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Soylent halts sales of its powder as customers keep getting sick (latimes.com)
745 points by whitepoplar 148 days ago | hide | past | web | 1021 comments | favorite



Soylent made such a big deal of being a "tech company", and boasted about their overdesigned web infrastructure for a business that did two transactions a minute.

What they didn't have is advanced technology on the production side. They write about "sending samples out" to external labs. It's not like they had an automated lab constantly sampling their production line and posting the results to the web. There are production line testing machines for biological contamination and for elemental analysis. About 80% of food plants have in-house testing facilities. What's Soylent got?


One of the biggest flaws of the tech industry is the belief that being a tech expert is enough to disrupt other industries in which they don't have any expertise. Sometimes they get lucky and it works despite something like Uber's or Airbnb's total ignorance of the law. Sometimes it fails like with numerous cryptocurrency companies relearning why the finance industry has so many dang regulations. Seems like Soylent is falling in the latter camp.


This is definitely something I'm facing. I have a pretty deep interest in farming and have a bunch of approaches for "disrupting" it. But you know what my hangups are? Penetrating the culture and getting involved with the industry. Case in point -- where's the best place to buy zoysia seeds? Amazon? eBay? Some random mom and pop place with a ecommerce page? No. The best place to go is to "Bill" who is friends of friends of friends. Who won't take cold calls. Who doesn't sell wholesale. Who only finds new customers once a year at the local fair and he only shows up after 5. For the blue ribbon ceremony on prized pigs. Why is he the best? 99.999% reliability on seeds. It's 100, but he'll never claim that. Price? 1/10th of anything I can find online.

What's rough is you can't just google this stuff. It takes knowledge and experience in these industries to know what's up. We believe we can do a lot with technology but we're going to make a lot of BAD decisions getting there.


What's rough is you can't just google this stuff

Now we call that "rough". Back in the day, that was just how it was. Vernor Vinge, who popularized "The Singularity," observed this phenomenon in his Sci-Fi book Rainbow's End. Now it's possible for the government-business complex to effectively suppress knowledge while technically not suppressing anything. Now, just make it sufficiently hard to search. As far as the general populace goes, it might as well not exist.


Sounds like there's asymmetrical information, a great place for a startup to break into. Or create a better marketplace for seeds!


The question is there really anything to "disrupt" and is the market worth it for a startup?

I live on a horse farm and as a result, need to buy hay. Our main "hay guy" is a farmer and his son who lives about 1/2 hour away, has great prices and charges a low fee (usually: sometimes he doesn't bother charging) for delivery. There are online hay markets, and Craigslist.

They don't bother with any of that. They just ask us to tell other horse owners about them so they have a market. When I drop by to pickup some hay, they are almost never there: I leave cash in the mailbox. If I don't have exact change and I overpay by $5, he gives it to me the next time.

There are many, many, many people who are perfectly happy doing business like this. They like their work, make enough money at it (going by the shiny new tractors!), and have no desire to get online or grow their business.

I have more anecdotes about other similar people I've dealt with just this week alone, but you get my point: many of these markets aren't remotely large enough to interest a VC and the participants only want to do business face to face.


Good story. =)

So much success in business is still meeting face to face with people, building interpersonal connections, and performing classic networking. When I'm mentoring younger family members and friends, I stress this a lot.

I'm not knocking e-commerce, but you cannot underestimate the power that a friendly 5 minute conversation has.


I dare say this is probably what separates very successful people from the rest.

It really is not what you know, but who you know, even in 2016.


I think I enjoy the idea of that sort of success far more than the guy banging out code 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It takes far more skill and experience to be human than it does to write code.


  skill and experience 

And socio-economic privilege, and luck.


Reading this story I think the opportunity here is in testing the nutrient levels of the hay.

He is your hay guy and he provides a fantastic personal service, but is his product of the highest quality for feeding to horses? Even if "highest" is not the correct measure, just knowing the nutrient levels and, in patricular for hay to feed performance horses, the protein level, will greatly assist in formulating a correctly balanced diet for the stock.

Therefore, a quick, easy to use test for obtaining the nutrient values could be really valuable to either the supplier, in order to provide confidence and value to the buyer pre-purchase, or to the buyer post-purchase. Each cut of hay is likely to be different.

Maybe a quick convenient analyser like this already exists, but my view is not to disrupt the farming industry but rather to provide added value for stronger outcomes in general.


Do people who buy hay for horses actually have this problem? Do they really care about the highest quality? If they do then maybe it is a good idea (there are other things to consider like market size). If they do not have this problem, then it is a bad idea by default no matter how good it sounds on paper.

The first test of this idea is to interview a dozen or so customers of hay for horses and determine if they really care about quality. And be careful, sometimes people say one thing and do another so you can't necessarily trust their answers to your questions.

If you were an expert in the hay for horses field then you would already know the answer, and that is one reason, among many, why it is hard for non-experts to break into the field.


People who breed or train horses for performance sports (racing, endurance, eventing, dressage etc) absolutely do care about the nutrient content and balance of their horses' diet.

There is an ongoing debate regarding feeding high protein hay to performance horses in training.

"Alfalfa hay contains too much protein. a. Excess protein in the diets of race or endurance horseswill slow performance."

http://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/%2Bsymposium/proceedings/2001/01-...

"Protein remains one of the first concerns of horse owners and trainers when they’re buying feed, even though as a nutrient, protein really doesn’t merit all that attention! For years, the racing community labored under the misconception that more protein in the diet equaled more energy for a racehorse. Fortunately, we now know that just isn’t the case. Not only is protein a poor energy source, but some researchers believe a protein excess in the diet actually can compromise a young horse’s performance...."

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/10331/feeding-racehorses

"Owners should rely on forage analysis as the primary method of determining the appropriate hay for horses."

http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/hay...


I'd venture to say the reason there is 100% reliability is due to the personal and "non-corporate" aspect to the way he does business. When you stop having face-to-face transactions and stop seeing your customers the interest in maintaining quality plummets. People become numbers.

Also, p2p transactions work so well and are cheap because of the lack of middle-men taking unnecessary "fees".


Coming from the Farm culture/environment growing up, I can support this idea that it is in part the "non-corporate" aspect. It's very very much the personal, non-technological, Stay out of my business, get off my lawn, view points and feelings that drive some of this.

In many cases you have a "handshake and your word is your honor" system in place that drives business forward. No one is stressing about much, beyond the weather, and they have a more peaceful perspective on life in general.

That CERTAINLY has room for some technological improvement, but would have to be done in a very careful, well thought out and implemented way. Case in point, if it quits working or requires data fulltime (try getting data/cell/internet on a 10,000 acre farm in the middle of nowhere), then you will fail because even if you CAN convince a large portion of farmers to adopt the tech, once they start having enough problems with it? Out it goes, back to paper, phone calls, and a handshake.


Yes. Come to Puerto Rico, where I'm working in coffee. Never in my life have I had so much human contact.


The founder of Soylent clearly believes he's an expert in many, many fields: http://robrhinehart.com/?p=1331

BTW, anyone know a good word for this attitude? I wouldn't call it hybris, though it's closely related. It's a mix of arrogance, over confidence, ignorance, plus more and very prevalent in SV.


> BTW, anyone know a good word for this attitude?

Got you, brah -

Dilettantism: a person having a superficial interest in an art or field of knowledge without investing the usually required effort. See also: dabbler.


polymyth?


Just plain polymath will do fine, seeing as the last time anyone could make legitimate claim to this title was probably 500 years ago.


I agree with you in principle that they're rather rare. But there's been a few in that time-span.

The most recent that comes to mind? Read about Bruce Dickinson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Dickinson


Reading that I see musician who did a solo album and some other bands, common, who flys planes... common in actors, and is an entrepeneur.. in beer (food), all super common for someone who has made money.

I don't see a broad range here, this sounds super common, how much crap does Michael Jordan or John Travolta have in common with this guy.

I don't see: patents, masters degrees (not too hard), charities, news articles, really anything that shows he's able to just pick up anything quickly.


What about someone like Bill Gates? Programmer and businessman, sure but he also knows a fuck ton about infectious diseases and global politics and all kinds of other things.


A fuck ton in this case is probably less than an undergraduate (micro) biologist. Hardly a polymath unless he was producing new research in the field.


Buckminster Fuller?


Renaissance dilletant


I was going to say "amateurish" but I think your "dilettantism" is spot-on.


[flagged]


not trying to make a fuss out of it, but i feel like assuming the users use of "brah" is gendered is something we should try to avoid. unless you know the poster, in that case disregard this.


i feel honored that this was the first comment you decided to write on HN. love seeing quality discussion like this, keep em coming!


I can't believe it was flagged!


Got it brah


Ah, what I do with programming. But I'm actually trying to gain deeper knowledge.


At least he's been eating his own product almost exclusively when at home according to that blog post. This gave me a positive impression at the start of the blog post and I was agreeing with what he said initially, but then it went downhill.

I would not want to get rid of my kitchen and I would absolutely never replace my food with Soylent, especially now that I've heard of all the people getting sick from it. Also, Gawker said [1] that nutritionists say that Soylent is not a sufficient replacement for a real diet.

I do not agree that shopping for groceries is a nightmare. It might be in the big grocery stores in the US but in my country and city most grocery stores are pretty small, so I just drop by there a couple of times a week, pick up some food, pay for it and then I'm on my way home which is practically next door to the closest store (110 meters apart to be exact).

At that point I did not bother to read the rest of the blog post.

[1]: http://gizmodo.com/rob-rhineharts-latest-attempt-to-make-you...


That gizmodo article's only "source" of nutritionists is from this article [1] (another article on the same site). That article's only source of nutritionists is someone who just called them up before Soylent was even on the market, and while none of those nutritionists had examined the product.

Many cats and dogs will eat the same food source almost exclusively for most of their lives without any ill effect. Obviously Soylent is having problems right now, but outright dismissing the mere possibility of a healthy "people-kibble" by those nutritionists seems rather unscientific.

[1] http://io9.gizmodo.com/could-soylent-really-replace-all-of-t...


In addition, I'd also point out that the term "nutritionist" doesn't even mean anything is most jurisdictions, as highlighted by the following anecdote:

"A demonstration of the ease in which it is possible to become an accredited nutritionist can be seen in Dr Ben Goldacre's successful application to have his dead cat Hettie accredited as a certified professional member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants" [1]

I'd typically listen to what a Dietitian has to say about nutrition, but not anyone calling themselves a nutritionist.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutritionist#Regulation_of_the...


> In addition, I'd also point out that the term "nutritionist" doesn't even mean anything is most jurisdictions

That bears repeating. Dietitian actually means something, whereas nutrition doesn't. Dara O'Briain has a nice way of describing the difference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvMb90hem8


   I'd also point out that the term "nutritionist" doesn't even mean anything is most jurisdictions
As someone who is living with someone becoming an accredited "Nutritionist" I can assure you this is not the case. There is an extreme amount of scientific research and cellular biology that is studied. This may not be the case for all nutritionist courses, but to dismiss an entire field because of one case is extremely ignorant.

BUT.. this is Hacker News where coders go to confirm each other's biases about the world at large and remind each other how much knowledge you can have by sitting behind your work desk.


Multi choice online testing is not extreme research. A phd is research, a masters is research.

She may well be taking some courses but let's not devalue these words.

A dietitian is at least masters qualified that is what people were pointing out.


A) Maybe you're in a jurisdiction where it actually does mean something? That exception is clearly defined in the sentence you quoted.

B) The claim is not that nutritionists are useless, it's that (in most jurisdictions) the word is useless. The fact that you know a non-useless one does not disprove the claim.


Most dogs and cat's however are domesticated and have been eating a mostly single-source diet for many many generations... some adaptation has occurred. There is a reason they don't give zoo animals kibble (aside from the herbivores who naturally focus on a single food source, and the pellets are made from that food source). Lions don't get kibble, and they don't even get a single kind of meat, they rotate their food, because if they dont, the lions become depressed and sluggish and sick. We're meant to eat a variety of food - the variety stimulates our internal biome which has more effect over us than just how we digest our food - our gut is basically a second brain and has a direct effect on our mood and our brain chemistry, and can even influence our thinking process (this is how when you eat something that makes you sick, you naturally avoid that thing for a while)


This isn't remotely true.

Look at the wiki article on dog food [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_food#History] - diets for dogs have been ad hoc and varied for thousands of years. I'd argue that it is only with the advent of kibble (in the late C19) and canned cat/dog food (in the early C20) that pets started eating single-source diets.

I do not think that this is enough time for adaption, and any selective breeding has been focused on other attributes rather than diet.


> Many cats and dogs will eat the same food source almost exclusively for most of their lives without any ill effect.

Where "without any ill effect" includes tooth decay, obesity, and death from kidney damage among others.


> Where "without any ill effect" includes tooth decay, obesity, and death from kidney damage among others.

Tooth decay: giving your dogs something hard to chew on is essential if you don't relish the idea of brushing your dogs' teeth. If they're not gnawing on actual bones, their teeth aren't get cleaned. Hard chew toys are a good substitute. The only dog I've had with tooth troubles didn't like chewing hard things.

Obesity: that's not a result of an unvaried diet, that's a result of eating too much and/or not enough exercise for the amount of food being given.

Kidney damage: I find it's surprisingly hard to find unbiased information around this that isn't published by pro- and anti-commercial dog food organizations. Even within that subset, documented facts seem rare, and articles read more like scare advertisements to encourage $PREFERRED_FEEDING_METHOD[1]. Anecdotally: after six dogs and three cats that have all lived somewhat to significantly longer than the breed average life span while being fed largely the same food for their entire lives... kidney troubles have never been a problem for us.

1.The closest to consistent info that I could find were statements that high vegetable protein content can cause kidney troubles in older dogs. Even these only showed up on a) "Feed your dog all natural" blog-type-things, b) specialty dog food sellers/manufacturer sites, c) copy lifted from these places largely verbatim and deposited onto other sites.


> kidney troubles have never been a problem for us.

Congratulations on your robust good health! How about your pets?


Certainly not all cats and dogs experience all of those things. All you've done is highlighted the possibility for a nutritionally unsuitable meal source. Obviously it's possible to construct a food which does not meet our nutritional needs, many Americans have managed that themselves. That does not however dismiss the existence of pets which live long and healthy lives, or the possibility of an analogous fodo source for humans.


Pets that live long and healthy lives do not eat a single form of "kibble". Obesity and health problems in pets is a very well known issue (talk to any vet and they'll tell you all about it) and it's mostly due to overfeeding by owners and not enough variety in diet. Doesn't that sound eerily familiar to the problems with human food consumption?

