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August 28, 2013 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Since completing a successful fund-raising campaign, Rob Rhinehart has set up a company to make a food substitute, somewhat controversially called "Soylent", designed to be a complete food substitute -- drinking only Soylent shakes, people can stop eating "traditional food" completely. The he company's ambitions appear to be concerned with freeing up a few minutes from a busy, chewing-averse person's day, but extend as far as providing cheap food aid to the starving.

The story has been covered by a number of outlets: Vice posted an interview with the inventor ("The idea of "real food" is just snobbery. Everyone has the right to be healthy, even people who don't like vegetables."). Forbes and Ars Technica are both putting reporters on a week-long, Soylent only diet to witness its effects first hand. Rhinehart himself claims to have subsisted on only Soylent for months with "good results". Gawker claims that the nutrient fluid "[looks] like watered-down semen".
posted by wormwood23 (124 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by no relation at 8:51 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Such a nerd - to him, eating is a waste of time & needs to be optimized so he can get back to coding.

That being said, this could have a great impact on malnutrition and starvation in developing countries. For that reason, I wish him the best of success.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:53 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


So wait, it isn't even people? Or green? Pretty lame.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:55 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, that pretty much ruined lunch.
posted by HuronBob at 8:56 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still feel the title [of the movie] is weak. They [the movie people] didn't even know what soylent was! No one ever asked me!

I made up that word by doing a combo on soy beans and lentils, to get soylent. I'd always imagined they'd only have vegetarian food.

-- Harry Harrison, author of Make Room! Make Room!
posted by Herodios at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Nothing can possibly go wrong.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


no relation - thanks! Neither the native MeFi search, nor a site search on Google were giving me a previous post.
posted by wormwood23 at 8:58 AM on August 28, 2013


I find this substance irrationally terrifying. That is, robots armed with guns are legitimately freaky and come out of Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk vision. But this substance, with all its potential for good, just gives me the heebie-jeebies all over.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2013


It's very hard for me to imagine that this product would leave me feeling satisfied like I do after a solid meal.

Also I worry about those who (as wikipedia says) are recreating the recipe at home; how do you measure 6µg of vitamin B6 for your daily dose?
posted by jepler at 9:03 AM on August 28, 2013


Who needs fish and chips when you can have Soylent Green and Flav-o-fibes?
posted by samuelcramer at 9:03 AM on August 28, 2013


Previously.

There is a need for something like this or pelletized food for people.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Engineers' Disease strikes again. Tragic, really. Maybe I should start a Kickstarter to fund the search for a cure.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:07 AM on August 28, 2013 [28 favorites]


As if there aren't enough non-food foods already...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


That being said, this could have a great impact on malnutrition and starvation in developing countries. For that reason, I wish him the best of success.

I don't think so. There are already cheaper meals out there that (probably) taste better*.

* I've actually tried MannaPackRice, and it wasn't bad. It tasted like ramen-flavored rice.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


I tell you, people, it's Red Bull we need to be concerned with. Not Soylent.
posted by philip-random at 9:10 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "previously" thread was interesting. A good example of how easy it is to persuade ourselves that something is "obviously" bogus, fake, a troll, a scam or what have you when, no, it's just someone who sees the world very differently from the way you do.
posted by yoink at 9:12 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will stick with natural foods such as Pop Tarts, tyvm.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:14 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The idea of "real food" is just snobbery. Everyone has the right to be healthy, even people who don't like vegetables."

This betrays such a confusion of ideas that I don't even know how to respond to it.
posted by clockzero at 9:15 AM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Frequently Asked of Metafilter wiki page has a comprehensive round-up of bachelor chow questions. (Currently 19 of them!)

Even the most rushed, "I'm gonna just have a PBJ" meals are the milestones and highlights of my own days... I have plenty of my own quirks and really try not to be judgey of others', but I find the serious "Why can't I just eat the same thing for every meal, every day?" questions just totally alienating and somehow even a little bit creepy.
posted by usonian at 9:19 AM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


At one point I really wanted to eliminate the time I spend on shopping, cooking, and doing dishes, and save money of course. So I spent a day every 2 months making massive stockpots of 4-5 basic soups and freezing them in pre-measured ziploc bags. I lasted about a year before getting extremely frustrated with this system and started eating way too much takeout. Food, and the socialization that comes with it, is one of the major sources of joy in human existence and I don't think it's a wise idea to tamper with it.
posted by miyabo at 9:20 AM on August 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


You know, everytime someone concocts some workaround to eating and raising food and all that, years down the line it's found to be pretty much the opposite of the stated goal. Some things you can't improve on. Eat real food, when you can. For those who can't, I truly hope this does what it says on the tin/aseptic container.
posted by nevercalm at 9:21 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]




The idea that this guy has somehow solved the problems of diet and nutrition -- for himself, for other comfortable Americans like him, and for the poor and malnourished throughout the world -- would be laughable if it weren't also so dangerous.

Maybe drinking this stuff is fine. Maybe you develop colon cancer in eighteen months from failing to move your bowels regularly.

File this one on the pile of Silicon Valley Crankery.
posted by samofidelis at 9:22 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a nutrition scientist. Here are my thoughts on Soylent:

If 10 is maximum stupid, this is about an 8.5. It's an example of solutionism at its finest.

It isn't going to kill you, but it is a really poor attempt at providing a palatable form of complete nutrition. Please note that every person listed on the team has the apperance of a brogrammer with no formal education in nutrition. None of them are even mentioned as having an interest in nutrition, just that they are good at operations or business or logistics or marketing. I'm not making the claim that nutrition is a difficult field, just that these guys are rank amateurs more interested in a get-rich-quick startup than providing something useful.
posted by Lord Force Crater at 9:25 AM on August 28, 2013 [47 favorites]


I find the serious "Why can't I just eat the same thing for every meal, every day?" questions just totally alienating and somehow even a little bit creepy.

Yeah, I hear you. I mean, I almost do eat the same thing every day for lunch (Trader Joe's Turkey Chili: good fiber, protein, calories, $2; I haven't found the easy food that can beat it for price/nutrition), but I'm not real happy about it, even if the chili is quite tasty. I get bored, but...it's very easy.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:26 AM on August 28, 2013


Food, and the socialization that comes with it, is one of the major sources of joy in human existence and I don't think it's a wise idea to tamper with it.

I feel like the anti-social, anti-human nature of this product (really of the whole idea), is right there in the title: "Soylent" -- I'd rather eat another person than sit down to lunch with him.
posted by wormwood23 at 9:27 AM on August 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


I do think this project deserves major skepticism (not to be confused with outright dismissal), but I do so love the clamor in these threads to declare oneself far too sensual of a human being to ever brook the idea of not savoring every meal you eat. Commodification puts me off too, but this sort of reaction to it is really silly.
posted by invitapriore at 9:29 AM on August 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


The time-saving aspect is just silly to me, but as a weight loss tool it's at least a little bit intriguing. It sounds like you can just measure out the precise amount of calories you want to consume, and be assured that it contains the right amount of nutritionally important stuff for your daily living. It's kinda hard to ensure that with food. People who want to restrict their calories yet still get 100% of their nutritional requirements, and also vary their food from meal to meal are going to have to come up with a really researched yet practical food plan, and probably measure out all their ingredients anyway. Or they can go with Soylent for 2 months, precisely losing a safe 1.5 pounds a week with all the thinking and planning removed, and then get back to food once they're in better shape.
posted by naju at 9:31 AM on August 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Doesn't Ensure already exist for these purposes? I'd not be the most excited journalist in the world if I had to consume this for a week.
posted by basicchannel at 9:34 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


As I recall* from his interview on Q, the inventor was not saying that he was making a replacement for satisfying, quality meals. He was, basically, making a nutritionally superior substitute for crap food.

