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Soylent is a "food substitute" - a shake including starches, vitamins, dietary fibre, minerals and more.

Quoting from the Vice review at the Soylent financing campaign:

Soylent contains all the nutritive components of a balanced diet but just a third of the calories and none of the toxins or cancer-causing stuff you'd usually find in your lunch of processed foods.

Does it contain all the nutrition needed for a healthy existence without other food?

  • @ChrisW I know they say they're eating it themselves, but not taking that at face value is kinda the point of Skepticism, right? In any case, I've edited the question to a more precise version – Gabe Aug 13 '13 at 21:36
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    It is done. There's many different brands and mixtures of meal replacement drinks. In a more serious medical context, you've got the solutions used for enteral feeding, parental nutrition, or medical food solutions. – Compro01 Aug 13 '13 at 22:02
  • But does it taste good? – jwodder Aug 13 '13 at 22:25
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    The Wikipedia article about Soylent has some interesting link on the H&S issues of the product. Anyway, I wonder if it also contains people. :) – nico Aug 14 '13 at 6:46
  • Soylent green is people! – jwenting Aug 14 '13 at 7:27
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In my opinion, probably not, for example because he seems to be developing it via trial and error and an FDA list of nutrients -- the article Soylent Month Three is dated April 25, 2013 (i.e. recently) and starts with,

After three months I should be finding deficiencies, and I did. I started having joint pain and found I fit the symptoms of a sulfur deficiency. This makes perfect sense as I consume almost none, and sulfur is a component of every living cell. Sulfur is hard to miss in a typical diet so the FDA would have little reason to recommend it.

The same post ends with,

I promised that if I was still healthy after three months of soylent I would launch a Kickstarter campaign to bring it to the world. That time has come. The project is currently being reviewed and if approved I will post the link here, and tweet about it as soon as it is up.

The next blog post titled In Defense of New Food dated May 21, 2013 starts with,

Over the past few months I've gotten to engage with a lot of picky thinkers regarding soylent.

I will cherry-pick some extracts from that article to explain why my opinion was "probably not":

My net enjoyment of food is far higher than it has ever been. Being in excellent health, never eating poorly, and still enjoying good food socially is a win-win-win.

... so he doesn't eat only Soylent (one newspaper article said that he eats or ate "real" food on weekends).

It was a concern that nutrients can affect each others' absorption, but there have been no deficiency symptoms, and if this becomes a problem the amounts can be changed to compensate.

... however saying that "if we discover a problem then we'll fix it" isn't the same as saying "there is not and will not be a problem".

Some say this experiment makes no sense because we do not understand everything about the body. I think this is backwards thinking. If we do not understand something that is all the more reason to experiment with it in the pursuit of greater understanding.

... so it is still experimental -- the current version of the recipe is labelled "version 0.8" (i.e. not even the first 'version 1.0' release).

The next and last blog post titled Nothing to Fear is content-free, i.e. it hardly mentions Soylent at all. Previous blog posts talked about his diet's effect on his mood, his experimenting with nootropics, etc.

The OP makes and questions a very strong claim for the product, i.e., "all the nutrition needed for a healthy existence without other food". Soylent's developer might be making weaker claims, for example (and these are my impressions, not direct quotes):

  • I have tried it for some months, 5 days out of 7; it's a fascinating experiment and I feel better than before
  • Many people have a very unhealthy diet of regular/normal food: Soylent isn't perfect, but it's better than that
  • This is a great idea in theory, and R&D is worth pursuing.

"Complete" is presumably a matter of degree: perhaps it is relatively complete and is presumably not absolutely complete.

To illustrate what I mean by "a matter of degree":

  • He is young, has been testing for months, thinks his new diet is better for him than his previous one, and doesn't like to bother with preparing food
  • I am not so young, have 30 years as an adult of learning to be a vegetarian, and hope to live for decades more

My opinion ("probably not") is influenced by the time-scales involved: the length of the test period, the number of self-selected test subjects, and the quality of the testing and documentation.

http://discourse.soylent.me/t/whole-foods-versus-soylent/4272 is a discussion with the authors on the topic "Whole foods versus Soylent" ... the last entry in that discussion says,

What are the implications for long term health effects for people that consume soylent for an extended period of time?

We do not know, but we are going to find out!

Soylent, for me, is an experiment, an adventure! I am certain it is healthier than smoking or being obese, so the long term effects can not be that bad. If something does pop up, I will fix it or stop soylent. But for now, we will see :-)

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  • I am certain it is healthier than smoking or being obese, so the long term effects can not be that bad.. So he does not have any clinical data at all but he is certain it does not have any bad long-term effects. That's very interesting... What if in the long term it makes you become obese? Anyway, I'll +1 your answer, and go preparing some real tasty food. – nico Aug 17 '13 at 8:34
  • @nico In context, perhaps he feels certain that the short-term, immediate effects are not as bad. IMO: it is frankly experimental ... presumably a legal (if not an ethical) experiment, to perform on oneself, because all ingredients are FDA 'Generally Recognized as Safe'; and that, if you want to be a test subject, it would be safer and more informative to do it with the consent and with the supervision of a professionally-licensed, registered, clinical dietitian (and not even simply a nutrionist. – ChrisW Aug 17 '13 at 11:13
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    @ChrisW I wouldn't be so dismissive of his trial. 3 (probably 6 now) months is plenty of time for the body to complain about a lack of something and during the first month he ate nothing but Soylent. I mostly agree with a "probably not" position on this, but he's been honing in the formula with every error he finds and that tends to lead him to a complete formula. The question still remains for long term effects of a "liquid chemical shake" diet, though. – Gabe Aug 17 '13 at 11:46
  • @Gabe 3 months is long enough to detect some problems which occur within the first 3 months: during which, he gave himself heart problems due to iron deficiency (allegedly on purpose as an experiment); didn't predict he needed sulphur, because it wasn't on the list of essential nutrients he was referencing; he likes the effect it has on his mood and thinking, but he's also using nootropics. He's been using trial and error for months; the human race has been learning from trial and error, and scientific/clinical experimentation for thousands of years. – ChrisW Aug 17 '13 at 12:04
  • Am I really being too dismissive? I'm willing to believe it's "mostly harmless" (to quote the title of his blog), and not poisonous (shouldn't kill you immediately). I'm alleging that the R&D process and the product are unambiguously experimental, and error-prone. I suggest caution (informed medical supervision, including for example blood tests) if you want to subject yourself to that experiment. I'm not prejudiced against the idea in principle/theory, but what I read about this implementation of it inspired little or no confidence in me. – ChrisW Aug 17 '13 at 12:17
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Is Soylent a nutritionally complete shake?

No one knows.


No one can know this because we collectively don't know all the essential nutrients in food.

“My short answer is that I don’t know any more about this product than the limited information provided on the product website,” says Diane Stadler, PhD, RD — a registered dietitian and assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. Stadler warns that although we know many of the essential nutrients in food, we don’t know everything and there’s a strong possibility that an elemental diet like this could miss something critically important. “I would not promote this type of diet to the general public, as there are many ways that it can go wrong, especially if consumed long-term,”

From Silicon valley tries to reinvent food - literally


The inventor of Soylent isn't sure that the product is nutritionally complete

I am reticent to provide exact brand names and instructions because I am not fully convinced of the diet's safety for a physiology different than mine. What if I missed something that's essential for someone of a different race or age group?

From What's in Soylent?

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