There are so many health problems in the tech industry, why are we creating more and making businesses out of it?


I often hear testimonials from owners who say "I have been feeding this food for 14 years and my dog looks great!" I think that there could be such a thing as a good enough people kibble the same as I believe that many dogs live healthy and happy lives eating one kind of dog food all their lives. This is not to say that I believe all dogs could eat the same exact kibble all their lives and be perfectly healthy. Full Disclosure: I have owned a pet store for the last 8 months after getting tired of programming.


I'd like to hear more about your exit.


I had been itchy for quite a while in the field and thanks to a very generous boss and a wife who could put up with a very low standard of living, was able to do some farming part time last year. I realized that while I grew up on a farm, the area I lived in, didn't have enough of a farming network to allow getting started slow. It was all or nothing and I didn't like the prospects of either actually. If I would have been successful, I would have worked like crazy and not been home much. If I would have failed, it would be the same except for no fun at all. The pet store was up for sale and I did the figures and realized that if it all goes down in flames, I could still code myself out of the hole if needed. This gave me the courage to give it a try. I work much harder now in some ways and in other ways I work less. Hanging out and talking to people is now part of my job description. Working with animals and figuring out what makes them tick is also part of my job. People regularly show up and ask my opinion on what they should do with their dog itching and hot spots and stuff. Often, simply switching away from a cheap bottom dollar food to a better product is the answer and is far less expensive than a vet visit. OK done.....


I know I could "code myself out of a hole" too and have reduced my CoL significantly so I guess I just have to continue waiting for the right opportunity. Thanks for sharing!


In addition to what other people said: changing dog food is often accompanied by horrible diarrhea, up through the mid 90s dog shit turned bone and grew hair and canine coprophagia is usually attributed to insufficient nutrition. So you know: dog food, we're still figuring it out.


> At least he's been eating his own product almost exclusively when at home according to that blog post.

I'd note that he got anemia early on in his Soylent journey because he forgot iron was a basic nutrient.


I'd note that many people in my social circle and family forget that iron is a basic nutrient. It happens. People forget that sodium is as well, especially with all of the talk about how bad salt is for you.


Presumably the Soylent guy ought to be held to a higher standard of knowing what "basic nutrients" are, as he actively promotes himself as an expert on the topic and encourages people to buy his drink full of "all basic nutrients." If your friends and family aren't doing that, their ignorance is excusable.



I thought it was sulfur:

http://robrhinehart.com/?p=570


I love grocery shopping and cooking. It provides mental relief from the day's grind. The sites and sounds at a good grocery store are stimulating. Wegmans comes to mind.


The prion disease rumours circulating on Twitter about Soylent are really disturbing.


Prion disease has a case-fatality rate of 100%. That's not an estimate or approximation and it's not rounded up. They are also untreatable.

There are only five well studied prion diseases (because of their rarity). Two are exclusively heritable: fatal-familial insomnia and Gerstmann–Sträussler–Scheinker syndrome. One, Kuru, is transmitted via cannibalism.

The incubation times are extremely long. Some estimates for Kuru go up to 20-50 years.

The most prevalent form of prion disease in humans is new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (nvCJD) or Human Mad Cow which has a lag of about 10 years based on CDC data. It is transmitted by eating tainted beef products. Let me stress that this is extremely rare: there have been 3 confirmed cases in the United States.

It is extremely unlikely that Soylent is a vector for prion disease, especially since it's been vegan since version 1.2 and never contained beef as an ingredient. Even if it somehow contained tainted beef, given that it's been available for less than 3 years, it's extremely unlikely that any cases of nvCJD (of which there have only a few in the last decade) or any other cases of prion disease were caused by Soylent.

There is good reason to question the safety of Soylent given its record but "prion disease rumors circulating on Twitter" are utterly ridiculous.


Trolling? Soylent -> Soylent green -> Movie where you grind up poor people and turn them into food -> Cannibalism -> Known vectors for prion diseases.


Can you elaborate on these rumors?


Read on Twitter a while ago about a guy who ate almost nothing but Soylent for two months and started getting joint pain and trembling, and was falling over a lot. Then there was a comment by someone on Reddit who started having seizures and anxiety and blamed Soylent. Seems crazy that people are just eating nothing but this stuff for months on end and not thinking about the consequences.


It's outrageously unlikely that either of those people had a prion disease. See my reply to your previous comment for details. The median duration of CJD (which is the most similar to nvCJD and the best proxy for the statistic I could find easilty) is 4 months. That's duration of the disease before death. If the commenter had those symptoms because of prion disease, I'd estimate a greater than 50% chance he'll be dead by February. Again, it's extremely unlikely that he had prion disease.


I'm anti-Soylent, but I'm not sure I'd classify "two random anonymous internet anecdotes" as "disturbing".


Prion diseases usually take longer than the couple of months to develop symptoms.


"I have not set foot in a grocery store in years. Nevermore will I bumble through endless confusing aisles like a pack-donkey searching for feed while the smell of rotting flesh fills my nostrils and fluorescent lights sear my eyeballs and sappy love songs torture my ears. Grocery shopping is a multisensory living nightmare."

This kind of writing is insufferable.


My favorite is when he talks about his enlightened post-kitchen lifestyle.

"I think it was a bit presumptuous for the architect to assume I wanted a kitchen with my apartment and make me pay for it. My home is a place of peace. I don’t want to live with red hot heating elements and razor sharp knives. That sounds like a torture chamber."

Did this dude just leave the stove on all the time and keep the knives pointed up next to the fridge or something?


Yeah, so presumptuous of the architect to assume he'd want a kitchen. I'll bet this architect also dared to assume he'd want a toilet.


I think when we get intensely focused and emotionally invested, we tend to think our work is the answer to the world's problems and every other way of doing things is flawed.

For instance, Sergey Brin claiming Google Glass would prevent the "emasculating" effect of smart phones....[1]

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/28/tech/innovation/brin-google-gl...


Now included with Soylent: antimatter suppositories! Never use the toilet again!


Looks clear now however that opting for the toilet was a prescient move.


You just have to read it in the voice of a stage actor clearly overdoing it on a dramatic soliloquy. Not sure if you're into comedians, but Paul F. Tompkins does this pretty frequently and well.

That said, it's still insufferable, just mildly entertaining as well.


This reminds me of the "Rails is Omakase" video ripping on DHH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E99FnoYqoII


It doesn't even have decent scansion tho.


Not everyone wants to read through life like Nathan Lane.


Or Jon Lovitz.

"Acting!"


Good Lord. Anybody using the word "nevermore" outside of a discussion of Poe is 99% likely to be someone I won't get along with.


Hey, and when writers of newyorker.com do it, it is called "fantastic journalism"…


You seriously can't dustinguish between his writing and that of in the New Yorker?


This guy is obviously smart and has some interesting ideas, but unfortunately a lot of them are very disagreeable to most people. I could barely get past his rant against having a kitchen and using retail stores.

I have nothing wrong with a meal replacement like soylent (and the many other products that are basically the same thing on the market), but his ideas and his motivation behind it are disturbing. I'm all for optimization but this isn't the kind of world I would want to live in.


He seems to have obsessive compulsive tendencies so severe that he can't eat food (e.g. "Kitchens are dirty") combined with some narcissism...


The irony is that a mildly dirty kitchen is actually good for you - you get exposure to a greater amount of bacterial diversity, which keeps your immune system functioning properly, and gives you an opportunity to pick up some beneficial microbes that can aid in digestion.


> "Kitchens are dirty"

I don't get that logic. Your toilet is probably cleaner than your kitchen or phone. Doesn't mean you'd eat off your toilet. Besides, you can always clean your kitchen.


Probably? Like over a 50% chance? How did you reach that estimate?


Just a Google search of places dirtier than the toilet


from the summary to the first hit:

>These surfaces have more germs than the average toilet seat, and you've likely ...

That's a quantitative "analyses", not qualitative, but "dirtier" implies both. Go drink out of the toilet, if you believe that, I will not.


Judging by many of the comments on here that think the problem has been obvious all along, I'd call it Hacker News Syndrome.


Everyone else's job is easier than my job.


It's not a bad attitude though.

Experts with authority granted to them in the form of titles have failed us, and keep failing us in so many areas. Ranging from nutrition to psychology, we really shouldn't put their work on a pedestal. Techies are a smart bunch on average and can stomach a lot more complexity than the average joe. It makes sense for them to try to pick up stuff outside of their line of work.

Take Elon Musk as the most successful example. Deferring to experts is a poor substitute for thinking for yourself.


There's a difference between "thinking for yourself" and "uncritically discouting past work". And that's the difference between asking yourself whether power poses really work and and coming in kicking doors, yelling that psychology is bullshit. First one is engaging in very much reasonable level of critical thought, whereas the second is just thinking "Dunning-Kruger is okay, when I do it".

On a side note, I don't quite get what Elon Musk has to do with this. Isn't hea millionaire paying big bucks for expert engineering talent to put his rockets up in the air?


I'm not saying Psychology is bullshit, why would you frame what I said as such? I think it's in general super interesting. I'm just saying that you can gain a lot more from it by evaluating things critically than you can from swallowing anything and everything that's in vogue uncritically because some authority figure tells you it's the Truth.

Also, to nitpick, Dunning-Kruger is certainly ok when the top performers do it, if you care to look at the actual graph[1].

Elon Musk is very much involved in the engineering of his projects, he's not a Steve Jobs-style CEO. As tomp pointed out[2], Elon was willing to look at things outside of his area of expertise, and guess what, he actually managed to learn quite a lot about those things.

[1] http://i.imgur.com/bJXQWRY.jpg

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12814851


I mentioned power poses and psychology because it occurred to me as an example since you happened to mention psychology. I don't personally have any knowledge regarding your attitudes towards psychology nor did I intend to frame what you said in any way.

Prior findings must be indeed critically evaluated. That's not the issue. The issue is refusing to even acknowledge them or to acknowledge current field wisdom due to some unwarranted sense of superiority. Taking the dangerous and daring approach to crossing expertise fields instead of being careful is fine, of course. Everyone is free to do whatever they want! But if the daring do fail, they will look like complete asses. They had been given plenty of warning before hand.

And, this is the key and the real reason why I'm saying all this, the daring will fail more often than the careful. The most frequent reason why people try to enter a new field is because they think they might have some superior insight on the matter, whereas the development of each field is chiefly constrained by the amount of data available to it. Ideas are never in short supply relative to data. This isn't to say that outsiders can't make meaningful contributions, or that cross-field collaboration is useless, far from it. But that there isn't much that can done beyond what's warranted by the data.

I'll pass up the opportunity to talk about Musk, because I don't feel I'm qualified to do it.

But as for your nitpick: I don't see why top performers incorrectly gauging their own ability would be "okay". They would pass up great opportunities because they perceive their ability to be lower than what it actually is, and they might experience unwarranted anxiety and feelings of inadequacy (something like an impostor syndrome) if they incorrectly perceive their ability to be lower that that of their peers. There are many ways in which this might not be "okay".


I think you have an imaginary view of what Musks thinking process is like. The reality is he pays top dollar for experts in every field on his interest or that will advance some other goal of his.


> Deferring to experts is a poor substitute for thinking for yourself.

Not deferring to experts when you posses surface level knowledge (or less) of a subject is a sure-fire way to shoot yourself in the foot.


He is just being a cynic thinking he is a intellectual skeptic.

Cynic : Cynics are distrustful of any advice or information that they do not agree with themselves. Cynics do not accept any claim that challenges their belief system.

"Being skeptical, not cynical, helps us in forming beliefs that are in agreement with evidence."

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/02/08/im-a-skepti...


That's quite a conclusion, given so little data. Priors may vary I guess.


No their was plenty of data. I run into cynics all the time that just doubts everything "Experts" says and their arguments are not about the actual data or implementation of the data.


The biggest I've run into are people who believe in homeopathy. Give them all the evidence that it doesn't work and they'll disregard it in favor of their anecdotal evidence combined with confirmation bias.


I think it's a really common form of irrationality (or cognitive bias?). Antivaxers, 9/11 truthers, moon landing skeptics, Holocaust skeptics, etc. are the same way. I think part of the appeal is that it's more comforting for them to believe in BS than live with the existential angst of the uncertainty and the unknowability of so much of life/reality/other people, but for whatever reason they can't see that motivation within themselves.


My point is that they are NO skeptics but cynics


In this particular case, the experts have not only been wrong, but been deadly wrong for the last thirty years. Nutrition has been revealed to be woo-woo pseudoscience after mountains of recent research has debunked the lipid hypothesis for heart disease.

Reinhart has NO obligation to heed the "wisdom" of people who have been killing us with sugar for decades now. We should have nothing but contempt for these charlatans.


Great, so you've discounted one tradition of food advice, although it is far from clear whom, exactly, you're discounting - you start talking about what sounds like dietitians, but end talking about what sounds like processed food manufacturers. But never mind.

Now you have a search problem. Which dilettante do you want to listen to? A techie making a protein shake that makes people sick is far from your only option. As best I can tell, most folks tend to choose diet fads based on a messy set of priors and an aesthetic judgement about the surrounding marketing.

It makes market sense to me that something like Soylent would find a niche; there is a segment that finds eating a hassle, and so an anti-food with hints of Jetsons-food-capsule, from-the-future marketing has a place alongside all the other goofy food fads.

I just don't see any reason to rank Soylent any higher than macrobiotic hyperlocal kale wonder-juice, either. (I do rank both higher than the colloidal silver thing; as far as I know, neither turns you blue.)


Nutrition experts aren't the ones responsible for the prevalence of sugar and starches in our diet, though:

http://www.whale.to/a/light.html


No, you should definitely listen to what experts have to say. You should then proceed to evaluate it critically. Be mindful of what methodology they use. What assumptions they bake into what they're saying. Ways their model doesn't fit reality. And so on, and so forth. You should seldom defer to them.


Thank you for that.

To add to that, this reminds me of the kind of Epaulettes Feynman talked about in SYJMF -- creating titles, awards and distinctions to create an aura around experts. This kind of "aura" of trust and distinction is something that I think in 100 years we will look back on the same way we look at experts of our past: imagine how you view religious leaders who held the keys to understanding life and the universe, or doctors who did more harm than good.

Here's an anecdote. Post WWII the Nobel Prize was awarded for the lobotomy procedure... Experts with authority and all the fanciest Feynman-epaulettes that the world has dreamt up have failed us, that's a certain fact.