Office chow, basically.

*Paraphrase despite link because the CBC hates my freedom and won't load or play for me today.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:36 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


This sounds like a good meal substitute for occasional use. Just because the "inventor" wants to eat nothing else ever doesn't mean everyone else has to.
posted by rocket88 at 9:38 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


> ...the clamor in these threads to declare oneself far too sensual of a human being to ever brook the idea of not savoring every meal you eat.

It is a thing, though. There are times when I'm pretty sure that I could eat the same thing every day and not mind or maybe even not notice -- there are even times when I've done that. But only for a couple days. There's a point at which you're going to crave something else.

If you're one of the rare people for whom eating is purely an intake of nourishment, that's one thing. But eating is also a stimuli. People want to change it up. Our pets want to change it up, for that matter. Everything we interact with in a functional way -- sitting, sleeping, walking -- has sensual components; we want to not only improve the functional aspects to optimize for functionality, we want to modify them for comfort, or variety, or for adaptivity to variations in circumstance; Aeron chairs for the office, cushy sofas for TV viewing, bucket seats in the car...

So you could probably subsist on a diet of Plumpy-Nut, or Nutriloaf, or Ensure, or whatever... but you wouldn't be happy for long. Eventually you'd start sneaking snacks, or "forgetting" to do it and eating out. Unless you never really noticed what you were eating in the first place.
posted by ardgedee at 9:41 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Food, and the socialization that comes with it, is one of the major sources of joy in human existence and I don't think it's a wise idea to tamper with it.

I feel like the anti-social, anti-human nature of this product (really of the whole idea), is right there in the title: "Soylent" -- I'd rather eat another person than sit down to lunch with him.


As a picky-eater introvert I feel pretty much the opposite about this. A lot of my most awkward social situations have come from food and the weird completely unnecessary social expectations around it. And food itself is an extremely important part of actually living and being healthy. If there was a way for me to get the nutritional content I need and also opt-out of the time, money, ethical dilemmas and other complicating aspects of making/buying/eating food than I would sign up for it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately like most other startups this particular project is a bunch of bullshit.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:42 AM on August 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Doesn't Ensure already exist for these purposes?

Ensure doesn't attempt to be 100% nutritionally complete, from what I can gather. It's fine for a meal replacement here or there, but would not work as a full diet replacement.
posted by naju at 9:45 AM on August 28, 2013


ardgedee: "So you could probably subsist on a diet of Plumpy-Nut, or Nutriloaf, or Ensure, or whatever... but you wouldn't be happy for long. Eventually you'd start sneaking snacks, or "forgetting" to do it and eating out. Unless you never really noticed what you were eating in the first place."

I agree, but I think there are very few people that would actually want to use this to replace literally every meal they eat with sci-fi Matrix jizz food. The last thread we had on this was full of apparent incomprehension at the idea that procuring a meal can sometimes be a chore, which is ridiculous whether it's meant in earnest or used as a rhetorical pose.
posted by invitapriore at 9:50 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Eating real food (AKA "eating food") is not a problem, it is a solution.

Trying to solve a solution only creates new problems.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:55 AM on August 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


but I do so love the clamor in these threads to declare oneself far too sensual of a human being to ever brook the idea of not savoring every meal you eat.

Maybe I missed it, but you seem to be the first person in this thread to bring that up.

Sometimes making something for dinner (or lunch or whatever) is a chore. Sometimes I'm tired or indecisive or have "there's nothing to eat!"ism when I look in the fridge. Those nights are cheese-and-and-apple nights, or I throw some baby spinach and a couple hard-boiled eggs in a bowl and call it salad.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eating real food (AKA "eating food") is not a problem, it is a solution.

I love food and I cook meals from scratch most nights of the week and I enjoy doing it. But I can definitely imagine times when it would be really convenient to be able to pop open "complete nutritious meal in a can" and scarf it down. This guy might be doing it all wrong and he, personally, might be doing it for the Wrong Reasons (tm), but the general project is a useful one that many people could find beneficial for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with hating pleasure or hating human society.
posted by yoink at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
-Pollan

This thing does not fit my adopted mantra, good luck and best wishes for all their endeavors.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:00 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this the guy that 'forgot to add iron' to the initial run, and only took a look again when he got sick?

And you have to drink 64oz a day in it's current form.
posted by synthetik at 10:04 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


rtha: "Maybe I missed it, but you seem to be the first person in this thread to bring that up."

It's very much the subtext of this comment as I read it, for one.
posted by invitapriore at 10:04 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The post that started it: How I Stopped Eating Food

I feel like the anti-social, anti-human nature of this product (really of the whole idea), is right there in the title: "Soylent" -- I'd rather eat another person than sit down to lunch with him.

The founder has explicitly said that Soylent isn't a way to do away with food-based socializing:

As any Instagram user knows, food is a big part of life. Food can be art, comfort, science, celebration, romance, or a reason to meet with friends. Most of the time it's just a hassle, though. Americans only eat out for 12% of meals. I think it would be nice to have a default, healthy no hassle meal. Similar to drinking water most of the time, but wine or beer when you're socializing. If you saved money on food at home you would have the freedom to go out more often.

I think the idea's interesting, if it were nutritionally safe. I love cooking, I'm mostly vegetarian and try to eat well, and I love eating with friends.

Sometimes, though, I'm on the run and have to grab a Clif bar, etc, and don't manage to get breakfast/lunch/dinner. Or sometimes in the morning I eat a slice of toast with jam and run out the door. Or sometimes I grab a slice of pizza or a bodega sandwich on the way home because I'm hungry, but it's 10pm, and I don't have time to cook.

I'd wager that a lot of people fall into these behaviors from time to time - and that's pretty unhealthy. If one were to have a baseline of healthy, nutritionally complete food that you could eat regularly -- and then deviate from that as desired to eat meals with friends, co-workers, etc, then I think that would be great.
posted by suedehead at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ensure doesn't attempt to be 100% nutritionally complete, from what I can gather. It's fine for a meal replacement here or there, but would not work as a full diet replacement.

There are products designed for long-term feeding. I'm not sure if Ensure is rated as a sole-source for nutrition, but Abbot Labs claims that Jevity is "Complete, Balanced Nutrition® for long-term tube feeding."

So enjoy a hot mug of:

Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium & Calcium Caseinates, Soy Fiber, Soy Protein Isolate, Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Medium-Chain Triglycerides, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Chloride, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Carrageenan, Taurine, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Cyanocobalamin, and Vitamin D3.
posted by zippy at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2013


In Timmi Duchamp's interesting Marq'ssan series*, the proles of the future live on tube food, which is basically this in different flavors with enough vegetables, fruit or cheese mixed in to give it a bit of texture. Honestly, I'd expect to see at least some of the profit on something like this come from prisons, detention centers and maybe even Amazon-style warehouse jobs where it could be spun as a "choice" made by harried and desperate employees.

Obviously, anyone who wants to eat studge is welcome to - although there's a very good recipe in MFK Fisher's How To Cook A Wolf for something related to make in large quantities that is fairly nutritionally complete but less...soylent-y - sort of a more palatable "nutrition loaf".

*The first volume is somewhat clumsily written and her prose in general does not aim at the lyric, but I think they're remarkable books.
posted by Frowner at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


anything that allows you to side against an engineer and with Gawker is probably going to result in your ego getting diabetes

this sounds like something that would be great to taunt foodies with
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:07 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


So enjoy a hot mug of:

Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium & Calcium Caseinates, Soy Fiber, Soy Protein Isolate, Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Medium-Chain Triglycerides, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Chloride, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Carrageenan, Taurine, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Cyanocobalamin, and Vitamin D3.


