jeans and orders cheap T-shirts from" rel="nofollow - Amazon .

One early customer drawn to this eccentricity is David Cox, an academic at Harvard University in Massachusetts, who has already placed an early order for a supply of Soylent. He says, “I’m drawn to charmingly eccentric and austere vibe that goes along with Soylent - the idea that we can overcome the tyranny of food. At the end of the day, it's not so different from meal replacement shakes for the elderly or for body builders, but it's tailored for normal adults.”

Others customers are so excited by the prospect of the drink that they have taken to so-called DIY Soylent websites to share recipes and create their own formulas. In the spirit of “open source” software and following the idea of “life hacking” to liberate yourself from humdrum tasks, this is something that Mr Rhinehart has embraced.

Potassium gluconate on a production table at Soylent HQ in California (Getty)

Potassium gluconate on a production table at Soylent HQ in California (Getty) 

That’s not to say there are not sceptical scientific voices though. During the early development of the drink, Mr Rhinehart blogged that “I started having joint pain and found I fit the symptoms of a sulphur deficiency. This makes perfect sense as I consume almost none, and sulphur is a component of every living cell.”

Sulphur has since been added to the product, but Noel Cameron, professor of human biology at the University of Loughborough School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, says this error is a sign that the project is “unbelievably naïve.”

He says: “How can you on one hand say this drink includes everything you possibly need, then admit you’ve forgotten to add sulphur? On what basis are you creating this drink then?

“The way to test all these things is a randomised case controlled trial. Test it, to see if it works. Don’t give it to your mates as he’s done, to see if it works. It seems like Soylent is a group of blokes from university who have got onto a bloody good wheeze.”

It’s not just the marketing or youthful nature of the project that Professor Cameron takes issue with though: “We are fast learning that control of appetite is quite a complex process, and it’s not just to do with the stomach filling up. It’s a much more complex system that, which included things like the movement of your mouth and mastication to release hormones.”

Ashley Blackshaw, a professor in enteric neuroscience at Queen Mary, University of London, is also sceptical. He’s an expert in how food intake sends signals through the body and his major concern is that “all sorts of trace elements and phytochemicals, such as lycopene which is found in tomatoes, are missing” from Soylent.

These elements, he explains, are often found in plants and many are just beginning to be understood. Lycopene, found in tomatoes but missing from Soylent, for example, has been linked to lower rates of prostate cancer.

However Professor Blackshaw has even more serious concerns: “There’s the issue over the link between the efficient bacterial fermentation in the colon and cancer. Everything in there is very finely balanced and out gut has evolved over millions of years, and if I even had a suspicion of a history of colon cancer, I’d stay away from a product like this.”

Most striking for many though will be the idea of abolishing enjoyment food. “There is more and more work being done on the links between food and mood,” says Professor Blackshaw. “A shortcut like Soylent throws all that out the window. We have to remember comfort food isn’t just a luxury to spoil ourselves with, but something that scientifically, we are increasingly seeing as something that should be part of our daily life.

Posted By: nekamarie83
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:40pm
Originally posted by PurplePhase PurplePhase wrote:

Who's ready? LOL
no. ma'am. Stern Smile

and for the sake of the thread: IT'S PEOPLE!! Pinch 


Posted By: mizzsandra00
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:42pm
White folk crazy.

Posted By: ModelessDiva
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:47pm

my skinny arse aint ready

Posted By: ModelessDiva
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:47pm
i need real food

Posted By: BBpants
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:54pm
I'll pass

Posted By: PurplePhase
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:55pm
lol. I wouldn't mind it but I want it to taste like what I'm supposed to be eating. Like Star Trek. If I drink a mac n cheese soylent thingy, I want to taste mac n cheese, not chalk.

Posted By: Journey94
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:55pm

Posted By: PurplePhase
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 10:55pm
Originally posted by Journey94 Journey94 wrote:



Posted By: miana79
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 11:16pm
I need to taste and get to see the beautiful food im gonna eat.

Posted By: newdiva1
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 11:19pm

The drink that claims to contain all the nutrients the body needs

All I could think was what Dozer said to Neo when he asked what was the snot like meal he was eating.

Posted By: Immie89
Date Posted: May 07 2014 at 11:22pm
Visually as well! Food is for the senses

Posted By: Bored w/Out Me?
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:11am
It can't possibly taste good...

Posted By: liesnalibis
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:19am
The point being...???

Posted By: noneyons
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:25am
i thought about making a thread on this. just read it in the new yorker tonite.

i'd consider it tbh. sometimes food is a hassle so it would come in handy when i'm busy or don't want to be bothered cooking/ eating out.

Posted By: PurplePhase
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:27am
eating is a hassle and time consuming.

Posted By: noneyons
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:29am
plus i have moments of hypoglycemia where my blood sugar drops and i get shakes like a mofo out of nowhere. this would come in handy during times like this.

Posted By: noneyons
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:32am
i agree, purp. 

i like food a lot. but i'm not in love with it especially since i have to super conscious of times and portions of my consumption. takes the fun out of eating. 

i'ma do some more research on this stuff to see if its healthy cause it might be just what i need to keep my blood sugar right. 

Posted By: thewonderfulwa
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:40am
As long as I have some teeth I'm going to chew.

Posted By: foxyroy19
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:44am
ErmmThis idea has to be good for the people who can't really taste food.  People who can't really smell.  People who can't tolerate seasonings.  People who are visually impaired by the beauty of food and all its textures and flavors.  Shopping for food is equivalent to hunting...I pray to never be too lazy to stealthily walk up and down the aisles of the grocery store to pounce on the last bag of jasmine rice.

Posted By: foxyroy19
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:45am
“an un-sweet cake batter”.
This is what it was described to taste like.

Posted By: Bored w/Out Me?
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 12:47am
Originally posted by foxyroy19 foxyroy19 wrote:

“an un-sweet cake batter”.
This is what it was described to taste like.

Sounds like a good nutritional base for a smoothie....nothing else!

Posted By: DiorShowGirl
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 1:27am
steak/potatoes  woman here...

Posted By: afrokock
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 4:22am

Posted By: PurplePhase
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 1:10pm
dang, yall act like I posted this in the What Did You Cook thread LOL

it's just a thought; something yall youngins have to look forward to in the future (tee-heeLOL).

Posted By: MsBMW
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 1:26pm
sh*t I can stand to loose a few 

Posted By: JoliePoufiasse
Date Posted: May 08 2014 at 2:24pm
Will this thing make me lose weight? Because if that's the case, I'll take it. Slaving away at the gym and nothing is happening Angry

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