Yes I love how Elon doesn't hire rocket engineers and scientists or consult with NASA. Oh wait he does those things.


If you had read my comment a little more charitably, you might have noticed that I never said you shouldn't consult or listen to experts, but simply that you shouldn't assume someone who is not an expert can't figure things out in a field outside their line of work.

Experts weren't always so kind to Elon[1] either.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8P8UKBAOfGo


On a side note, disregarding experts is most certainly not what Rob Rinehart is doing. They specifically only regard expert, peer-reviewed literature as authoritative sources for formula changes. Trying to depend on your own analysis is a poor substitute for standing on the shoulders of giants.


Elon Musk made himself into an expert.

I would consider him an authority on rocketry.


Kind of proving my point? :) He did have to go aginst the grain though[1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8P8UKBAOfGo


He's hardly a typical case.

People who get into graduate physics programs at Stanford rarely are.

And the amount of information one has to add to a solid undergrad education in physics to do rocketry is relatively minor compared to the amount most dilettantes need to add to become an expert.


> Take Elon Musk as the most successful example. Deferring to experts is a poor substitute for thinking for yourself.

I'm not sure what you mean. Elon Musk is an extremely purpose-driven, incredibly intelligent person in addition to being successful. From wikipedia:

'He is the founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Motors; co-founder and chairman of SolarCity; co-chairman of OpenAI; co-founder of Zip2; and founder of X.com which merged with PayPal of Confinity. As of June 2016, he has an estimated net worth of US$11.5 billion, making him the 83rd wealthiest person in the world. Musk has stated that the goals of SolarCity, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity. His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the "risk of human extinction" by "making life multiplanetary" by setting up a human colony on Mars. In addition to his primary business pursuits, he has also envisioned a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop, and has proposed a VTOL supersonic jet aircraft with electric fan propulsion, known as the Musk electric jet.'

These are not things that just a "successful" person does. He breaks the mold from tech: the mind of Nikola Tesla but with much more business sense.


S/he means that Elon Musk set up a rocket company and a car/battery company, without previously being an expert in either of these things. Sure, he became an expert by learning, but he also noticed and used many things that earlier experts have missed.


I would call it mania. If I wanted a pejorative, I'd call him euphoric.


As someone who struggled with bipolar for years, his writing reminds me a lot of the shit I used to write in notebooks when manic. I was always convinced I had figured out a way to live a purer, better life without the bullshit everyone else always managed to slog through. And I never even had to sleep, except on the occasional bench in the middle of the day!


> The walls are buzzing. I know this because I have a magnet implanted in my hand and whenever I reach near an outlet I can feel them.

What in the world...?



This has to be satire. Right? Please be satire.

Thanks for sharing this though, I was previously under the impression Soylent was created by someone relatively sane.


I assumed it was satire, considering he's written other tongue-in-cheek posts, like http://robrhinehart.com/?p=1005.


His attitude is at least better informed then many celebrities. And he was a celebrity for a short time.


Engineer's Disease.


Maybe thats the kind of attitude that makes founders good at taking risks, while more careful people would rationalize themselves out of trying new things ?


> BTW, anyone know a good word for this attitude?

Insufferable ;-)


That situation with his house/pod was pretty bizarre too are we sure he isn't slipping mentally?

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/27/soylent-ceo-...


> Getting rid of my fridge was one of the greatest days of my life.


In my high school they had a lot of words for this attitude, including "faggot", "square", "nerd" and "nerd faggot". As someone who grew up in this environment, I'm very interested in the critiques of people such as myself who allegedly held these attitudes.


This was a fun read, and I found myself agreeing with him on most of the points.

I would call his attitude "confidence in his own ability to reason clearly".


yeah I have two good words: mental illness. the guy is nuts


Dunning-Kruger effect comes to mind.


A hybrid of hubris and chutzpah


Seems to work for Donald Trump


I think that's satire, in the same style of http://robrhinehart.com/?p=1005.


CEO?


"Fake it 'till you make it."


I kind of like "Hybris" even though I assume it was a typo.

How about "deludbertise"?


In Greek, the "Y" makes an "uu" sound so it's not entirely incorrect - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upsilon


If I was feeling snarky, I'd offer 'ultracrepidarian'.


Pompous


I wouldn't call it hybris either :-p


"like with numerous cryptocurrency companies relearning why the finance industry has so many dang regulations."

My wife is into architecture and told me once that "every building code has a tombstone." Every building code is there because someone (or sometimes lots of people) died. Same with vehicle and road regs, etc.

I had a lawyer tell me almost the same thing about equity, finance, and contract law: every standard provision in e.g. a VC deal and every financial regulation is there because somebody perpetuated a fraud or someone got screwed. Many are also there to compensate for large-scale systemic failure modes like runaway financial bubbles that occurred in the past.

These systems are clunky and crufty and ugly and sometimes there is some value in "disrupting" them, but at the same time I think any would-be disrupters have to understand that the content of these laws and customs is the outcome of an evolutionary "Red Queen's race" lasting centuries or more. The code base is ugly but there's a lot of value and information captured in it.


Joel Spolsky's essay about never doing a full rewrite seems eerily appropriate. It should be obvious that systems that have been going and going for centuries will have quirks all over the place.


And then there are the real elephants in the room - YouTube and Facebook.

Basically saying well our platforms allow for infinite content sure, but we can't police all that. Sorry! These are actual arguments made in court.

And then behind the scenes they are running around scared shitless trying to police content - http://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-content-insight-i...

The whole thing reminds me of Samuel L Jackson's character in Jurassic Park. Yes the dino's are breeding when they shouldn't, the kids are missing, the fences are broken, the T Rex can't be found but hey as soon as power is back up I can monitor everything from this one magic console. Isn't that amazing?

Micheal Crichton had a good term for it. He called these people thintelligent.


YouTube is the leader in protecting digital content.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-GTAVsMqa-U


This thread seems like it's out to crucify someone and validate some belief that tech CEOs are masters-of-the-universe types instead of assuming Rob hired people to validate his ideas and tweak them which would be the sensible assumption.

If someone has proof that Soylent employs zero nutritionists/food scientists, please enlighten us, because if that's the case, the product never should have gone to market and I'll throw my supply out immediately and go get a refund.


> One of the biggest flaws of the tech industry is the belief that being a tech expert is enough to disrupt other industries in which they don't have any expertise.

One of the biggest flaws of consumers is that they can't tell low tech from high tech. Writing a shiny CRUD website is not high tech.


And most software products are just skins around databases. What's your point?

This notion that some development should be considered "high tech" while other development should be considered "low tech" is one that bothers me, both for its elitism and for its simplemindedness.

Yes, the skills needed to make a pretty CRUD app may be "lower tech" than the skills needed for someone to master, say, machine learning.

But there are also many University professors doing work considered "high tech" who couldn't practically architect or code a basic application to save their lives.

Meanwhile you have CRUD app developers contributing to frameworks that powerfully advance productivity being looked down upon because they only work in "kiddie languages" like Ruby or Javascript. Their work, even when it produces very high value appreciated by millions, is looked down upon as little more than copy-and-paste coding -- with zero appreciation given to how long it takes to develop the heuristics to do this kind of work well.

I don't think this attitude is healthy. A more healthy attitude would be to recognize that value can be created in different ways.


There is no such thing as high or low tech. Technology is applied science, knowledge, methods and strategies to accomplish a goal. That's all.

Focus on the goal and outcome, not the process to get there. And definitely don't "judge" it based on whether it is "high tech" or not.


That's not just a flaw of consumers. It seems to be a problem with lots of people in the industry, including programmers, marketers and investors...

Then again, they can make money out of it, so they probably don't care either.


Why should a consumer care either way?


It's still tech though. Actually, I'd say anything involving computers is still high tech, even when it's not innovative. Shiny CRUD website is not innovative, but it's still on the internet. Well, maybe it's more that it relies on high tech than actually being it.


> Writing a shiny CRUD website is not high tech

Let me know if you still agree with that statement when you write an application for a bank, military use, pharmacological research, a rocket launch, or Wall Street.


AirBnB and Uber are as ignorant of the law as a medicinal marijuana dealer selling in Texas.


IMHO, Uber has accumulated enough years of practice of law circunvention and political lobbying to earn some expertise badges. Maybe they were ignorant, now they are not.


You could say the same thing about a dealer who started dealing in high school, continued dealing, graduated college, and still not caught.


If ignorance gets you a 30-something billion dollar valuation, then maybe it isn't such a bad strategy after all.


Check back in 30 years. I expect Uber and Airbnb to go the way of all tech stocks...


That's a Pablo Escobar quote?


>One of the biggest flaws of the tech industry is the belief that being a tech expert is enough to disrupt other industries in which they don't have any expertise.

Here's an article elaborating on this sentiment : https://read.reddy.today/read/5/new-entrepreneurs-are-no-lon...


Malcolm Gladwell hosted a podcast recently called "Revisionist History". In one episode, "Generous Orthodoxy" (http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/09-generous-orthodoxy) that explored dissent, Gladwell states that we must "respect the body we're trying to heal".

I haven't been able to get that statement out of my head since I heard it. It's simple, elegant and slightly profound. It (respect) is also precisely what is missing in the tech industries rallying cry around disruption.

Study and learn why an industry has evolved the way it has before you criticize it as "backwards". In doing so, you may very well gain a deep sense of respect for it.


I think Soylent's failure here wasn't that they tried to do something that they are not experts at, but rather failed to hire actual experts that could assist them in production.

IMO they had a pretty good idea but tried to execute things in a rather vague way instead of consulting the actual experts in this field.


You're laying the schadenfreude on a bit thick, don't you think?


Seems to be just the right thickness.


Any thicker and we'd have to start cutting it into bars and marketing it on a shiny over-designed website.


There really must be a law for everything? That's a slave mentality right there.


Not quite. It's not that there must be a law for everything, it's that there are laws for many things, and often for good reasons. It's not that we always need to regulate new things because new means risky. It's that many new things are actually old things in new guises, and we already know (or should know) what to be concerned about.


Paradox is that US still has no regulations concerning digital privacy, big data and user protection.


People have paid good money to make sure there aren't such laws.

It only has privacy laws based on incidents that have affected people of sufficient status: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Privacy_Protection_Act (and note the little coda in there about Netflix)


The internet moves fast, progress is being made.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/10/27...


...at the same time granting patents on double clicking.


no, law is social contract between peers, not slave=>master.


A contract you had no participation in drafting and never signed, yet you are compelled at gunpoint to uphold it.

Nice spin tho.


As a minor, your parents decided for you, but once you're 18 nothing is stopping you from either trying to re-negotiate the contract (i.e. become politically active) or trying to find a better deal (emigrate). You can also decide to simply unilaterally break the contract (become a criminal) and in practice you could even live without such a contract in a variety of vast areas that are largely uninhabited.

You're not being compelled to accept this contract, but it's such a good deal that few people decide otherwise.


You're right that nothing is stopping you from trying to become politically active or to emigrate, but the chances of doing either successfully are very low.

Politics favors people of certain backgrounds and/or very high charisma. The more substantial the change the higher the level of politics you need to get involved in, and the less likely you are to successfully be involved.

Emigration suffers from the problem that the less money and education you have, the more difficult it is to successfully emigrate. You can't just decide you want to move to a country, they need to decide to let you in. The bar for entry in a lot of countries is very high so it's just not an option for a lot of people.


Yeah, just "become a criminal" and enjoy life in one of our nation's beautiful, gleaming prisons.

This kind of faith in the system is highly disturbing to me.


It's 2016, we have Amended the Constitution so the Senate is democratically ellected, we have live video footage of police brutality for when we are abused...and yet the collective constituency of the nation has to pick between two presidential candidates with the lowest approval ratings in theirown parties that anyone has ever seen. Yet, you try and say that social contract theory applies to an individual? When it clearly can't even apply to the masses? This is the 21st century, this is most likely the best moment in human history. This is the worst evidence for social contract theory. Think about it.


We don't have to choose between two options. Some people are more likely to win than others, but that's to be expected.


well if every generation had to write their laws from scratch we'd never get anything done. You have to accept that as someone coming into an already occupied world that some rules will have been made prior to your birth. You can campaign against them but just don't expect not to be challenged if you break them.


Damn law of gravity!


If you are defining law of gravity in terms of "contract" then you are having some issues.


You can't have a society without having any social constructs.

Nice try at Libertarianism tho.


I am not against society or law. I am against as framing law in the manner GP did.


Just like the constitution.


... you can change laws, we have processes for it. You can also move to a more viable environment for your needs.


Indeed. But law is not a contract. Law is law. That is my only point.


there really IS a law about food safety, because, you know, selling unsafe food can result in mass-scale sickness and death.


I think that Soylent will go down as a cautionary tale for anyone who looks at a field they know very little about and thinks "how hard could it be?". Along with Theranos.

What Soylent should have built to be worth $100+ million is a way to make a food product tailored to a particular person or group of people that's based on automation and nutritional science.

Instead they seem to have a cobbled together amalgam that they don't really understand. If it hits 25% DV down the board and nobody dies then it's a job well done.

We know that different people have different dietary needs. The RDA system is by design generalized, not personalized. The RDA for iron varies between 8mg and 27mg [1] for adults but the DV is 18mg.

Meanwhile Soylent Powder 1.6 provides 5mg per serving [2] and calls that 25% (it's actually 27.78% Soylent, check your math). That's way too much for an adult male if you have any other sources of iron. And it may be way too little if you're a woman with no other sources of iron.

Not to mention that all sources of iron (and other nutrients) aren't absorbed equally. Iron from plants is absorbed half as well as iron from meat -- since Soylent is vegan, should we put a discount on the %DV it says it provides?

This isn't an easy problem to tackle, but building a system that understands nutritional science and adapts the product accordingly would actually be a worthwhile endeavor. It would also mean manufacturing and testing in-house, which Soylent doesn't currently do either. Build something worthwhile, not a slick website hooked up to an outsourced assembly line.

[1] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/#h...

[2] http://files.soylent.com/pdf/soylent-nutrition-facts-1-6-en....


It's amazing how the whole marketing aura just goes poof.

Last week, the average commenter would be going on about how the real problem is that people are eating unnecessary food with Soylent.


Well, that was still my first thought when I hit "without other sources of iron". One bottle per day of Soylent can't fix up the variation in the other 75% of your calories. I don't call Wheaties unhealthy for being low on protein, because balanced nutrition has to be calculated across a whole diet.

Having said that, it is alarming that Soylent can't possibly be a balanced replacement for everyone. A custom product would have been an interesting possibility for doing that.