The secret ingredient is love (tm).
posted by yoink at 10:08 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


This stuff looks disgusting, and I don't want to eat it.

However, I'm not about ready to decry Soylent's attempt to try something new, or to apply actual scientific principles to nutrition. We've become luddites in far too many areas, and the current trend of screaming "SCIENCE IS BAD" whenever we're talking about food is incredibly troubling.

I roll my eyes at a lot of stuff that comes out of Silicon Valley these days, but I'm going to credit Rob Rhinehart for actually trying something new and different. There's no way that the majority of us are going to be convinced to eat this stuff, but I'd imagine that there may be secondary uses for a "complete" food product that's at least somewhat palatable.
posted by schmod at 10:09 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


We've become luddites in far too many areas, and the current trend of screaming "SCIENCE IS BAD" whenever we're talking about food is incredibly troubling.

It's not SCIENCE IS BAD.

It's SCIENCE HAS NOT SHOWN ITSELF TRUSTWORTHY OVER THE PAST CENTURY WHEN IT'S BEEN FUNDED BY GIANT CORPORATIONS THAT WANT TO SELL US STUFF.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:12 AM on August 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I feel like the anti-social, anti-human nature of this product (really of the whole idea), is right there in the title: "Soylent" -- I'd rather eat another person than sit down to lunch with him.

The rapport at my workplace isn't great. There's little-to-no lunchtime mingling. On the one hand, we could fix that. On the other, we haven't seemed to care. Soylent would save us all cash and time.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:12 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seen below:

> Related Posts
Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife... August 21, 2011

posted by ardgedee at 10:18 AM on August 28, 2013


> It's SCIENCE HAS NOT SHOWN ITSELF TRUSTWORTHY...

Although to be fair, this time around it's more SCIENCE SEEMS TO BE TRYING TO SELL ME SOMETHING FROM THE DYSTOPIAN SIDE OF THE SCI-FI GENRE.
posted by ardgedee at 10:21 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


SCIENCE ANYTHING HAS NOT SHOWN ITSELF TRUSTWORTHY OVER THE PAST CENTURY WHEN IT'S BEEN FUNDED BY GIANT CORPORATIONS THAT WANT TO SELL US STUFF.

Blaming science for the failures of capitalism is misguided. Nobody's saying that a blind faith in technology is good, either, but the US feels particularly anti-science and anti-technology. OMG MSG CHEMICALS IN MY FOOD, VACCINES IN MY KID, FLUORIDE IN THE WATER.

The answer to the harmful effects of science is more science -- fight harmful chemicals in our food with FDA regulations, etc -- not a denial of science itself.
posted by suedehead at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


On the other, we haven't seemed to care.

To elaborate on my previous statement, I can't say that any of us are necessarily happy about the lack of mingling, and in a way I think that resorting to soylent would be us choosing to settle on a sub-optimal-but-still-acceptable nash equilibrium for social interaction. It wouldn't make me particularly happy, but it has a certain terrifying, compelling, capitalist and practical logic to it.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:23 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sigh.

First, let's talk about the the massive amount of damage this is going to do to the intestinal flora. Over a very short period of time, the enzymes that process things like lactose, fructose, and other core components of food are going to start to stop being produced, since there isn't anything for them to do. Then the by-products of those sugars being processed that feed the intestinal bacteria farm that is the human digestive system are going to start starving and dying, causing absorption issues for actual nutrients. So now you are making it harder for the intestines to actually extract nutrients from whatever you are putting into the system to begin with. With no fiber or other non-digestible roughage in the diet, the slurry of whatever this is mixed with the mucus that lines the intestines will start to thin out and expose the surface of the intestinal tract, creating pockets of inflamed intestinal tissue, leading to diverticulitis and scarring, making even less available surface area in the intestinal tract for absorption of nutrients.

So after a few months, maybe upwards of a year or so, you have rendered the intestinal tract unable to process "real food", impaired the functional ability of the gut to process nutrients, and pretty much flushed out your gut bacteria to the point where you can't eat anything without getting gas cramps and explosive diarrhea. Oh, and we haven't even covered the secondary effects of effectively lobotomizing your secondary brain. You know, where 90+% of your serotonin and dopamine are processed. So you've just given yourself practically irreversible depression and can no longer eat anything.

I hear that after about 4 weeks without food you no longer have hunger pains. That's pretty much when the entire gastrointestinal system shuts down almost completely, and stops releasing any of the hormones that trigger hunger in the brain. By that time, the only way to get nutrients into the system is through intravenous feeding, and then several weeks of slowing attempting to kick-start the intestines to start processing food again.

To address people who find the idea creepy:
It is creepy. It is something that socially damaged people do, either because they would rather spend their time doing something other than being social, since they don't know how or don't like other people enough to learn how to interact with them on a common level. Eating together forces us to recognize a base similarity with another person; the need to consume food to sustain life. This is something that the "awkward, typical nerd" would rather not have to face, that they are just like everyone else, i.e. not special. It sucks, but there it is. They want to be different, and live entirely in their heads. Most of them hate their bodies (and that's not entirely their fault; see any thread about marketing/advertising/social body consciousness/anti-obesity campaigns) and would probably pay a whole lot of money to put their brains in a robot body. Like, seriously, full on Sealab 2021, robot body.

Anyway. I do wonder if they offer more than one flavor...
posted by daq at 10:24 AM on August 28, 2013 [50 favorites]


However, I'm not about ready to decry Soylent's attempt to try something new, or to apply actual scientific principles to nutrition. We've become luddites in far too many areas, and the current trend of screaming "SCIENCE IS BAD" whenever we're talking about food is incredibly troubling.

Let me get this straight. Because I believe in leaving the science of nutrition to the dietitians, I'm a luddite? Is that right?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:25 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


but I think there are very few people that would actually want to use this to replace literally every meal they eat with sci-fi Matrix jizz food

It still sounds like a silly idea. If you want to skip a meal, there is probably no need for a 100% nutritionally complete substitute. Plenty of folks do the equivalent of a quick PBJ meal with no ill effects. If you want a more nutritious formulated meal, they already exist. Which most folks try to avoid using on a regular basis, because doing it too often gets to be tedious and disgusting, and possibly costly.

100% nutritionally complete every meal only becomes necessary if one is skipping lots of (or every) meals. In which case, I call BS, because what kind of lunatic does that voluntarily?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:25 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Celsius1414: "It's not SCIENCE IS BAD.

It's SCIENCE HAS NOT SHOWN ITSELF TRUSTWORTHY OVER THE PAST CENTURY WHEN IT'S BEEN FUNDED BY GIANT CORPORATIONS THAT WANT TO SELL US STUFF.
"

The statistics on malnutrition and hunger do not even remotely support this argument.

The track record hasn't been perfect by any means, but we need to remember to mention the very significant successes of modern food science when we debate its overall merit.
posted by schmod at 10:26 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


"MEALS™ was CHOW™ with added sugar and fat. The theory was that if you ate enough MEALS™ you would a) get very fat, and b) die of malnutrition."
posted by Wolfdog at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wolfdog: "MEALS™ was CHOW™ with added sugar and fat. The theory was that if you ate enough MEALS™ you would a) get very fat, and b) die of malnutrition."

Source?
posted by wormwood23 at 10:30 AM on August 28, 2013


Rhinehart claims to spend $155 per month eating Soylent, getting about 2500 kcals per day. As someone who fed three to five people plus guests on $350 per month for over five years, that is an incredible feat. Yes, we spent less than he does per person, yes, we ate mostly organic whole foods, and no, we don't live on a farm, but feeding our family on that amount of money came with an enormous time expense. To put it in perspective, my partner is a professional chef (previously both a professional butcher and baker) and I was a stay at home mom. I sat down and figured it out once, and between my husband and I, we spent over 40 hours per week cooking, baking, canning, freezing, gardening, etc. It was literally a full time job.