The everything for everyone thing is the cardinal sin with them for me.

If they marketed it as a convenient meal replacement, like a carnation instant breakfast that wasn't a milkshake, it would be different. But they imply that eating food is bad, just drink Soylent.


>I think that Soylent will go down as a cautionary tale for anyone who looks at a field they know very little about and thinks "how hard could it be?". Along with Theranos.

Terrible analogy. Unlike Theranos, Soylent has been shipping their core product to many satisfied customers for over two years. The recent quality control issues are real, and they are troubling, but they don't invalidate Soylent's thesis that an engineered staple food could save people time and money. By contrast, the kind of small-sample blood analysis Theranos aimed to do may never have been possible in the first place, which is why informed investors never touched their product.

>We know that different people have different dietary needs.

Better pull Ensure from all the hospitals then, just to be safe.


> Terrible analogy.

I think it's apt, but of course you're free to disagree. Both companies entered fields with a founding team that lacked any particular expertise -- dropping out of Stanford or a degree in electrical engineering doesn't give you the background to know what's truly possible in nutritional or life sciences.

Theranos and Soylent were both shipping their products to much success not that long ago. Theranos was exposed and shown to be almost wholly smoke and mirrors.

Soylent is unlikely to be that bad off, and as you said their main thesis hasn't been disproven. They also haven't shown that they have done anything novel to meaningfully reach that goal. Their constant reformulations and sales suspensions (this is not the first time) tell me that this isn't a high tech food operation based on years of research and scientific processes. It's some powder being mixed in a warehouse by a contracted company and sold on a fancy website. That's not a breakthrough.

> Better pull Ensure from all the hospitals then, just to be safe.

I don't know if Ensure if significantly better or worse than Soylent. Just because it's from a big company and is an established product doesn't necessarily mean it's any good, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's approach is as shoddy as Soylent's either.

I can say that Ensure has not embraced the one-size-fits-all approach of Soylent [1]. They also don't seem to believe in the 25% DV at-all-costs approach. For example, iron does not seem to be included at all.

[1] https://ensure.com/nutrition-products/compare-meal-replaceme...


Soylent's story was always lackluster.

http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298

> I researched every substance the body needs to survive, plus a few extras shown to be beneficial, and purchased all of them in nearly raw chemical form from a variety of sources. The section on the ingredients ended up being quite long so I’ll save that for a future post. The first morning my kitchen looked more like a chemistry lab than a cookery, but I eventually ended up with an thick, odorless, beige liquid. I call it ‘Soylent’. At the time I didn’t know if it was going to kill me

> On day 3 I noticed my heart was racing and my energy level was suddenly dropping ... I check my formula and realize iron is completely absent. I quickly purchase an iron supplement and add it to the mixture the next day. I have to be more careful not to leave anything out.


But that isn't what was thought. This guy began experimenting with meal replacement for himself and got an overwhelming response. The thought most involved was let's do this. This is organically cultivated mass self experimentation.


I don't know if this is a clarification comment or a praising comment. Still, mass experimentation is a really really bad idea. We have the FDA for a reason, and that reason is because people are stupid. When a can tells me that it is has 50% more radium than leading competitors in big red bold exciting letters even if is in a Warning box, a lot of the voting public thinks this is then a better product to eat. People are really really dumb. I'm not saying that Soylent is not FDA approved, I'm saying that experimenting on customers is really immoral when it comes to health.


I appreciate the larger point, but the iron example seems pretty unfair.

Soylent is designed to be nutritionally complete as a sole food, or 'neutral' as part of a larger diet. That is, drinking a bottle of Soylent will reduce all of your remaining nutrition needs by the same proportion.

The result is that the balance of a diet hinges on the non-Soylent parts. If the man with too much iron and the woman with too little maintained the same (relative) diet without Soylent, they would still be unhealthy. More broadly, you can't say that a food is inherently unhealthy just because it doesn't fit into a specific slot in your diet. (You could say it's generally unhealthy for having bad nutritional balance, but that's not the case with Soylent.)

The more reasonable criticism here is of Soylent as whole-diet replacement. That's something that Soylent actually can't do, because specific nutrition needs don't vary in lockstep. If one person needs more calcium, and another needs more magnesium, Soylent can't possibly provide like a more flexible diet could.

So I agree that Soylent could have built out a more personalized (or customizable) product, with better results for many users. But I don't think it's fair to appeal to imbalances elsewhere in a diet and demand that Soylent resolve them.


I'll expand a bit more on my point with the iron content of Soylent.

I picked iron out of the list to focus on because it's not water soluble and that makes it more problematic. I bet there are issues across the board with the nutrient content in Soylent.

Excess iron in your diet can be a health problem because your body has no efficient way to dispose of it. The main mechanism for shedding iron is via blood loss! You aren't going to die if you get even 40mg of iron in a day, but consistently ingesting too much iron can be problematic.

This is why you see vitamins with 3000% DV Vitamin C and 10% DV iron -- there's no harm (beyond expensive urine) in excess water soluble Vitamin C, but there can be harm with excess iron.

So if we look at Soylent, with 5mg of iron per serving (IF all of that is actually bio-available), it is not ideal even for the likely majority of its customers (adult men) and even if they only consumed Soylent.

The average adult male only requires an additional 3mg of iron per day, which can easily be exceeded from any number of sources: a multivitamin, a second serving of Soylent, eating a steak, and so on. It's extremely unlikely that the average consumer of Soylent isn't exceeding their daily iron intake (unless they're a woman, especially a pregnant one, in which case they have more wiggle room).

That isn't even considering a non-average adult male, who might need 4mg or 12mg or who knows what.

Excess iron (>20mg) can also cause "gastric upset, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and faintness" [1] -- which can all be caused by lots of things, but are certainly areas where Soylent has struggled somewhat.

Mainly I just think it's disappointing that Soylent adopted a naive one-size-fits-all approach and doesn't really seem to understand what RDA and %DV are meant to convey. The FDA is faced with an impossible task to provide %DV for all people everywhere without considering any of their personal variables. Soylent should be trying to go a step beyond that, not just blindly targeting those numbers.

[1] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/#h...


Unfortunately, Soylent is a broscience experiment that got out of hand.

sigh. :-/


A cautionary tale that produces a fast-growing company now worth at least $100 million dollars? I'll take it.


Here, in a nutshell, is everything that is wrong with the toxic valley startup culture.


I agree with you. I don't support this mentality -- I'm just making fun of it.


Silicon Valley is littered with the corpses of overvalued cautionary tales.


The real measure of success is whether the company becomes a cautionary tale before or after its exit. Just ask Marc Cuban.


That's basically admitting a lot of tech companies have the same mentality as snake oil salesmen.


Well, yeah. Was that ever in dispute?


If you're aiming for a failed company and a pile of cash that makes you feel empty inside, or just a failed company, you're on the right track.


I think of Iomega: $100/share in 1998, $2/share in 2005. There are better investments...


Theranos anyone?


> anyone who looks at a field they know very little about and thinks "how hard could it be?".

I don't think the "how hard could it be?" mindset should be discouraged.

Relevant PG article: http://paulgraham.com/schlep.html


eh, as the first trying to bring science in food science and use microbiology instead of dietary esoterism I'm willing to give them some slack

sure this turn of people getting sick is worrying, because coming late and sudden hints at contamination, and I hope they can mature enough to go past manufacturing problems

but the data they're collecting will be extraordinary for bringing down the layers of encrusted myths about how the body works.


> ... as the first trying to bring science in food science...

I'm pretty sure food science and studies of nutrition have been around a lot longer than Soylent.

Also, I see no reason why they should be cut any slack. It's not just a webapp that experiences downtime. When this goes wrong people get hurt.


I'm pretty sure food science and studies of nutrition have been around a lot longer than Soylent.

I've only read about this in passing, in general histories, but this was one of MIT's early strengths, in the post-Civil War late 19th Century era.


Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) has been used in medicine for a while; it feeds people directly, bypassing the digestive tract and delivering nutrients via an IV. Enteral nutrition (feeding tubes) have been used for a long time as well. Medicine has thought long & hard about how to keep people alive on a liquid diet. It's not a new thing and Soylent is not even close to a "first".


Could you elaborate on the data they are collecting?

The human body with it's organs and molecular pathways is quite a tough black box to crack, and there is not a spark of a doubt that Soylent - and no one else - will not understand it for quite a while.

And then there is human human variations.

The concept was flawed from the very beginning. It's sad to see them fail, and I feel bad for the people that suffer because they believed what was marketing and not hard science.


well human response to soylent is already a huge data set, was used so far to add/remove/rebalance stuff and of course drive recalls.

> there is not a spark of a doubt that Soylent - and no one else - will not understand it for quite a while

I agree but at some point this work should begin somewhere, somehow.


> well human response to soylent is already a huge data set

"People love it" isn't a rigorous double-blind scientific study.


Or it could be the move to using Soy protein in 1.6 (and the bars) and some people are sensitive to that level of it.


I'm not sure the reports say its contamination. Its possible the powder is just incompatible with the digestive system of some people in same way as, say, leafy vegetables or carrageenan affect some people's digestion but not others.

Soylent may be recalling because they don't want to be liable in the _possibility_ of contamination. However, over time, they may find they can make the best product that is compatible with some digestive systems but not others - put a warning on product accordingly.

Cheap, accurate testing of foods for compatibility with a broad range of nutrient absorption rates and microbiomes would be key in engineering foods for everyone. But right now it would just make your food really expensive to the extent its even possible.


It would also be interesting to see whether the suffers are long-term users - there is always the possibility of developing allergies over time. I used to eat and enjoy quite a lot of food that used Quorn as an ingredient - until it started making me vomit uncontrollably.


From the description I'm willing to bet its polyphenols and some of their customers are sensitive - feed me two pots of green tea and I'll projectile vomit.


I wouldn't be surprised if the fact that it's a powder contributes to this. I've vomited from strong green tea on an empty stomach before, but never from green tea with food. Solid food works as a sustained release mechanism for the nutrients/phytochemicals. A sudden burst of polyphenols won't necessarily have the same effect as the same dose spread over time.


Yup - true - if I've eaten it won't make me nauseous, and having food mass (chyme) in your stomach acts as a buffer for absorbtion.


Our experience at MealSquares[1] has been that these external testing services are entirely oriented around the food industries needs for 'check-offs' rather than any concern about whether food is good or even safe for humans. I repeatedly had food science advisors confuesedly tell me 'but it's generally recognized as safe!' when I raised concerns about newly released designer cocktails of preservatives or flavoring agents (MealSquares still has neither). There's also a mini-industry around 'clean labeling' which in practice means food additive companies finding every loophole in the FDA regulations to be able to refer to some crazy concoction as just 'modified starch' and similar on the label. The real rabbit hole is 'processing aids' which don't even need to go on the label but wind up in your food (and our ingredients have to be tested for).

We've found no reasonable way to signal to the market that we are not engaged in these shenanigans partially because 99% of the market isn't even aware of these shenanigans. There's the organic and gmo free sect, but those have often been found to be worse than the alternative in terms of things like carcinogens in the organic pesticides used.

I will say this: several of our friend's kids eat MealSquares. Our advisory panel includes a registered dietician who specialized in meal replacements for many years, an academic nutritionist, and an MD who specializes in obesity research. And we've made changes based on their input. We've also checked in with a pediatrician who does nutrition research for kids. We give a shit.

1. I am one of the founders of http://www.MealSquares.com


A non-preachy education campaign would help. I'd watch a youtube channel with shorts describing how incumbents work within the existing system (no bias, just educate me) and then a small explanation about what MealSquares does at the end.


Off topic, but I just checked out your website. I read the landing page, and it sounds reasonable so far. I saw the "Try Some" link and thought, "Sure, I'll give it a try!" I thought it would lead to a page offering to send me a free (or very cheap, shipping only) sample square. Instead I am asked to pay $90 (!) just to try it (which is different than the $85 price actually on the form.)

May I suggest making that link lead to a "free sample" page rather than a "give us $90 before even trying a bite" page? I think you'll get a whole lot more uptake that way.


I recently ordered a sample pack of Meal Squares and I love them! So tasty and so quick. Particularly good with a glass of milk. My boyfriend isn't as much of a fan, but I've been eating at least one a day since we received the sample pack.


A number of my friends are food scientists, it goes beyond the "testing" concept and into the "design" concept. I think Soylent has been a little arrogant about their development process and failed to hire someone with extensive food science experience for the scaling.

There's some constituent ingredient they're using that is either sensitive to a significant portion of the population or contaminated with another thing that is. The best response here is to announce they're hiring someone experienced out of {existing company} to prevent these mistakes in the future.


These guys are literally a danger to society at this point.

Just because you think you're "smart" doesn't mean you can make functional foods without serious expertise. Typical case of over-inflated engineer egos.

Obligatory link from 2013: https://blog.priceplow.com/soylent


Testing is needed at the point where risk is. If something comes from a farm and your job is to decontaminate it - there's point in testing output. If you're running a restaurant you probably don't need your dishwasher to test tap water quality and post results on the website.

Soylent is simply mixing a number of standard powders, most of those already heavily processed.

I think it's quite clear that an ingredient they actually wanted in the formula is causing drama, not that something got contaminated or not up to spec. Testing you suggest would show that "yeah bag contains exactly what we want". But that wouldn't catch the issue of "what we've put in the bag isn't compatible with (some?) human bodies".


FWIW, I can't back this up with a link but I remember a HN thread where the infrastructure was strictly characterized as more of less mostly good enough, not a point of pride


So you have a mostly-good-enough tech to sell a mostly-good-enough product. Then what exactly justifies the $20 mio venture capital?


being the first* there and having a chance of becoming the de-facto monopoly of the industry

*there are food substitute in use already for in-patients with certain conditions, but are pricey, incomplete and not really into the nutrition substitute space, more like into the 'survive a week on this because you can't eat food' space.


Since they're producing an actual food product they arguably have higher costs than most software efforts that get investment backing.


Their main product is their ecommerce tech stack. Soylent is a side project.


Because the world was crying out for another "ecommerce tech stack"?


Put on your tinfoil hat, it's conspiracy time...

I think he's referring to this:

https://www.reddit.com/r/soylent/comments/59p4tx/the_latest_...


In fairness they have developed an active and engaged online community with customer support that resembles a tech product I can't think of another food product that's done this, it's definitely a part of what's allowed them to take off.


Your critique is based on the assumption that this is something testing could have caught. Toxins, bacterial contamination or something similar.

If it is just an intolerance or allergic reaction exhibited to particular ingredients by a small fraction of the population that is very difficult to test for. Even more so if the magnitude of the reaction depends on processing of the ingredients.

If they are using uncommon ingredients or process them in unusual ways it may be entirely possible that it was simply a previously unknown issue that nobody tests for, i.e. in-house testing could not have caught it either and human beta-testing could be inconclusive due to low prevalence of the intolerance.

I wonder how other large food manufacturers handle such things.


> and boasted about their overdesigned web infrastructure for a business that did two transactions a minute

They made more money with that two transactions than some other high rollers.


I guess one great thing about Soylent threads is bringing all the urban myths around nutrition out into the open. People in this thread believe everything from "people on liquid diets don't poop!" to "if you put some berries in a blender and drink it, you're getting entirely different nutrition from eating the berries raw!" That second one is a bit of a strawman, but it shows how absurd claims that crushing or grinding foods ruins the nutrition sound.

But the main one I want to call out is "Ensure is well-researched", which seems to have reached self-perpetuating status. Go ahead, type terms related to Ensure into PubMed or Google Scholar. I would cite a particular one if any of them turned up anything. The most prominent independent examination of Ensure's nutritional value (that I've found) came when Abbott was forced to settle with the FTC in the late 90s for falsely advertising Ensure as doctor-recommended and useful to drink with an already healthy diet.[0] If you're not interested in reading it, the FTC's main complaints were over false claims about doctor recommendations and the fact that Ensure's advertising compared a single can to a multivitamin.

[0] https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cases/1997...


> "if you put some berries in a blender and drink it, you're getting entirely different nutrition from eating the berries raw!" That second one is a bit of a strawman, but it shows how absurd claims that crushing or grinding foods ruins the nutrition sound.

Well, for many foods this is 100% true. For instance, it's not the same eating raw garlic, than freshly smashed garlic (<10mins), than garlic smashed 20 minutes ago... because allicin (main active compound of garlic) is unstable and quickly degrades into another compounds...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allicin


Yeah, I was gonna say-- pureeing berries severely impacts dietary fiber, which in turn impacts glycemic index, since your body no longer has to work around nearly as much cellulose to get to the sugar. It's a physical process that has an impact on a chemical process. And of course you chew your food, but you can't chew anything nearly so fine as your blender does.

Here's a more concrete analogy-- sawdust is highly flammable. Many times more so than regular old wood. Why? Better oxygenation, higher surface area, lower per-unit thermal mass (which means less energy required to get a particular chip of wood to its combustion point).


> Yeah, I was gonna say-- pureeing berries severely impacts dietary fiber, which in turn impacts glycemic index, since your body no longer has to work around nearly as much cellulose to get to the sugar.

When I first got my Vitamix, I did some cursory web "research" which seemed to imply that blending made no substantive difference in nutritional value of fruits. Do you have a citation for this conclusion?


The general rule of thumb is cooked digests easier than raw, blended easier than cooked, juiced easiest of all. Think of it as automating preexisting parts of the natural digestive cycle-- you chew your food physically for a reason, obviously, starting in the mouth and continuing in the stomach. Cooking denatures protein. Pureeing similarly breaks down dietary fiber into smaller, more digestable chunks. Everything is still there (excepting volatile organic compounds that degrade once exposed to air, etc), it's a physical process, not chemical. But physical transformations have indisputable effects on chemical reactions. That's not controversial.

(Caveat: nutritional science is very much in the wild wild west days. It's a jungle out there, even in peer-reviewed research.)



He doesn't have a citation because he's wrong.


But I do, sunshine. Do you?


Your citation is about starch. A better citation in support of your assertion https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/71495


But does that change the nutritional value of garlic (as opposed to changing just the taste)?


If you lose allicin you lose some nice properties (antimicrobial, antiinflammatory, etc):

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10594976


But those properties may not be relevant to you when consuming garlic anyway. The vast majority of such studies are showing the properties in isolation (petri-dish).

People love to extrapolate that to "garlic prevents colds", but it doesn't follow. I'm not going to pay to read the full article in this case but you at least have to be careful about this.


> But those properties may not be relevant to you when consuming garlic anyway.

Many of this properties are well known (not so well understood). I posted a random quick example, but there are also studies in vivo (rodent models and humans).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103721/


My point was that you have to be careful in general. In the specific case of garlic, I don't draw the conclusion from your second link that it is "well known". There are some promising results for some of the individual diseases, but there are also many caveats. The conclusion states:

"Although it is shown that garlic may have a significant clinical potential either in their own right or as adjuvant therapy in different disorders, however, due to some issues, such as methodological inadequacies, small sample sizes, lack of information regarding dose rationale, variation between efficacy and effectiveness trials, the absence of a placebo comparator, or lack of control groups more standard experiments and researches are needed to confirm the beneficial effect of garlic in various diseases."


> I don't draw the conclusion from your second link that it is "well known".

Then it must be a cultural thing... =) If you read the first sentence in the abstract you can read: "Throughout history, many different cultures have recognized the potential use of garlic for prevention and treatment of different diseases.".

Here in the Mediterranean, garlic is known to be really healthy (along with red wine and olive oil). Many people eat garlic in the morning just for the health benefits, and we even have (famous?) smashed garlic dishes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aioli

> My point was that you have to be careful in general.

Agree. Sometimes more context/evidence is required. My point is that the bioavailability of compounds in food might differ if the food is presented in raw or elaborated/processed form.


The first sentence is setting the scene, not confirming the hypothesis. If things being "known" by cultural history was sufficient, we wouldn't need to do science. In reality, a good proportion of "known" things are wrong or the very minimum more subtle than expected.

It is also "known" that being physically cold causes colds (Mediterraneans are especially paranoid about this in my experience). The majority of studies show this to be either untrue or borderline.

I do agree that there is clear potential for chopping food to affect it's nutritional value. I would expect chopping alone to be of minimal impact in most cases if no other evidence was available. Elaborate processing is rather different.


It's almost as though breaking down the cell walls of plant material exposes various molecules to oxygen and other compound in air resulting in the possibility for chemical change than would exist it the material was consumed directly.


Unless you swallow your food whole I imagine that your teeth might break down cell walls too.


Aren't you severely grinding it with your teeth, saliva, and gastric acids anyway?

(Honestly asking, I have no idea.)


Correct. Freshly blended food is also no issue.

The first issue is that you don’t immediately consume it after blending, but wait a few minutes or hours.

The second issue is that the grinding with teeth requires you to spend energy, which reduces the energy you gain from the food.


Right, but teeth are natural and a mortar and pestle are not /s


How does rushing it into an acid bath preserve it?


The goal isn't to preserve it forever, the goal is to preserve it long enough to get to the bacteria which can make use of it.


Antimicrobial food would be bad for you as it would harm digestion.


Not quite true. Antimicrobial doesn't mean quite what you think; it means anti-some-microbes. Honey, for instance, has several antimicrobial or antibiotic aspects. Some honey is so because enzymes in it produce hydrogen peroxide, while other honey is so for different reasons, not fully understood. If you feed mice a lot of honey, their intestinal flora rebalance -- in one study, for instance, feeding mice honey as a food supplement increased their bifidobacteria and lactobacilli counts. This is actually probably good for digestion.


Feed mice a new diet of any kind and their gut will rebalance.


We cannot assume that the environment is innocuous. Our atmosphere is full of nitrogen, oxygen and other chemical compounds able to produce a reaction and modify molecules in any food.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_ingredient

"An active ingredient (AI) is the ingredient in a pharmaceutical drug that is biologically active. " Does it also reduce the amount of rainbows and unicorns? Your own wikipedia link does not say eating garlic is helpful to humans.


Sorry, I meant "active compound"...

> Your own wikipedia link does not say eating garlic is helpful to humans.

As you may know, you shouldn't look in wikipedia for that kind of information... here you go:

"Recent studies support the effects of garlic and its extracts in a wide range of applications. These studies raised the possibility of revival of garlic therapeutic values in different diseases. Different compounds in garlic are thought to reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases, have anti-tumor and anti-microbial effects, and show benefit on high blood glucose concentration."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103721/

But the point here is (in case you missed it): eating smashed food != eating raw food



I thought the biggest problem with blending stuff is the quantity I'll be having compared to having just one unit of something. For example, I wouldn't eat 3 oranges in a row but I would definitely drink them if blended.


Mashed potatoes is a big one for me. Would never eat 5 boiled potatoes, but if I make mashed potatoes out of them I'll happily eat that much and quite possible still want more.


Orange juice has a drastically higher GI than oranges because your body more rapidly absorbs sugar from juice than from pulp. It's not just the quantity.


The process of juicing already leaves some waste out and you are probably also removing the pulp from the juice itself.

OP was talking about the differences between eating a certain food and eating that same thing after liquifying it as a whole.


>I wouldn't eat 3 oranges in a row

I would! I tend to go overboard on fruit if I don't stop myself. Apples, oranges, blueberries, cantaloupe, all so delicious...Not always pleasant for digestion and probably a bit of sugar rush, but do you know of any more serious health effects?


Eating too much sugar has serious long term health effects.


Ignoring the effect on your teeth, it was my understanding that the fibre in fruit helped counteract many of the negative effects of fructose (at least, keeping your insulin in check). I don't have any proof on hand, so perhaps I'm wrong.


There's afaik a rather big difference between freshly squeezed orange juice, and fruit juices that have been pasteurised. I'm not sure there's that big a difference between eating an orange and drinking the juice - other than the simple fact that the orange will contain "more stuff" that is "not sugar" than the juice - hence it'll be easier to increase sugar intake by drinking, say a litre of orange juice a day, and eating some food - rather than eating six(?) large oranges and being reasonably full.


Absolutely. I'm assuming eating an orange would have more fibre than a squeezed orange.

Buying "smooth" (no "bits") juice I would assume is missing most of the fibre.


Fructose is low GI, so there is a small insulin response only.


Ah, you are right. I think I'm misremembering. I'm basing most of what I wrote on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM but I watched it years ago and my memory isn't the greatest. (I also didn't fact check the video's content, so... grain of salt and all that, it does seem well sourced though)


The blending idea I've not seen any research to back up what you have said.

Surface area of absorbing fructose could logically affect your body (think Higher GI), as could enzymes in saliva. So while it's the same stuff you might well absorb it in worse ways for your body...


As far as the specific example of blended fruit, I seem to be on solid ground.[0][1] However, starches do change properties depending on form, which is probably similar to what you were getting at with fructose absorption.[2] I was mostly complaining about claims that micronutrients lose bioavailibility when not provided in their "natural" form.

[0] https://www.quora.com/Does-blending-reduce-the-nutritional-c...

[1] http://www.livestrong.com/article/548978-does-fruit-lose-its...

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3046297


Do you tend to swallow raspberries whole, or chew them first?


Are you saying chewing is as effective as blending? Are you saying saliva doesn't have enzymes in it that might affect things?

Point to research or I'll assume you are just making things up! Just to be clear I'm not saying I'm right I'm saying I doubt we have proved it...


I spit in the blender, of course.


Actually that was how some forms of alcohol used to be made, for example sake in Japan.

> The first sake, kuchikami no sake, (口噛みの酒) or "mouth-chewed sake," was made by people chewing rice, chestnuts, millet, and acorns and spitting the mixture into a tub, where the enzymes from saliva converted the starches to sugar. This sweet mixture was then combined with freshly cooked grain and allowed to naturally ferment.

It might seem like a disgusting practice to contemporary eyes, but it does show the power of human saliva and how one should not discount the process of chewing food. Drinking a liquid vs actively chewing, imbibing the chewed food with your saliva, definitely does not lead to the same thing.


From my experience, when people vomit after eating it comes up pretty recognizable.


Everything I do not understand in detail is just an "urban myth".


With nutrition you can safely assume most things you hear are bullshit.


I do not think so. The statement that keto is the best diet even if it causes rectal bleeding sounds reasonable to me [source: HN]. I go now and take a fat-shake. Cheers!


I was on keto. It worked. No rectal bleeding. I also didn't die of various stuff I was supposed to. I'm close to getting jailed though, because I fear that at some point I'll break and punch the next person who tells me that artificial sweeteners cause cancer.


They can cause neuronal damage through excitotoxicity [0][1]. I've never heard of keto before, but I would be wary of aspartame and MSG.

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7854587

[1] http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/review-ex...


The American Nutrition Association is not a credible source. And they're using a discredited source - he's promoted several outright conspiracy theories. (I mean, fucking chemtrails even).


For the downvoters:

Anyone can join the American Nutrition Society as a professional member. Minimal checks are made of professional registration - you just need to paypal the fees.

Russel Blaylock's wikipedia article says:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Blaylock

> Blaylock has endorsed views inconsistent with the scientific consensus, including that food additives such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are excitotoxic in normal doses and that the H1N1 influenza (swine flu) vaccine carries more risk than swine flu itself.

> Advertisements selling the 'Blaylock Wellness Report' at newsmax.com contain claims of additional health dangers, including fluoridated drinking water, fluoridated toothpaste, vaccines, dental amalgam, cholesterol drugs, pesticides, and aluminum cookware.[23]

> In April 2013, Dr. Blaylock entered his endorsement of the chemtrails conspiracy theory on an internet radio program called Linderman Unleashed Radio Show where he cited increased levels of aluminum in water bodies and nature with his common sense observations of the skies. He proposed the conspiratorial and criminal aircraft spraying by governments of nano toxins for some supposed global, emergency purpose

This is a laundry list of woo topics, and it should be obvious that he's no longer a credible source for anything.


It was surprising to me to see that fluoride free toothpastes exist. They're sold regularly at Whole Foods. And you can check on the American Dental Association page which products earn the ADA Seal... none of which avoid inclusion of fluoride.

http://www.ada.org/en/science-research/ada-seal-of-acceptanc...


Fluoride collects in your pineal gland. There is no study (AFAIK) that says it harms the function of the pineal gland, but when I armchair-researched this a few years ago, it seemed no one is quite sure that it is benign.

The most significant benefit from brushing comes from the mechanical action, not from the toothpaste or any compound within. Personally, I use fluoridated toothpastes, but I can understand people who don't.

People like to point to scientific consensus as proof (by authority), but consensus changes with time: Trans fats are no longer good. Fats are no longer bad. Stomach ulcers are now caused by bacteria. Cholesterol intake no longer matters. Dinosaurs are no longer extinct (they are birds now), and had features. Patient zero did not bring HIV to the US.