As our children got older and more running around ensued, it became less possible to do this. One of the reasons I went back to work was to be able to stop obsessing about our grocery costs and just buy a salad from Subway twice a week. When the kids eat at school or school functions, and the hubs and I both eat at work, it's like having a day off. It's nice. I say this as a person who loves to cook.

Yeah, I could buy Pediasure and feed that to my littles, but it's nearly $3 for 240 calories.

I'd give this stuff a shot.
posted by Athene at 10:33 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


daq: "To address people who find the idea creepy:
It is creepy. It is something that socially damaged people do, either because they would rather spend their time doing something other than being social, since they don't know how or don't like other people enough to learn how to interact with them on a common level. Eating together forces us to recognize a base similarity with another person; the need to consume food to sustain life. This is something that the "awkward, typical nerd" would rather not have to face, that they are just like everyone else, i.e. not special. It sucks, but there it is. They want to be different, and live entirely in their heads. Most of them hate their bodies (and that's not entirely their fault; see any thread about marketing/advertising/social body consciousness/anti-obesity campaigns) and would probably pay a whole lot of money to put their brains in a robot body. Like, seriously, full on Sealab 2021, robot body.
"

See, this desire to make sweeping statements about the internal lives of people who are receptive to the idea of a nutritional food substitute for occasional use is way more creepy and awful to me than the aforementioned food substitute itself.
posted by invitapriore at 10:35 AM on August 28, 2013 [31 favorites]


It is creepy. It is something that socially damaged people do, either because they would rather spend their time doing something other than being social, since they don't know how or don't like other people enough to learn how to interact with them on a common level.

I don't quite understand this claim. Preparing a meal is not an inherently social activity (I mean, you can make it one, certainly, but I would guess the majority of domestic food preparation is a solo activity). I live with someone, but I do pretty much all the cooking and I do it by myself, for the most part. I may socialize while I cook if she happens to be in earshot, but if anything the food preparation time tends to be socially "isolating" relative to the rest of our activities while we're at home together. I don't see why we couldn't sit down and socialize over a can of Soylent as much as we do over a prepared meal, or why the lunch I pack myself before going to work makes me any more inclined to seek out company to share it with than would a hypothetical can of Soylent. I think you're just spinning out a projected image of a hypothetical nerd and weaving the Soylent into that image--but there's really nothing about Soylent that, in itself, drives one to be antisocial. If you're a reclusive nerd today you can still prepare every single one of your meals from scratch and never talk to another human being in your life. Or you can get packaged food delivered to you by Amazon.com and never talk to a human being in your life. I don't see how Soylent changes this equation one way or the other.
posted by yoink at 10:35 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


The track record hasn't been perfect by any means, but we need to remember to mention the very significant successes of modern food science when we debate its overall merit.

Again, it's not All Science Is Bad. Far from it.

But for every Norman Borlaug, there is an army of corporate scientists synthesizing fake dietary supplements or figuring out how to make their product fit the latest food fad (Fat-Free, Carb-Free, adding Omegas, etc. etc.).
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:39 AM on August 28, 2013


It Making assumptions about people is creepy. It is something that socially damaged people do, either because they would rather spend their time doing something other than being social, since they don't know how or don't like other people enough to learn how to interact with them on a common level.
posted by jaduncan at 10:42 AM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not picking on you 2N2222, but this caught my eye, and has been repeated often enough to warrant a response:

"...Plenty of folks do the equivalent of a quick PBJ meal just skipping a meal or two with no ill effects."

Ok, this is a little personal rant on food in our society, but also from personal experience shows some very strange things, as far as I am concerned:

You do not need to eat 3 meals a day. In fact, you probably shouldn't eat 3 meals a day, every day. I might be a good idea to skip a meal every once in a while, to let your body process all the food that you've stuffed into it. You'd be amazed at just how much energy your body can extract from that one meal.

So the whole idea of replacing a meal with some kind of nutrient slurry is ridiculous.

It wasn't that long ago that our predecessors went without eating more than one meal a day. And I am not talking about prehistory. I am talking about less than 100 years ago. I am also talking about the majority of humans on the planet today. What the typical American eats in one day would feed a family of 4 for a week in some parts of the world. It would also probably make that family of 4 sick for days as well, due to the extremely high amount of salt and sugar added to most processed American foods.

And no, I am not going all Polan on everyone. I'm simply pointing to the fact that until recently, the only people stupid enough to eat more than once or twice a day were the aristocrats of whatever society, and they tended to not be so healthy, and usually kind of sucked at being good people. So, yeah, emulating their eating habits seems like the wrong thing to do.

Mind you, I am fully aware that there are some roles in society where keeping well fed is a necessity. An active duty soldier, for example. Or someone who works in construction, who has to fuel a large amount of muscle mass that is regularly in need of repair due to extreme use. But someone who sits in an office? Sorry, no. At best you need to find a method to regulate your blood sugar levels. But that does not involve eating meals. That involves grazing on small amounts of "snack size" servings of food over the course of the day and never actually filling your stomach (unless you want to cause the post-meal coma, a la Thanksgiving dinner).
posted by daq at 10:43 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sigh, again.

Really? You think I'm talking about you, don't you.
Maybe I am.
More than likely, I'm talking about myself, or my experiences. Sure, anec-data. But aren't we supposed to allow people to share their lived experiences? Or is that only for people who are oppressed.

If you still want to argue about it, take it to me-mail.
posted by daq at 10:47 AM on August 28, 2013


Most of them hate their bodies (and that's not entirely their fault; see any thread about marketing/advertising/social body consciousness/anti-obesity campaigns) and would probably pay a whole lot of money to put their brains in a robot body. Like, seriously, full on Sealab 2021, robot body.

I like good meals and I'm pretty happy with my appearance and human bodies in general, but hell yeah give me that immortal robot body
posted by theodolite at 10:51 AM on August 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


What the typical American eats in one day would feed a family of 4 for a week in some parts of the world.

Nope. The typical American male consumes 2,475 calories. This means that your family of 4 for a week would subsist on roughly 88 calories a day, per person. That's not "feeding a family", that's flat out starvation.
posted by suedehead at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Please note that every person listed on the team has the appearance of a brogrammer with no formal education in nutrition.

This word so accurately captures the individuals that tend to engage in this type of behavior that I can picture them in my mind's eye. Bravo.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:58 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blaming science for the failures of capitalism is misguided.

I'm blaming capitalism for failures of science.

Plus, nothing about this scheme is scientific. All the claims (including cost and nutritional efficacy) made by the creator are only backed up by short-term "experiments" reported on by the creator himself and volunteers. Nothing claimed so far is trustworthy. Nothing claimed so far is scientific in the least.

The crowdfunding will supposedly result in formal analysis. Until then, this is the scientific equivalent of a hobbyist's claims and should be treated as such.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:59 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


wait, can the robot body smoke weed
posted by theodolite at 11:03 AM on August 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm continually astonished by the amount of vitriol around this stuff. I mean I don't have any idea if it's good or safe or whatever but some of the characterizations in this thread are disgusting. Something about this idea makes people some sort of antisocial monster? Creepy? Damaged? What the fuck?
posted by Skorgu at 11:07 AM on August 28, 2013 [19 favorites]


I'm continually astonished by the amount of vitriol around this stuff.