It may or may not be benign. But I know that fluoride prevents cavities by reinforcing your enamel and that's why the ADA recommends it. So whatever the accumulation of fluoride does to my pineal gland, I'll trade that for the protection fluoride affords.

I know unfluoridated toothpastes are clinically proven to work in cleaning your teeth. But I need anti-cavity protection too.

(My mom's a dental hygienist. She'd kill me if she found a cavity.)


It would be so sad if you get jailed because of an "urban myth".


Someone could at least write a magazine article proving that artificial sweeteners cause incarceration.


Analogous to the fact that it is very hard to study the nutrition and long-term effects of Soylent on a big scale, with a diverse set of people, the same seems to be true for "normal" food. How do you even _define_ a "regular diet"? The exact diet varies from person to person, even from week to week!

Even though we've had "normal diets" for way longer, it is impossible to study those effectively without first closely defining the diet in question (which is effectively the same as feeding Soylent, minus the powderization and conservation).

Following that, it should be much easier to closely examine the effects of Soylent on people than it is to study any other non-standardized form of nutrition. And yet every "fact" about Soylent you read is purely anectodal.


I take it you didn't study food science. It's called oxidation, look it up. Also, some foods are made more bioavailable when soaking and blending, and sprouting, cashews.


Curious what are your thoughts on GMOs.


Wouldn't it be ironic if one of the GMO ingredients in Soylent was causing the kind of allergic reaction that organic activists are always warning about thus proving the hazardness of GMOs. This is sheer speculation but had to share the thought.


Not unlikely, most GMOs are modified to increase resistance of them for pesticides, or for them to produce pesticides themselves.

And these increased pesticides often also cause several reactions in humans.


I'm really amazed by all the supporters on here. When I first heard about Soylent, I thought it was a terrible terrible idea. I mean, there's so much to food. It's not just eating it, it's all the flavours and ingredients and cooking with friends and loved ones and parties and such. I'm guessing most people on here use it as a supplement + regular food, but when I saw it originally, it seemed like it was intended to be someone's only source of food.

I think I'll just stick to Quest bars when I'm too busy to eat right. :-P


Every time Soylent is on HN people say this.

Why don't people understand? It's so simple: Soylent is for meals you don't care about but need. It's not a) the ONLY food you can eat or b) supposed to replace all meals.

I order a box of Soylent bottles every few weeks—they come in handy while working or for a quick breakfast or if I have little time and am hungry. I also cook meals with my girlfriend a few times a week and go out to dinner every weekend. Both things can exist at the same time.

It's just a nutritious drink you can drink at any time if you need to. If you want to make it most of our meals, sure go ahead. But no one says you must.


> Soylent is for meals you don't care about but need

This is the problem. That concept is completely foreign to a lot of people (me included). The combination of my body's needs and the way I was raised lead me to view each meal as an opportunity to be enjoyed, never a chore.

Something I observed in the weightlifting community: there are people who need to worry about dieting (cutting) and people who worry about eating enough (bulking). Serious weightlifters go through cycles of both but most people struggle more with one side or another.

Bulking isn't a struggle for me -- I can clear 5,000 kcal/day without a sweat. I've trained myself to eat pretty healthy but I'd always prefer steak and eggs for breakfast. On the other hand, a friend of mine complains about all the pizza he has to eat to meet his targets. Soylent makes a lot of sense for him (quick calories) but I'll never understand that feeling of "ugh, I need to eat, guess I'll have a Soylent".


Eating a meal takes a lot of time. You've got to prepare it, clean up afterwards, and take your mind off of whatever you are doing. Or you have to order it, and then still usually there's some cleanup and interaction.

The liquid Soylent is about as disruptive as drinking water. That's really useful to me when I'm sucked into a programming challenge or research task. Sometimes I'll go 3-4 days doing nothing but work and sleep. A meal is really disruptive during those times, because I just want my head fully integrated into the problems I'm working on.


    "Good morning," said the little prince.

    "Good morning," said the merchant.

    This was a merchant who sold pills that had been
    invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one
    pill a week, and you would feel no need of anything to
    drink.

    "Why are you selling those?" asked the little prince.

    "Because they save a tremendous amount of time," said
    the merchant. "Computations have been made by experts.
    With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every
    week."

    "And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?"

    "Anything you like..."

    "As for me," said the little prince to himself, "if I
    had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should
    walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water."
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


"New technology usurps romanticization of older technology" is not a new and surprising concept. One could replace "pill" and "spring of fresh water" with any technological advancement which took over some earlier activity that a subset of the population found and still finds enjoyable to do. Typewriters and computers, bicycles and cars, making a fire using sticks verses using a stove to cook food even.

In my experience no one who treats that idea as novel ever seems to offer a litmus test to tell if the value of technology trumps the potential enjoyment in doing something manually. Does rimantas use stone or metal tools to cook? But the feeling of spinning the tree branch in your hands against the kindling! How greatly rimantas has lost in their fervor for convenience...


It has nothing to do with technology and tools.


IS either opinion incorrect? Why can't we agree that some people don't want to take time preparing food, and others do?


It's not about the food. It's about slowing down and taking your time. When you start taking tablets to save time drinking, o soylent, to save time eating, you for sure do not slow down. Why it is important to slow down and unplug is another big topic, but that is absolutely essential.


I used to do that as well when I was younger. Obviously not with Soylent, that wasn't around then. It works well for menial programming tasks where time is the limiting factor. Incidently, those are the problems where you can for the most part jump out and right back in without too much overhead. But when facing a hard problem, getting up and away from the computer, and cooking a meal always mean I'll solve the problem faster and better. Simply because I let the problem alone for a while. I even use non tech coworkers for sparing, explaning the problem, and answering their questions means I'll have to think about the problem in a significantly different way - often revealing insight in the process. YMMW


A thousand times this. I remember staying up late to finish programming problems when I was young (and stupid). Now I find the most effective way of solving hard programming problems is to spend an afternoon attacking it and then go to sleep at a normal hour. Magically, an elegant solution - usually quite different from work in progress - appears in my brain while I'm showering.

I do my best work while sleeping, I just need to figure out how to bill for it.


Agreed - for really hard problems I've never found that pounding away directly is effective. I load up on the required information and then intentionally go and do something else (ironically cooking seem to does it for me but overnight and in shower also works) and out of nowhere a solution will appear.


> I used to do that as well when I was younger. Obviously not with Soylent, that wasn't around then.

Is Soylent ramen for rich people?


Oh, hey, this is my favorite so far. Can Soylent just be a shitty food choice, full stop? I think yes!


If Ramen were nutritionally complete to a reasonably modern understanding of Human nutrition


Maybe, except it seems better to your body than most normal meals you eat ;).


Stealing this shamelessly


At that effort level I was hoping you're working on curing a disease or at least something more important than the cloud. :-/


I'm honored that you dug into it.

I'm working on decentralization, which I think is a very socially important goal. The cloud is not my ultimate objective, but it's one of the very few short term use cases I see where a decentralized system seems to have the potential to utterly dominate a centralized one.

Decentralized tech is very new. It's very hopium, and it's very poorly understood, both by zealots and by non-believers. I think that decentralization is going to change a lot of things in fundamental ways, and I think I can move the field forward faster by building a tangible, provably working, provably superior use case for decentralized tech.

Cloud storage is not as glamorous as starting a new world order, but the most important engineering is often the most mundane. People probably felt similarly about the Internet back before the world wide web was invented.


What are you specifically working on decentralizing? Do you have an end goal in mind for what a perfectly decentralized world would look like? Eg. a SBC in every home & office running a mailserver, webserver, etc

Edit: I think decentralization is great (like say IPFS), but I would not risk health or put off others to dedicate all my time to working on it, social interaction is an everyday need!


Ultimately I would like to see that people are allowed to maintain full control over their access to money and information. As tech improves, those things are getting more important, and right now the trend is to increasingly outsource the control (especially for information) to centralized entities that likely don't have your well-being as their primary objective.


There are a vast number of things that fit under the umbrella of tech that needs to be decentralized to give you full control over your money and information.

What part of that stack are you working on? Blockchain currency, low level networking, distributed filesystems, p2p websites, ...


I'd give up now.


Hari Seldon of decentralization, I tip my hat.


[flagged]


Please don't make personal attacks like this on Hacker News.


> Sometimes I'll go 3-4 days doing nothing but work and sleep

In all seriousness, this is tremendously unhealthy. Get up and go for a walk, a light jog, something. The health consequences of even just being sedentary for that long are terrible (to say nothing of the psychological consequences of deceiving yourself into thinking that work is the only thing of value in life).


> Sometimes I'll go 3-4 days doing nothing but work and sleep.

I know this is HN, but that sounds awful.


If that's a regular schedule for you - Don't you feel you're missing out on living life?


When I'm really sucked into a problem is one of the few times that I feel fully alive. It's like being in a flow state for multiple days, pushing every cognitive resource I have to reach a solution.

I think it happens less than once a month, and almost always lasts less than a week.

I do wish that I went hiking more often, camping more often, and I wish that I had more social interactions that were free of social and business undertones.


You sound like me 25 years ago. I assume you are still young (20-30?) but I would urge you to take a look at your lifestyle and habits now, with a view to changing it to incorporate more of your hiking and camping and social interactions that you mention.

I once felt that living like you currently are was sustainable and that I would be impervious to the long term effects, but now that I have hit the half century mark, I am finding I suffer from all sorts of back and shoulder pain from sitting for extended programming sessions lasting days. I also have rapidly degrading eyesight, and high risk of glaucoma from staring at screens all day every day, and I have other health and digestive issues from not eating regular healthy meals, or drinking enough water back in the day.

It is highly likely that the lifestyle you are accustomed to will turn around and bite you one day. Make changes now so that you don't end up the same as this old programmer. :)


Mathematicians get a similar mental state from the release of dopamine that rewards working on and successfully solving ever more complex problems. I've also seen engineers comment similarly about it, and it sounded quite like what my great grandfather described when working on a complex math problem over a span of time.

That being said, make time for yourself, all consuming projects will make you discontent with life in general.


Telling someone they're "missing out on living life" just because they don't do the same thing as you is really condescending.


I don't think it was meant that way, I didn't take offense.


I wondered if maybe I was missing out at some point, but after pushing myself to do other stuff, what I quickly realised was that I do what I do because it is what I enjoy.

It is not necessarily less "living life", just different choices.

Of course, that assumes you do it because you're working on things that excite you and interest you because you enjoy them.


> Sometimes I'll go 3-4 days doing nothing but work and sleep.

That sounds extremely unhealthy from both a physical and a mental standpoint.


Ok so why specifically Soylent and not one of the many alternatives?


>You've got to [...] take your mind off of whatever you are doing

Exactly the reason we should enjoy actual regular meals, preferably with other people.


I have two young kids and a startup. The idea that I should view each meal as an opportunity to be enjoyed is honestly a pipe dream right now. I enjoy as many of my meals as I can with my family. But when the kids are sick or I'm running behind and have a meeting, I grab a soylent and I feel like it's a lot healthier than picking up sugary junk or other alternatives.


I have one kid, and no startup, and sometimes the only meal I get to enjoy is lunch at the office.

When going out to eat, I would hold my son in my left hand, as I shoveled food into my mouth with my right hand, taking a break to apologize to whomever was dining with me for having such bad manners.


Soylent has nine grams of sugar per serving. It is sugary junk.


Isn’t it supposed to be a meal or something? Nine grams isn’t that much compared to e.g. a muffin (~30 g).


A muffin is not a meal though. A juicy steak with a side of grilled vegetables has ~0g sugar.


From the earlier comment:

> But when the kids are sick or I'm running behind and have a meeting, I grab a soylent and I feel like it's a lot healthier than picking up sugary junk or other alternatives.

It's not about general meals. It's those situations where you aren't able to make a real meal and have to settle on either nothing, or something fast and convenient. A muffin can be grabbed and eaten immediately. I'm not really sure how you expect them to grill a steak and vegetables.


I tried that. I got sick after I eat a juicy steak that I put in the trunk of my car last week.


Did it sit in the trunk of your car for an extended period of time?


It has 9g of Isomaltulose. It's a sugar, but it's not as bad as table sugar or HFCS for your blood sugar levels.

So yes, it's not perfect, but it's better than it sounds.


Isn't the WHO recommended sugar intake ~25 grams? 3 meals at 9 grams each is pretty close to that.


3 Soylent drinks is 1200 calories. You're talking five to hit 2000 calories in a day.

(And it's 34 total net carbohydrates per bottle, with 3g fiber. Which isn't great, either.)


9g of sugar for an entire meal isn't that much. A bottle of Coca-Cola has 67.5g of sugar in it, for comparison. An Apple has 19g.

Your expectations of how much sugar people should eat are set unrealistically low.


I average about 30g of carbohydrate and under 5g sugar for an entire day when I'm losing or maintaining my weight. 9g for a small meal (and Soylent is a small meal, it's 400 calories a bottle) is a lot, especially given that it's 34g of non-fiber carbohydrates in the bottle besides jst the sugar count..


You are eating an extremely low-carb diet that is far from the norm. The average carbohydrate consumption for a normal 2,000-calorie diet is almost ten times as much as what you're eating. So sure, I guess Soylent isn't useful for outlier diets, but it's fine for people with normal diets.


How much longer would an apple and a handful of walnuts take to eat?


I'll have that as well, usually with a soylent. An apple and nuts just doesn't leave you feeling very full for long.


Think of something you have to do every day that you don't like to do. Like flossing maybe? Some people really enjoy flossing. Some people don't. If there were a device I could put in my mouth and in 30 seconds everything were flossed, I would totally do that. But some people would think, man how can you do that and take all the enjoyment out of flossing?

Sometimes when I'm working, I run to the fridge, grab whatever is in it and eat it while I keep working. It usually doesn't taste like anything because I don't even bother heating it.

Soylent lets me do that but it's a lot healthier than whatever leftovers I might grab out of the fridge.

Either way I'm not enjoying the food nor the company (I'm at my desk at home alone). I'm also only spending 10 minutes.


"If there were a device I could put in my mouth and in 30 seconds everything were flossed"... I think what you're looking for is dental floss.


Actually what you're looking for would be a waterflosser. The trick is not forcing yourself to use it, it's not getting addicted to it.


When I've looked into waterflossers the evidence wasn't strong that they actually work. Then again, neither is it for flossing at all.


It's one of those things you have to try for yourself, I think. The evidence in my case is very much apparent when I'm in the chair getting poked by my hygienist. The waterflosser is more effective at maintaining my gum health than floss ever was, with a p-value amounting to a floating-point denormal.