Food is important and carries tons of profound associations for people. Products like this one are abhorrent to people for whom food is more than the bodily equivalent of filling up the tank.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:12 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm simply pointing to the fact that until recently, the only people stupid enough to eat more than once or twice a day were the aristocrats of whatever society, and they tended to not be so healthy, and usually kind of sucked at being good people. So, yeah, emulating their eating habits seems like the wrong thing to do.

I'd really like to know where you're getting this idea from. I've spent a lot of time researching the pioneer era (1800-1900 America) and there are a ton of first person sources from pioneer women that kept extensive records of how much food was being consumed by the household. During the summers most farm laborers increased their caloric intake by 180% over the winter months intake that led to them eating nearly 4,000 calories/day. Granted, they were doing hard work, but eating 3 meals a day with a snack or two isn't really a new thing for the working class.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 11:15 AM on August 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm continually astonished by the amount of vitriol around this stuff.

Just wait until Nobama mandates Soylent for everyone as part of his new healthcare-welfare regime. You heard it here first, sheeple.
posted by naju at 11:17 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sure, it starts off as a relatively healthy meal-in-a-glass, but then Marketing gets involved, and adds some HFCS, offeres chocolate, cheese(ish), and bacon flavors. At that point the market research shows that people are turned off by the soybean/lentil content, so they switch to modified starch for texture, and add carbonation. They still market it as a health food, though, and refuse to let it be stocked with the other sodas, afraid it'll hurt their image.
posted by Blackanvil at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm continually astonished by the amount of vitriol around this stuff. I mean I don't have any idea if it's good or safe or whatever but some of the characterizations in this thread are disgusting. Something about this idea makes people some sort of antisocial monster? Creepy? Damaged? What the fuck?
it's weird, but it seems to be very much part of A Thing, cf. the people who absolutely lose all of their shit and begin sputtering fiercely at the mention of manned space travel, those who flop sweat hearing about Elon Musk, the bitcoin-induced colic from a year ago

you get the sense that some people should just read some cs lewis or tolkein and just get it out of their system
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:25 AM on August 28, 2013


I don't think Soylent or equivalent People Chow ideas are creepy because they enable people to avoid the social aspects of eating. I don't eat with people during most of the workweek, and I don't think that's creepy or weird. I think it's a little creepy and unhealthy to want to divorce yourself from the sensual pleasures of eating and the effort of keeping yourself fed. Everyone has times when they're too tired or lazy or sick to go to the effort to feed themselves, and you might as well turn to Soylent or Nutriloaf instead of PB&J/microwave meal/Clif bar/whatever. But almost all of your meals? I don't know, it seems like an unhealthy, unnecessary sort of asceticism, and an unnecessary denial of one of the body's main avenues for physical pleasure. If it's unhealthy to tie food to pleasure too much (and I'm not denying that it is), then it's also unhealthy to completely divorce food from pleasure too.

I think discussions of food and nutrition can quickly generate vitriol because there's this orthorexic undertone to a lot of such discussions, but with so much about nutrition being poorly or not completely understood, everyone is talking past each other. It seems like people hear a lot of messages about nutrition that basically boil down to "everything you like is bad for you," and it leads to these defensive reactions that run the spectrum from "fuck you, I'll eat my Big Macs if I want!" to "fuck it, I'll eat Nutriloaf, then I won't have to worry about the morass of ethical/health/personal choices inherent in feeding myself."
posted by yasaman at 11:26 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume this will work out roughly as well as Nutripon does in The Sheep Look Up - John Brunner's prescience never fails to startle.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2013


I'm continually astonished by the amount of vitriol around this stuff.

For my part, it's the fact that this is the absolute zenith of Silicon Valley hubris. I mean seriously, what the HELL. This guy is admittedly a coder whose entire experience base is sitting around programming all day and basically reading Wikipedia entries (and to be fair, maybe a couple journal articles) about nutrients found in food. He doesn't even pretend to any training or expertise in medicine or nutrition. His entire basis for the idea that this stuff is safe, let alone a good idea, seems to be "hell, I'd eat it." To the extent he claims it's going to help "feed the poor," I also see no evidence that he's ever manifested any past training, experience, or expertise in actually addressing hunger and malnutrition issues either in the US or in the developing world.

For example, see this Washington Post piece from a few months back. That reporter actually had the temerity to interview a pharmacist / nutritionist who said "He basically made medical food.... If he wanted to switch to a liquid diet, those are already available."

So basically, through his cluelessness, he has fumbled onto an existing solution for people who have trouble eating standard food for some reason, adding as far as I can tell no innovation whatsoever, and yet he is being trumpeted from the skies as some sort of new force in hunger relief who's going to "disrupt food" and yadda yadda bullshit bullshit.

So, being unable to speak for anyone else in the thread, that is the source of my personal animosity: the thorough and profound arrogance of programmers like this guy who think they can innovate anything, "hack" anything, invent everything, based on sheer force of will plus some dicking around with Rails, accompanied (as it always seems to be) by an utter disregard or ignorance for people who actually have expertise, years of experience, and training in the respective fields they are "disrupting."
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2013 [31 favorites]


My main gripes with soylent:

1. Last I checked, there isn't a nutritionist on the team. It's a back of the napkin formula mass produced without oversight. Granted the body can subsist on some sparse diets.

2. It's outrageously expensive for the nutrition value.

3. Assuming subsidized, forcing impoverished people drink calories is asinine unless they dose the formula to increase satiety. Even then there's plenty of food. The bottle neck is distribution not production.
posted by dirtyid at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ok, link time:

Why vitamin supplaments (which I am assuming is how they are replacing the necessary things you'd normally be getting through actual food) NY Times opinion piece by a Dr. Offit.

Caloric measurements don't tell you anything useful The "Calorie In/Calorie Out Myth"

The Enteric Nervous System: Think Twice.

And sugar: 9 reasons to avoid sugar...

Start with these and tell me that ANY idea attempt at replacing actual food that is available on the market is a good idea.

And as someone stated above (on preview, thanks dirtyid), the problem with malnutrition is delivery, not production.
posted by daq at 11:30 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something about this idea makes people some sort of antisocial monster?

Yeah, I work from home so my lunch time involves a trip to the fridge, selecting the most convenient container of leftovers in the fridge, deciding whether or not it can/should eat it cold, and then relaxing a bit eating my food while the dog stares at me with that hopeful look on her face. I worry a little bit about portions. I know that I need to eat enough to keep me from pigging out at dinner and keep me from getting too hungry before then but I'm also overweight so I'm trying to eat less. I've eaten the same thing for lunch everyday for a week straight and it doesn't bother me. I'd skip lunch entirely if I didn't get so hungry and tired in the afternoon when I do. I don't like having to prepare the food, I don't like having to decide what to have, and I don't like having to try and figure out how much of it I need to eat.

Dinner is a different deal. I hate cooking for myself but I like cooking for others and I really like good, tastey food.

As long as Soylent is healthy (and like, they consulted with a dietitian or some other nutricianal expert to make sure), filling, and doesn't taste awful, I'd eat it for lunch (and maybe reintroduce breakfast into my life) at least three times a week. It's already a decidedly unsocial activity for me, I don't really care about flavor or variety and it would probably be healthier for me than what I'm doing now. If I could just weight out an appropriate portion of this stuff and sip on that all day and then have a normal dinner, I'd be a happy camper. After reading this thread, I'm seriously considering doing it with Ensure or Slimfast shakes or something.
posted by VTX at 11:38 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


daq: there are commercial, FDA-approved products that are specifically for sole-source feeding. Jevity for example. Maybe Soylent isn't as good or as healthy as these, I don't know, but it's not like this is untrodden ground scientifically.

Celsius1414
Products like this one are abhorrent to people for whom food is more than the bodily equivalent of filling up the tank.