I have a feeling that if the truth were to come out, the effectiveness of flossing would turn out to be entirely dependent on tooth spacing or some other individual characteristic. If so, that may be true for the waterjet gadgets as well. But it seems less likely.


If it takes you less than a minute to floss you're probably doing it wrong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PreNWWOYfI#t=32s


Some people's teeth are so messed up that flossing is a puzzle. "Right angle there, diagonal between those two teeth, curve a bit there, go backward there"...



With a little bit of practice you can easily do it as demonstrated there in under a minute.


Eh, flossing is a placebo anyway.


I can't attest to whether it helps prevent cavities or gum disease or whatever, given regular dental visits. I can say though that I used to rarely floss, and since I started flossing daily a few years ago, my teeth remain noticeably smoother and cleaner feeling between dentist visits, and require considerably less scraping when I'm there.


I don't know about you but I can tell how important flossing is by the amount of blood that comes out of my mouth the longer I take a break from flossing


> Some people really enjoy flossing.

Who does exactly?

Food, to me, represents more than replenishment of nutrition. It represents meeting and understanding my coworkers. Learning more about my significant other or unwinding with this person to talk about our week. Even when it's not a social situation, for me it's a treat. I completed some work and now I should treat myself by revitalizing my body with a substance that tastes good. It's a great motivator.

It's such a fundamental part of being a human being I can't at all relate to seeing it as a mechanical process such as flossing. I can't think of a worse comparison: when you're flossing, you're alone, and if anything anti social. Eating couldn't be any more be the opposite. It's something that all humans can relate to and bond over no matter what your opinions are.

Flossing isn't a part of our culture. Food is a part of every culture.


That we can all relate to it and bond over it doesn't mean that all of us want to. If I feel like being social, fine. But most of the time I don't feel like being social. Often that's the case even when I want to relax and enjoy food - I'd say maybe 3/4 of the time I go to restaurants I go alone by choice.

But just like I can, and occasionally do, enjoy social interactions but usually prefer solitude, while I can, and do often, greatly enjoy food there are still plenty of time when hunger is just an annoying disruption.

All of the stuff that you have built up around food can exist just fine separate from it. You connecting socialising and bonding with food is just habit. That's fine, but it isn't universal.


> Eating couldn't be any more be the opposite. It's something that all humans can relate to and bond over no matter what your opinions are.

I generally don't like food. Sometimes I crave something specific, or want to eat at a nice place. But 6 out of 7 days out of the week, food just isn't appealing to me, and is a chore to eat. It's basically like flossing.

Ever since a time when I was a teen and had to fast because of an esophagus problem, I haven't really felt hunger the same way. It's possible for me to go a few days without eating and not notice it or feel hungry. I can tell when I'm very hungry because I get lightheaded and weak around day 3. (Note, I don't do this intentionally and it isn't often I go days without eating).

So Soylent (or equivalent) is really helpful in making sure I get some food everyday.


> It's such a fundamental part of being a human being I can't at all relate to seeing it as a mechanical process such as flossing

I mean, I agree with you and everything but you're saying "this thing is so important to me I cannot understand other people". There are a reasonably large number of people who would be very happy if they only ever ate a bowl of cereal and a banana for breakfast every single day for the rest of their life. I don't understand it, and I wouldn't like it, but I don't want to prevent them the comfort they get from that.


>> Some people really enjoy flossing.

> Who does exactly?

I do! Admittedly anecdotal. I am not afraid to confess that I enjoy flossing.


It might be very important for your, but not for me. People have different taste.


That's exactly the alien part, I think. Equating eating to flossing is utterly alien to me. Every meal is a positive thing.


From people on the other side: sometimes I'm like "ugh, even drinking smth seems too much distraction, don't wanna loose this focus now, an IV-cathether port that could just pump the right stuff into my veins, triggered automatically by sensors knowing my dietary intake history and pooling blood concentrations of things from me, would be so awesome now" :)

Also, deciding what to eat is a huge chore and mental energy drain for me... especially since I like constant diversity and novelty even in food. If I could afford to have a personal chef that would be trained to "always surprise me" and occasionally I could just tell him smth like "uhm, that salad looks delicious, but I'm too lazy to eat it, grind it up into a shake please so I can slurp it on my way to place X or while coding" it would rock!


You like diverse food but then resort to Soylent to avoid choosing food? I suppose it's healthier than McD but it really sounds a bit crazy.


Though I'd argue the healthier alternative would be to take a break and go walk to a nice restaurant somewhere, but alas I also fall into situations where you just need to keep on task.


Usually keeping a break is better for both your health and your work


yup. when went from working 14h/day (with almost no breaks) to working 7~8h (with breaks to eat, drink water, walk around), my productivity increased a lot.


Is it healthier? Apparently it's making people sick.


Is it really so difficult to make a sandwich?


It is very easy to make a sandwich once you have a fridge which fills itself with fresh ingredients whenever you run out.


Also your sandwich is predominantly going to be made up of bread, even the healthiest of which isn't all that healthy, and likely deli meat, which you probably don't want to much of either.


Not with sudo.


That's a problem of empathy. You can't understand how other people would have this specific feeling or practice. Obviously though many people do have it.

There seems to be something very unsettling to people like you about the idea of "meal replacement". To me it appears to be a kind of cultural conservatism, like it's an attack on "family values".


It's not about empathy. The original poster was asking why people don't understand Soylent, and my answer is that it's solving a problem that they never even considered could be a problem.


> This is the problem. That concept is completely foreign to a lot of people (me included). The combination of my body's needs and the way I was raised lead me to view each meal as an opportunity to be enjoyed, never a chore.

Different people, different concepts :). I used a Soylent clone in the past to replace breakfast/lunch and I liked it. I feel I might be unique at that among my coworkers, but I e.g. really prefer eating at my desk - I can parallelize it with work, or reading a book, or reading HN, which is infinitely more interesting to me than eating out with most people.

> but I'll never understand that feeling of "ugh, I need to eat, guess I'll have a Soylent".

My mother was on a diet plan once, where they suggested two options for meals each day, and if you really didn't feel like eating that, you could replace it with a protein shake. There were days when that shake really was the best alternative, and it allowed her to stick to the plan instead of giving up.


> but I'll never understand that feeling of "ugh, I need to eat, guess I'll have a Soylent".

It sounds like you have either more free time or a more a steady work schedule then their target user.


Somehow this seems like an American thing or maybe people in other places make less of a spectacle of it?

Always having too little time, always working and being proud to plan every minute of every day (recently Marissa Mayer and Bill Gates and someone else from the US said in interviews they have every minute of every day planned; sounds like pure hell but he) seems very American. This Soylent thing fits in there.

Why would someone want to work that much unless you want to become a billionaire which, again, seems a drive in media coming from the US?

Maybe it is just the media I read though, but here there is no vibe like that and when I meet (very successful/rich) entrepreneurs in Asia/Aus/EU they seem to be always eating elaborately so they do not give of that vibe either. Again the press distorts but posts here on HN and a thing like Soylent support that press.


> Somehow this seems like an American thing or maybe people in other places make less of a spectacle of it?

I think there is more acceptance in certain cultures, for example, to skip lunch because it's a busy day. Having worked globally and in multiple industries, I don't believe it's an American only thing although probably more common there. I see it as more of an industry thing, and each industry seems to have it's own use case for a product like Soylent. i.e. the programmer 'in the zone' and not wanting to stop for dinner or the investment banker running on a few hours of sleep due to an upcoming pitch.

> Always having too little time, always working and being proud to plan every minute of every day

I'm not sure how that was implied, but that does not represent the typical American workforce in my view.

> entrepreneurs in Asia/Aus/EU they seem to be always eating elaborately

I would be surprised to hear these types of individuals don't deal with skipped meals or lack of time based on what's going on in there life/work like their counterparts in other countries do.


> I'm not sure how that was implied,

People here imply that people consume Soylent either because they cannot get enough calories in with normal food to not lose weight (what a luxury that must be), or, in most cases and as the direct parent writes, that they do not have time to eat 'normally'. That seems to mesh with the whole culture of fast food and minute day planning; I for one could not tell you if I have time for an elaborate meal or a quick meal at lunch today and I would not want to know if I do either. I'll see what happens when I get hungry.

> but that does not represent the typical American workforce in my view.

Not typical workforce; I'm citing some famous and very rich US business people. Just noting that these people seem proud of it while I don't hear the same stories (in the press) from anywhere else. And others (especially on HN) seem desperate to copy it (which is, I assume, were Soylent came from in the first place); people who cite this (time-hacking/life-hacking/whatever-hacking it is called) as a great feat are all from (=living in currently) the US when I check their profiles.


Particularly when you are inundated in valley slave culture, being busy all the time is a sign of your importance - you're busy disrupting the market getting ready to IPO, and if you have 10 spare minutes a day in which to regain some semblance of health or sanity, clearly you aren't a 10x developer. It's absolute hogwash and sadly a good number of brilliant young engineers are going to burn out, suffer health consequences, quit the field, etc. over it.

But having employees willing to sacrifice their actual wellbeing for the pipe-dream of getting "rich" is quite beneficial if you're say, a VC, so of course they foster this culture. "Look at how busy you are, you must be doing such important work!"


It's an old tradition, too: there are accounts from the early days of the United States talking about how reading is treated as labor rather than the enjoyable affairs which visitors from England, France, etc. were accustomed to.

https://books.google.com/books?id=2uBEAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA44&ots=...


I have all the free time in the world and I have that "ugh do I really need to eat again?"

I find it hard to hit 2500 calories daily to not lose weight.


Honestly, what the other poster said: whole milk.

2400 calories per gallon, well balanced between protein, fat, and carbs (you might say that it is ideally formulated to feed large mammals :P). The best part is that it is readily available every where and super cheap (< $3 per gallon).


65%-90% of humans are lactose intolerant[0], and lactaid pills aren't always effective.

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance#statis...


I'm guessing that ratio is probably different for people on HN, since, as fluent English speakers, they're more likely to be descended from Europeans.


It is, but it's still significant. 13% for whites in the US but rising to near 90% for some ethnic groups.

Europe varies greatly, with by far the highest level of tolerance in Northern Europe (I'm Norwegian, and I didn't even know about lactose intolerance until I was in the 20's - it just wasn't something that became a subject until we were exposed to more immigrants as while it existed in Norway before that it was <5%), with lactose intolerance increasing to well above 20% in many other European countris.

In any case the advice to down vast quantities as milk isn't universally applicable anywhere.


I would be very surprised if HN didn't also a large number of people of Asian descent who are much less likely to tolerate lactose.


That is not a careful reading of the statistics given.

The full quote:

"Approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, affecting more than 90 percent of adults in some of these communities. Lactose intolerance is also very common in people of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent."


Lactose free milk (ehich is different than taking lactase pigs with milk) is a readily available thing.


Even better: custard. Straight from the box.


I've dropped the idea that IGF response is something I need in my life. Milk is ideally formulated to feed babies that need to grow into gigantic beasts.

It is also a very inferior product made with zero genetic engineering. Just silly crossbreeding until the cow has big enough milk gains.

Don't see how it's, from a nutritional or health perspective, superior to Soylent.

Milk is also super cheap because it's heavily subsidized through taxes. I'm not saving idiot entrepreneurs by buying their unsustainable products.


So you prefer a diet engineered by humans (who, with our rather limited understanding of nutrition, can't even decide on whether carbs are a good thing) to a diet engineered and field tested by evolution over millions of years? Not the bet I would make, but to each their own, I guess.

Several other points:

1. The OP was remarking that they had a hard time maintaining weight. Anybody who has done GOMAD (gallon of milk a day) can tell you that large quantities of milk will head off the possibility of weight loss.

2. Is there any reason to believe that the agricultural inputs to something like Soylent aren't just as heavily subsidized as you claim milk to be?


Never said I consider a Soylent only diet proper. I have no opinion on that.

Milk is in our diet for several thousand years, not millions.

1. There's also a lot of people who ate balanced meals and kept weight. Drinking that much milk has some unwanted stuff in it - like IGF-I - which can cause cancer in those huge amounts.

2. Maybe soy, but that's a side-effect of the dairy that uses it not for the sake of human consumption. But it's highly likely the soy used is the one for human consumption, which would remove the necessary subsidies.


Why not shouldn't instead of whole milk?


Replace all water with whole milk - problem solved!


Not everybody is the same. Maybe it's not for you, but for people to busy with something else to think about what to eat, soylent is a lot better than fast food, a bar, whatever random crap you have lying around, or skipping a meal.


That's not _the_ problem, it just means Soylent isn't for you. Which is cool. I love Soylent 2.0. I'm very happy that I can get a decent chunk of my calories from a vegan source with little effort and lots of convenience.

Maybe it's the way Soylent markets itself, but I don't understand why people are so _personally_ offended by it. Just... don't eat it.


Surely cleaning up after cooking is almost always a chore, no matter how delicious the food was?


You could also take pride in cleaning and maintaining your tools. It's rather fast if you don't burn your food and if you use proper cleaning agents like "Barkeepers Friend" when soap isn't appropriate.


i usually cleanup while i listen to an audiobook/music. it's not a chore.


But do you understand that based on the way I was raised, eat was the thing you did because if you didn't you'd literally die?

There is no cultural value to food, for me. There is no social value that I find appealing about food.


Right, I do understand that! That's the whole point. Your experience is completely foreign to me which is why I didn't understand Soylent's purpose when it first came out. It's like trying to sell an umbrella to a nomad in the Sahara.


Don't you ever have things to do?

I like a great meal a lot, but if that was the three top events each day, I'd consider it an empty life.


Who said anything about that? Of course I have things to do, but grabbing a sandwich from the deli on my block is almost as fast as soylent and much more enjoyable.

Although from this thread I'm starting to think the real reason many people dislike Soylent is the holier-than-thou attitude many of it's supporters seem to sport :)


You are clearly not French or have you lived there. A great meal should absolutely be one of the highlights of a day. Food can be (and should be) the catalyst of great conversations, great ideas or even meditative self-reflection.

Soylent seems to me to be a hipster Ultra Slim Fast and consumed for the exact same reasons legions of working women have that stuff in office refrigerators.

I can respect that people have different priorities than a great meal each day, but I can also pity them.


Even if I was French, I would be happy to ignore arguments about how I must to things because it's The French Way.


It depends a little on what you choose to eat. Hitting my calorie goals would be easy if I ate fast food, but I'm trying to bulk while avoiding refined carbs and keeping my fruit & vegetable intake up.