Why can't it be both though? I love food, I love cooking and I especially love sharing those things with friends and loved ones but I still eat tons of meals that are just 'filling up the tank'.
posted by Skorgu at 11:40 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who needs fish and chips when you can have Soylent Green and Flav-o-fibes?

If you're not eating that fish and chips, I'll take it off your hands.
posted by arcticseal at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2013


So, I asked one of the Bachelor Chow questions (the most recent one). I did a bit more research.

Ensure is for interim sole-source nutrition, meaning that you can live off of it for a couple of days and be fine. Jevity and all its variants are for prolonged sole-source nutrition. Here's a discussion that a layman is having about the years that their kid could live because they got tube-fed in Jevity, and the mild side-effects that they had. Stuff like dehydration and shitty dental health seems to be the common side effects, but those are mostly side effects of being on a tube diet: non-tube-fed people can also drink water and brush their teeth afterwards without somebody like that.

So this is really, really not untrodden ground. As in, it's 50 years old. Jevity is also cheaper than Soylent for 2000kcals/day and now, after the Soylent price increase, for 2500kcals/day as well. This is probably because of the whole multinational corporation and economies of scale thing.
posted by curuinor at 11:43 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


julie_of_the_jungle:
I was referring to the colloquial name for Gout, aka the "Rich Man's Disease".

As for the pioneer aspect, I believe I addressed it in another post (or maybe the same one) about the necessity for caloric intake due to heavy labor (and even you state that in winter the caloric intake drops, which in today's modern society, does not seem to happen, especially with those who do not do heavy manual labor).
posted by daq at 11:45 AM on August 28, 2013


For my part, it's the fact that this is the absolute zenith of Silicon Valley hubris. I mean seriously, what the HELL. This guy is admittedly a coder whose entire experience base is sitting around programming all day and basically reading Wikipedia entries (and to be fair, maybe a couple journal articles) about nutrients found in food.

It really is a new golden age of hubris, but they need to step it up a notch to match their forebearers. I keep waiting for someone to propose building a dome over San Jose or damming and draining the bay.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:46 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why can't it be both though? I love food, I love cooking and I especially love sharing those things with friends and loved ones but I still eat tons of meals that are just 'filling up the tank'.

Sure. But fake food fuel is a solved problem -- I can walk out of my office and visit any of probably 100 places in the local area selling fake food fuel.

And on the "solving world hunger" front, the food half doesn't need any more hacking. We have more than we know what to do with -- as mentioned above, distribution is the issue.

This half of the problem has the added bonus of being much more in line with the specialized abilities of computer programmers and their kin than nutrition science.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:47 AM on August 28, 2013


curuinor: Is Jevity used by adults at all? BTW, your here link doesn't exist...
posted by jaduncan at 11:47 AM on August 28, 2013


daq: I don't think you're disagreeing with me at all. Though my big point is that "I need something quick and nutritionally complete" for the occasional no fuss meal is probably overstating things. And worse, downing-that-slurry-three-times-a-day-to-stay-healthy doesn't strike me as the mark of overall health at all, even if the slurry is nutritionally complete.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2013



I do so love the clamor in these threads to declare oneself far too sensual of a human being to ever brook the idea of not savoring every meal you eat.

...

It's very much the subtext of this comment as I read it, for one.
I think your imagined subtext is a bit much.

What I said in reference to past Ask MetaFilter threads about people seriously asking about eating the same thing for every meal every day was that 1) I look forward to eating, even if it's hastily prepared junk like PBJ and 2) I find the idea of someone seriously looking for bachelor chow (same substance prepared solely for nutritional content, not taste or enjoyment, eaten for every meal every day) totally alienating.

I'm not saying I treat every meal as a gustatorial odyssey. I've eaten plenty of "nutrition paste" energy bars while in a rush/on the go/whatever and although they often taste like sawdust, they are indeed a simple and convenient means of ingesting nutrition. If I went to someone's house and all that was on their shelves were cases and cases of MetRX bars (or Soylent), though, it would be creepy.
posted by usonian at 11:55 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The here link, from a parent of somebody who got tube-fed. The side effects are from tube-feeding, not the Jevity itself, is what I'm saying here. People get the runs sometimes, and that seems to be it.

Jevity as formulated is only for adults (that is, weaned people). There is a range of separate products for everybody from diabetics to non-weaned children to people with big honking ulcers to people on dialysis to people with acute lung injury to other various sundry conditions.. Here's a brochure. Here's another brochure. Here's a brochure with some Nestle products.

I do wonder how the Soylent people are going to get better at making industrial-scale food than Nestle, who simply have to change their marketing to completely crush them. That seems a losing proposition.
posted by curuinor at 11:58 AM on August 28, 2013


I do wonder how the Soylent people are going to get better at making industrial-scale food than Nestle

They don't have to be better, they just have to market it properly. Airborne doesn't do shit and that stuff sells like hotcakes.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 12:00 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Skorgu:
I've been on Jevity (twice, actually). I do not recommend it.
When switching back to actual solid food, there can be a rather horrid problem with bowel control due to a sudden "flooding" sensation. I also refer to it as "my bowels have suddenly discovered gravity". /TMI

As for people wanting a "no-thinking/don't want to have to decide what to eat" thing? Sorry, no robot body for you. Maybe think about having a snickers instead. Keeps your blood sugar up or something. Unless you are allergic to peanuts. Then you are SOL.

Here's my mea culpa: ok, enough with the bad and probably offensive jokes. I get it, you are sensitive about how much I think you are weird for wanting to not have to think about feeding yourself. I used to hate it too. I used to eat the same thing for every meal, every day, for years, because I didn't want to think about it at the time. I have paid for it. More than most people do. This is why I am adamant that it is WRONG WRONG WRONG to want this. It hurts you more than you can imagine, and will lead to further health problems down the line which may become intractable to fix after a point, at least with today's medical technology. See my links above about what you are not thinking about regarding food and your body. Yes, it is your body, but I really wish people would stop trying to say that they should be able to do whatever they want to their body and not have to deal with the repercussions. For those who are going to leap to some allegorical what if, I am never going to tell a woman that she can't have an abortion (to be VERY clear here), but I will also not hesitate to make sure that it is an informed decision, if my opinion is asked (that's bolded, and it is a very important distinction. Please, please, please do not read into that anything related to the fact that I am a white/cis-male. I will never tell anyone what to do, but I will have an opinion, right or wrong, about things). But I also have some very direct experience with food related injuries, food allergies, food intolerance, bad food habits, attempting to fix those bad food habits, and I try to read extensively from reputable sources about how the human body work, especially regarding how to keep the human body working properly, considering I don't want to die, I don't want to suffer, and I don't want anyone else to die, and I don't want to sit by idly while other people suffer. If someone has a better way to communicate this notion, feel free to educate me, but I am also very aware of The Backfire Effect. So, until someone finds a way around that, well, bleah, guess I'm stepping on toes.


And back to the whole "creepy" thing:
It makes me think of the movie "Fortress" (starring Christopher Lambert), where the main bad guy was this cyborg that couldn't eat real food and could only survive on some kind of weird slurry/babyfood gunk. He was also played by the guy who was the father from That 70's Show, and he was massively creeptastic, like whoa.
posted by daq at 12:05 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The main thing that annoys me about Soylent is the profound degree to which it does not deserve the attention. Maybe trying to live on it is a bad idea: people embark on bad-idea food experiments all of the time and its none of my concern: as a general rule their bodies let them know in no uncertain terms when the "enough of this bullshit" point has been reached. It sure as shit isn't going to solve poverty-caused hunger because packaging basic nutrition units has never been the root of poverty-caused hunger.

Food is a multi-trillion dollar industry. Soylent is its Segway.
posted by nanojath at 12:13 PM on August 28, 2013


It really is a new golden age of hubris, but they need to step it up a notch to match their forebearers. I keep waiting for someone to propose building a dome over San Jose or damming and draining the bay.

Some of them are trying to live forever, so that's something, right?
posted by Area Man at 12:19 PM on August 28, 2013


I find the idea of someone seriously looking for bachelor chow (same substance prepared solely for nutritional content, not taste or enjoyment, eaten for every meal every day) totally alienating.

One of the more interesting things about stuff like Soylent is that, in theory anyway, the cycle of craving eventually falls away. There's 1) cravings based on not getting enough of something your body needs, 2) cravings based on addiction to stuff like sugar and carbs, and 3) hunger from your stomach being empty. #1 is addressed by the nutritional completeness, #2 is addressed by removing yourself from the sugar-and-carb-heavy western diet, and #3 is addressed by getting the adequate amount of food in your system. So with some time and discipline the obsessing over food - constant variety, sweets and 'guilty pleasures', etc. may just disappear, leading to a healthier approach to food overall. Possibly.
posted by naju at 12:26 PM on August 28, 2013


I wonder how much we're letting our associations get out ahead of us in terms of what we infer about people from certain behaviors, and whether we're being over-aggressive in normalizing certain cultural ideals here. I don't really have much personal stake in this, since even though food stresses me out on occasion due to my general difficulties with time management, I eat mostly home-cooked meals, I occasionally cook just for fun, and I generally stay away from junk and fast food. It's more that I take issue with the tendency to attach personality judgments to behaviors that don't have any inherent moral component. So, if you want to replace every meal you eat with something like Soylent, I personally would have a difficult time empathizing with that desire. I wouldn't go so far as to label it creepy, though, because the chain of inferences that takes you from "this person only eats nutritional paste" to "this person is threatening" seems pretty fraught to me.
posted by invitapriore at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some of them are trying to live forever, so that's something, right?

That's what I'm talking about! It's positively Edwardian! Mind you, if I thought they had even the slightest chance of being remotely successful, I would be terrified.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:53 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, if you want to replace every meal you eat with something like Soylent, I personally would have a difficult time empathizing with that desire. I wouldn't go so far as to label it creepy,

I would. Just as I find people who claim not to like music or not to read books creepy. I can't help it. It feels like they're not trying. Here is this stuff that can gives so much quality to so many people's lives ... and they're rejecting it.

Seriously. Unless (in the case of music) you have a hearing issue, or (in the case of books) you can't read, or (in the case of food) you've got some kind of palate/olfactory dysfunction, I doubt I could ever really trust you on a human level.

And if it's some kind anti-famine recipe we're talking about, well that's a different conversation. Though I'd argue that if you're serious about relieving famine, the goal should be to invest in the various political, economic, agricultural, ecological infrastructures that allow for resilient food supplies, not some GLOP that keeps people alive and nothing else (dog food for humans except worse, because dogs seem to like dog food). And let's face it, this GLOP will eventually end up as the basis for school lunch programs. It's just good business.
posted by philip-random at 12:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some of them are trying to live forever, so that's something, right?

That's what I'm talking about! It's positively Edwardian! Mind you, if I thought they had even the slightest chance of being remotely successful, I would be terrified.


I agree. An immortal Larry Ellison would be too much to bear. The world of yacht racing might never get to recover.
posted by Area Man at 1:02 PM on August 28, 2013


daq: It makes me think of the movie "Fortress" (starring Christopher Lambert), where the main bad guy was this cyborg that couldn't eat real food and could only survive on some kind of weird slurry/babyfood gunk. He was also played by the guy who was the father from That 70's Show, and he was massively creeptastic, like whoa.

Are you sure you aren't talking about the movie Robocop? Except Red Foreman was the bad guy in that and it was Peter Weller (as Robocop) who had to be fed the goop.
posted by gucci mane at 1:17 PM on August 28, 2013


invitapriore: Food is not an object of culture: it is a focal point upon which a culture can be looked at. That is, it is a subject of culture.

By this, I mean that food has cultural significance basically everywhere in all cultures, and it's not a question of if but how they express that great significance. Perhaps modern Western culture has less of an emphasis on food than all the other cultures which have ever been, but that makes modern Western culture deranged, not all the other cultures.

Whatever is the essential part of our humanity, food has something to do with it. Give us this day our daily bread...

And I have pretty much absolute knowledge that giving this to famine-struck people won't do shit for the famine-struck people, because the famine-struck people can't produce it, even if they get an open-source recipe: how the fuck are you supposed to source food-grade iron supplements for industrial production in Somalia? If you could source food-grade iron supplements for industrial production, couldn't you just source grain and vegetables?
posted by curuinor at 1:24 PM on August 28, 2013


invitapriore: So, if you want to replace every meal you eat with something like Soylent, I personally would have a difficult time empathizing with that desire. I wouldn't go so far as to label it creepy, though, because the chain of inferences that takes you from "this person only eats nutritional paste" to "this person is threatening" seems pretty fraught to me.

I think the marketing for this thing (which is the only new thing they're doing here, re. Jevity, Plumpy-nut, etc.) is specifically creepy, though: post-human food. The whole idea in the Soylent Green story is one about a society making a suicidal choice for their food supply. I don't think that this Soylent is suicidal, but it's food made to enable obsessiveness and isolation.

Also, I agree: makes more sense to judge the product, not the people who use/make it.
posted by wormwood23 at 1:31 PM on August 28, 2013


wormwood23, I'm pretty sure that that line is from Good Omens -- if I recall correctly, those are two products created by (the character) Famine.
posted by sldownard at 1:45 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


gucci mane: Nope, I mean Fortress. One of the main plot devices used in this was that the Kurtwood Smith (that's the guy from Robocop and Fortress, and That 70's Show, among a ton of other things) was only able to eat the goop, and when he eats or drinks anything else, it causes him to pretty much shut down, metabolically, which is used against him so the wife of Christopher Lambert's character can try and escape. It's surprising, but the bad movie science in this movie actually makes a whole lot of sense, if you think about how in order for you to be able to process a whole bunch of varied foods, you have to have the right mix of gut flora to handle breaking it down.
posted by daq at 2:26 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also I worry about those who (as wikipedia says) are recreating the recipe at home; how do you measure 6µg of vitamin B6 for your daily dose?

Well, I only have 5µg cups, so the leftover 1µg is guesswork, I'll admit, but after a few goes you generally get the feel for it. A "heaped" cup is more often than not right on the money.

B9 will work as a substitute in a pinch, but you need to reduce the quantity by a third, and you may need to add a little more butter because it can be slightly "gritty".
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:20 PM on August 28, 2013


> Eating together forces us to recognize a base similarity with another person; the need to consume food to sustain life.

Bleh. In Indonesia families do not, as a rule, eat together - they consider it slightly bizarre to do so. I don't feel that their culture is somehow sick as a result.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:25 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


This might actually be kind of awesome as a BRAT diet or a baseline diet from which to test for food allergies.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:46 PM on August 28, 2013


Every time that I open a can of Dick Van Patten cat-food for our nice cats, I always think that someone should market a similar brand of cat-food designed for humans.

I also always think of the song by Firefall, for which a critic for Creem magazine described the bass-line as having a Dick-Van-Patten-style-menace.
posted by ovvl at 7:02 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to credit Rob Rhinehart for actually trying something new and different

I can definitely imagine times when it would be really convenient to be able to pop open "complete nutritious meal in a can" and scarf it down.


This is not a new idea. We have had such products since the late 1940s - there are many people out there who do not have the capacity to eat but who are alive and kicking because we feed them through tubes. If you don't care about eating food, and you don't care about palatability, then enteral feeding products, supplemented with fiber, are for you. Novartis, Nestle, Abbott, and Ross all make appropriate products. Google and enjoy.
posted by gingerest at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, one would think that the fact that people are sometimes in a coma for 20 years would be a giveaway that we do have complete foods.
posted by jaduncan at 12:56 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just wait until Nobama mandates Soylent for everyone as part of his new healthcare-welfare regime. You heard it here first, sheeple.

Considering the existing amount of vitriol from Tea Partiers, Randroids, et al. towards TEH POORZ, I don't think this proposal is going to come from, uh, Nobama.
posted by dhartung at 1:06 AM on August 29, 2013


it's weird, but it seems to be very much part of A Thing, cf. the people who absolutely lose all of their shit and begin sputtering fiercely at the mention of manned space travel, those who flop sweat hearing about Elon Musk, the bitcoin-induced colic from a year ago

You mean, the people who are not pollyannish about schemes that make little to no sense in the real world, other than in the technofantasies of deranged engineers, who are so impolite as to point out, e.g. that no, HE3 mining on the moon isn't economically feasible or that we don't need completely new, unproven public transport technology when a simple high speed train might do?

I mean, it's always fun to psycho analyse your opponents, but a certain biblical saying about beams and motes comes to mind...
posted by MartinWisse at 1:54 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a thread on Soylent's website comparing it with Jevity. It contains little substance but you do get this message from Rob The Creator:

Soylent is not the first drink with calories in it, nor was Google the first search engine. There are many liquid diets. You'd probably be surprised how long you can survive on just cow's milk. No one says 'solid diets exist already' when someone makes a new food. I don't see how the viscosity makes up an entire category. I considered Ensure but found it much too expensive, low calorie, unpalatable, and an ingredient make up that was far from complete or optimal.

The goal of soylent is to make something ideal, not just a quick shot that will get rid of hunger for a few hours. I need something that allows me to run and lift and think, not just survive, and something considerably cheaper than normal food. A big part of soylent is its personalization as well. There is no 2000 calorie human. If you want an ideal diet you have to personalize it.

I do not plan to patent soylent as the patenting of "plumpy nut" interfered with its capacity to help the hungry, which is a big focus of soylent.

posted by Going To Maine at 6:25 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


People who want to restrict their calories yet still get 100% of their nutritional requirements, and also vary their food from meal to meal are going to have to come up with a really researched yet practical food plan, and probably measure out all their ingredients anyway. Or they can go with Soylent for 2 months, precisely losing a safe 1.5 pounds a week with all the thinking and planning removed, and then get back to food once they're in better shape.

But once they get back to real food after 2 months on Soylent, how are they going to manage their caloric intake? Without learning how to portion out real food and assemble healthy meals, this hypothetical person is just going to put all the weight they lost on Soylent right back on, and probably a little extra. And then they can go back on they Soylent diet for a few months, drop some pounds, and... what, start the cycle again? Why not just start out learning how to eat real food in reasonable amounts, instead of launching oneself into a destructive yo-yo diet cycle that will eventually stop working when one's metabolism stops responding to the crash-diet of Soylent?
posted by palomar at 8:11 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is creepy. It is something that socially damaged people do, either because they would rather spend their time doing something other than being social, since they don't know how or don't like other people enough to learn how to interact with them on a common level. Eating together forces us to recognize a base similarity with another person; the need to consume food to sustain life. This is something that the "awkward, typical nerd" would rather not have to face, that they are just like everyone else, i.e. not special. It sucks, but there it is. They want to be different, and live entirely in their heads. Most of them hate their bodies (and that's not entirely their fault; see any thread about marketing/advertising/social body consciousness/anti-obesity campaigns) and would probably pay a whole lot of money to put their brains in a robot body. Like, seriously, full on Sealab 2021, robot body.

I'm really not sure how to process this, speaking as a nerd with a socialization disorder, but it comes across as being kind of offensive, like you think there's some inherent elite-ism in not doing communal meals (or that communal meals = food). I really am "special" in the disability sense, but this is a problem to which the cure is not to sit me down at big communal meals and hope the joie de vivre rubs off on me.

I don't think that this Soylent is suicidal, but it's food made to enable obsessiveness and isolation.

My family has both a hit of Aspergers, and a hit of, from my observation, non-dysmorphia eating disorders (which makes the assumption of body hate a little bizarre). Obsessive and isolated defines a lot of us, and effective meal replacement doesn't enable us, it stops us from starving to death, especially when we are generally combating things like texture issues. Because we do appear to starve.

While other people decry how they can't seem to lose weight, I've watched weight melt off me because I don't feel hunger very strongly. This is not a good thing- this is a problem. at the moment my family members all have our schemes to make sure that we get enough calories. If we don't do this, we skip eating a lot, because the point we generally feel hungry is often past the point we should have eaten.

Me, I rely on meal replacement shakes (vanilla, extra protein) as the bottom tier of my coping strategy. Not because I wish I were a robot or that I am unable to enjoy food, as much as missing a part of the desire that makes you want to eat. Which is not *creepy* anymore than having a low libido deserves to be called creepy.
posted by Phalene at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


The conclusion of Ars Technica's five-day Soylent experiment also includes a Q&A with Soylent creator Rob Rhinehart.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:49 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the answer to "Hasn't this been done before?" was fairly convincing.

"From the consumer standpoint, those things aren't designed to be sustainable or really even that healthy," Rhinehart said, referring to things like Carnation Instant Breakfast and Slim Fast and other common off-the-shelf meal replacement shake-style drinks. "They're certainly not something you'd want to run your body off of—a lot of fructose, simple sugars, and by calorie it's really expensive. We've reached a point of calories-per-dollar and sustainability and nutrition where we're really trying to compete with groceries."
posted by naju at 11:41 AM on September 5, 2013


But it's the passage after that one that suggests more:

On the medical side, products like Jevity and Nestlé's entire line of liquid tube feeding products are in a separate league from Soylent. "We're not making any medical claims, other than it being safe for consumption," clarified Rhinehart

It seems like Rhinehart is claiming that this is something you can run your body off of forever. What, precisely, is Rhinehart saying Soylent is not? What does Jevity do that Soylent doesn't?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:59 PM on September 5, 2013


What, precisely, is Rhinehart saying Soylent is not? What does Jevity do that Soylent doesn't?

I thought he's saying that Soylent is not appropriate for tube feeding. Which yeah, based on the amount of sediment in the product, makes sense. (And he probably doesn't want to get into the hornet's nest of being classified as a medical-grade product, which comes with a whole host of standards and requirements that he doesn't want to deal with.)
posted by naju at 2:41 PM on September 5, 2013


My sister got her feeding tube about 17 years ago (whoa.) and has used Jevity and now the Nestle equivalent. I always kind of wanted to try drinking it, but the Jevity smelled too bad.
Maybe this is a more palatable version?
posted by MsDaniB at 5:14 AM on September 8, 2013


I should add, she uses it as a supplement. She has poor motor control which made eating a chore and very time consuming. You know how when babies swallow and 2/3 of what went in their mouth ends up on their chins? Imagine trying to feed a small adult that way.

Now she really seems to enjoy eating, I think because she spends less time doing it. We are still careful to give her healthy meals, but if she has an off day or a cold that makes her gaggy during mealtime, we don't worry that much because we can "give her a can" to make up for it.

If someone had medical or food issues that made eating difficult but they were still able to drink, this could be a non-surgical long-term solution.
posted by MsDaniB at 5:24 AM on September 8, 2013


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