There's a volume challenge - 5,000kcal is only 1.5lb of butter, but 32lb of broccoli.

There's also a mechanical challenge- chewing constantly (e.g. when eating lots of vegetables) is emotionally exhausting.

I do acknowledge it's possible there are people out there for whom there is simply no greater joy than eating, who would eat nonstop with joy. But, not everyone is like that.


> This is the problem. That concept is completely foreign to a lot of people (me included).

When I arrive home to an empty apartment at 9PM, I sure as hell don't feel like cooking. Sure, I cook great meals during the weekend and the days I come home early. But cooking when you got back from a big day of work + an infernal commute is cooking nothing but a chore.

Edit: That being said, I'll drink a regular liquid meal and only if all the other alternatives can't be done (no food in the fridge, I am not home, I need to eat in the car, etc.) I don't see the need to get Soylent either.


How can you eat 5,000 kcal a day and not be a huge fat pig? How many miles a day do you need to run to burn that off?

I used to be a normal weight, but I had to eat 1,200 kcals and run 4 miles a day.


How can you eat 5,000 kcal a day and not be a huge fat pig? How many miles a day do you need to run to burn that off?

On the days when I lift weights I eat close to 5K calories, sometimes even a little more, depending on the commute. All of my daily commute is by bike, including taking my kid to and from the kindergarten, and later to some extra activities (welcome to Denmark), which can be anywhere between 20 and 35 km total for the day.

I'm 178 cm and weigh around 79 kg.


Thats quite a bit of cycling. Don't you think all that cycling is getting into your lifting? I used to cycle about 10km a day and found that it was already hampering leg training at the gym.


I actually changed my approach to lifting a little and now following the principles described by Greg Nuckols in his article about increasing work capacity

http://strengtheory.com/increasing-work-capacity/

So essentially every week I'm doing just a little bit more volume in every exercise, either by adding a little weight, or an extra rep. So far I'm able to do it consistently for a few months so I guess I'm recovering well.

Then of course there is all that "getting used to it" thing where you do something long enough and get into it gradually and increase little by little and you're fine.

I worked originally about 5 km from home and it felt like it was enough cycling there and back. Then I changed my job and now I was 11 km from home so I started combining bike + train for a while because that felt like too much to cycle. Then one sunny day I cycled all the way home. I realized two things: 1) I'm not that tired and 2) I cut 10 minutes off my train + bike commute. So now I bike all the way and save time and money at the same time! Win-win!


Not if you are eating 5000 kcals and getting enough sleep...


Thats one hell of a boost to your TDEE. Im impressed.

I lift 5x, walk every where and swim LISS 3x a week. 173cm about 82kg. TDEE is ~3250 kcal. Currently shoot for 3500 a day. However, I only see my son on weekends. I bet my TDEE would be higher if had him every day.


Exactly. Twice this week I've been in meetings that ran long and left me with no time for lunch.

I keep a box of soylent under my desk specifically for days like this. Without food I get "hangry" and can't concentrate.

I can chug a bottle of soylent in a minute or two between meetings, or sip from it instead of from a water glass, without being even as disruptive as an energy bar would be. (Plus I can't stand how sugary those things are.)

It's a terrible substitute for a salad but there's every reason to believe it's better for you than a slice of pizza or a bag of chips. Like any other food, it has a place in a healthy diet as long as it's in moderation.


That's probably just me but a lifestyle where you have no time to take a break (or meet friends/colleagues) and eat doesn't sound very healthy and not very desirable either. I understand the desire to optimise eating times and life overall, and sometimes there's a lot of work that seems important, but at the point where you drink a supplement rather than eat it seems there's no life left in what should be more than just a person working and sleeping (or napping if you're in the sleep optimiser boat..) .

Probably it's all not that black and white, you like the convenience etc, but damn it just sounds sad. I also used to try to optimise my life to have impact etc, until i realised that i don't want to miss out on also living it.


What if you usually break for lunch with colleagues but just have some days when you don't get a chance to take a break - you're not planning a life without breaks, but the database server crashes and shit happens?

What if you schedule your workday too tightly to break for lunch specifically so that you can leave the office earlier and spend time with the people you love?

What if you'd rather spend an extra hour a couple times a week hiking with your friends / family rather than chopping vegetables and scrubbing pots?

What if spending less time on food ENABLES you to live your life instead of missing out?


What about a lifestyle where you have time to take a break, but you don't want to spend that break preparing, eating, and cleaning up after food? You'd rather spend it, say, reading a great book, working on an interesting side project, playing a tabletop game with friends you invited over, or just laying in a hammock reflecting on life?

Due to how cultural values vary, I'm not surprised that many HN readers are repulsed to some degree by the idea of not preparing and consuming a traditional meal. It's just a kind of conservatism, a recognition of traditional values that help us find another way to enjoy life.

In my own time growing up, my family had traditionally prepared meals almost every day together, and yet even as a child I had little patience for it. I was endlessly curious, wanted to explore the world, play with dad, tinker with my computer, read something, write something, draw something, make something. My life was incredibly full of worth and value to me, and I enjoyed it immensely -- and yet, meals were only ever a distraction, merely one of the lesser chores I had to take care of to keep enjoying the rest of my life.

This sentiment is still largely with me today. Today, meals either serve as a mechanism for me to guarantee people I want to spend time with will be in the same place at the same time, or else I'm alone, in which case I simply see no point in all the bother. There are still many things much more interesting and spiritually fulfilling to me than preparing, consuming, and cleaning up after a traditional meal. Gladly would I accept a solution that successfully meets all of my nutritional needs while also allowing me to do any of those other things instead.


don't worry, you're not alone. unfortunately i do have to skip meals occasionally but i always try to get something reasonable. eating an avocado with some seasoning, or other fruit like a banana, or some cheese, or some turkey slices, or a small bag of carrots, or hell even skipping a meal so i can eat a little more at dinner without blowing my calorie budget -- sounds infinitely more appetizing than drinking some lab-made slop that comes in a bottle. the possibilities are literally endless.

i've known since high school that there are some people out there that view eating as a nuisance but i didn't know there were so many that were in the tech industry. everyone i've ever known in tech loved eating/cooking/meals out/whatever (obviously i've been self-selecting my social group!)


Why is this getting downvoted? It is incredibly sad when meals need 'replacing.' I understand once in awhile, but it seems like people are habitually making meal replacement a viable lifestyle choice.

It IS sad, downvotes or not.


It's not that people are too stupid to understand, they just did a really bad job telling us, but it kind of was their PR strategy. Look how many articles there are "I ate Soylent only for X days".

Let's see how long it takes them to lose that image of a complete food replacement.


True that, it helped them get the funding and the interest so it was a great marketing strategy. But now that people understand the theory (ie you can supply someone with all the nutrition they need from the one product) they are going a bit more on a sane sort of image.

Soylent makes perfect sense in the context of a meal replacer for busy or lazy people. But even the original creator stopped eating it at all times because he missed the "social aspect of eating".


>> Soylent is for meals you don't care about but need

Thanks god for creating apples and bananas and thanks the grocery stores for selling them all the year round. And thanks the Germans for putting a bakery on every corner.


Those are not nutritionally complete, fruits go bad and most people don't live next to an open bakery.


Not all of your meals has to be "nutritionally complete".

You can store apples during the whole winter if you have below 0 degrees outside. We did it when I was young.

Quality of life does not starts with a 6 digit salary and ends with working on the next Uber for X. Living in the right country/city with the right people can case you a lot of happiness. I know because I was born behind the iron curtain.


> Not all of your meals has to be "nutritionally complete".

But is that really a reason to argue against nutritionally complete meals? Healthy is still better than unhealthy. I suppose the choice becomes healthy or tasty at some point.


I am saying that "nutritionally complete meals" try to solve a problem you do not actually have. Please feel free to consider this as an argument against Soylent.


Why is that not an existing problem? Is all nutrition bogus? Or does everybody magically end up with balanced nutrition without trying?

I think a lot of people eat very unhealthy, especially people who have no time to cook a proper meal. Something that helps them eat more nutritionally balanced food could do them a lot of good.


Nutritionally complete meals and nutritionally complete diet are not the same. You can have a balanced, nutritionally complete diet without nutritionally complete meals if you mix them well. Unfortunatelly this is not an 100 M$ idea.

>> people who have no time to cook a proper meal

Are we talking about the same people they spend daily 4+ hours wathing TV?


I think we're talking about people who spend 12+ hours coding.


So instead of Soylent you are suggesting people live in the right country/city with the right people? Uh-huh.


Not exactly. Insted of drinking Soylent go to a nearby shop and by some apples and rye bread. If there are any shops... you maybe just found a market gap. Opening one you could make your city to a better place for living.


Food deserts in the US are pretty common. That makes it harder for people to get nutritious, cheap, fresh food.


If it's not a single source food, you don't need it to be complete. An occasional gap filler can be substantially unbalanced on its own without affecting overall balance much.


Our office has the traditional free soda .. and, amazingly, free fruit. Delivered by local grocers. Not that a crate of bananas in winter is "local".

I'd quite like to have a good portable locally sold lunch option that doesn't have bread of some sort in, but the only option seems to be soup.


> Soylent is for meals you don't care about but need.

But there are already so many meal replacements on the market, from companies that actually know what they are doing. Why choose soylent?

Soylent is not the cheapest. It's not the tastiest. It doesn't have the best macro balance.

Why soylent and not one of the trusted brands?


Please point me to an existing trusted meal replacement brand that has a balanced nutritional profile.

No, Ensure, Slimfast, Boost, etc. are not balanced (eg. too much sugar and vitamins, not enough calories and fiber).


I think you're right -- Soylent is for meals you don't care about but need, and it's marketed with a message that appeals to men, unlike SlimFast. You gotta admit that all the folks responding who are talking about how Soylent feeds their programming mania feel way cooler & smarter drinking Soylent, the techy solution, as opposed to SlimFast, the 1970s ladies' drink, or EAS Myoplex Ketogenic Meal Replacement, the bodybuilder's choice! Only one of these companies is venture-backed!


Its a more fundamental misunderstanding. You don't have time to eat, that is why you use this product. A lot of the other commenters cannot conceive of that world view as a regular state. Along with myself, if I don't have time to eat something that is fine. If this happens more than once a week/month, I am going to change my life as obviously something is very wrong with the way I am living it. To me, food is part of the reason for living. It's social, tasty, visceral, primal, fun, enjoyable, etc. It makes me who I am and is a part of my identity. For you, that is not necessarily true, as far as I can read about you in a single comment. Like, if I am dashing out the door and don't have time to cook a breakfast, then fine, Soylent is ok. If I have done this more than once in my week, I am going to wake up much earlier and go to bed earlier too in order to make that breakfast and prep my lunches that are tasty and good for me. If I have to work late, fine, Soylent. If that happens a lot in my life, I am going to start quickly looking for another job that lets me see my wife and kids and eat dinners with them and have fun making the food too and doing the dishes. A habit of missing meals is not on the table for me. I will never order a box of soylent, as I will never need it. If I ever go through that much, something is very very wrong with my life and needs immediate change. I know this is not true of you and many of Soylent's customers, and I don't mean to disparage you. I just want to explain the misunderstanding. They obviously have a customer base, yourself included, but for many of us, using Soylent habitually is impossible to understand.


"It's not [...] supposed to replace all meals."

Wait,

"Soylent is an open source meal REPLACEMENT[emph added], advertised as a "staple meal", available in liquid and powdered forms as a beverage, and as a solid-form meal bar. Its creators state that Soylent meets all nutritional requirements for an average adult."

If something is advertised as a "meal replacement", it seems likely that people will use it to ... replace their meals - for those inclined, that would mean "all meals".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_(food)


Also, they originally advertised it with copy like "A full day of balanced nutrition prepared in 3 minutes for $3/meal" and "What if you never have to worry about food again?"

https://web.archive.org/web/20150515220800/https://www.soyle...


Well yeah, you don't eat one meal your whole life. You have multiple meals in a day.

But regardless, they went for that angle in the early days because it got them the advertising and funding. It got the attention, it's good marketing.

Nowadays they bill it as a meal replacer, in the respect of you CAN replace whatever meal you want with it without having to worry about the effort or time it takes to prepare/research a good balanced meal.

All that said, I don't personally use the stuff but would like to try it out.


> Why don't people understand?

> It's not [...] b) supposed to replace all meals.

That's not how it was advertised during launch and the kickstarter. It was heavily pushed as a sole source of nutrition.

People are only repeating what Soylent said.


I think the point was that it could, but doesn't have to, replace all meals.


So, Soylent push it as a sole source of nutrition, and some people use it as such, but then when there are problems people say "but you shouldn't do that", even though most of the people experiencing the problems aren't doing that and even though it's something pushed as possible by Soylent.

If you can use Soylent as a sole source of nutrition there shouldn't be anyone in this thread saying that Soylent is never meant to be used as a sole source of nutrition.

If you can't use it as such then Soylent have been irresponsible in their marketing (although they have toned it down a bit).


Why do you buy Soylent instead of Ensure?

https://ensure.com/nutrition-products/protein-shakes-healthy...

Is it cheaper? More complete? Dehydrated?


Less sweet.

I was on a liquid diet for a while for medical reasons. Ensure (and other drinks in that space) are horrifyingly sugary, and even their "diabetic" formula is disgustingly sweet and high in simple processed carbs that are a half step up from sucrose. They're also extremely low in fiber.

Additionally, though the vitamins and minerals are balanced for consuming four per day, you'd have to drink 8-10 of them daily to fill the caloric needs of a healthy and not particularly active adult. Sugar is a surprisingly inefficient source of calories on the scale of an adult's daily metabolic needs.

Soylent has a very neutral flavor that can be seasoned for a sweet or savory effect, and a bottle has roughly the right amount of calories for a meal for an adult. If you're moderately active and eating nothing else, around 5 per day will suffice.

Even on a liquid diet, I ate other things besides soylent, and I struggled to consume enough calories to meet my basal metabolic rate - below which your body will start consuming itself for energy. (Forget maintaining your original weight on a liquid diet at all.) Whole milk, you say? I was forbidden to consume significant amounts of lactose.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of options were either extremely sweet or would fill your stomach without providing meaningful nutrition (a cup of chicken broth has 10 calories!) Despite usually being a chocolate hound, after two weeks of that I would gag at the thought of a m&m. Soylent at least was neutral and would keep me feeling full for a little while.


It seems like the answer to this and similar questions on here, which is Soylent's true "innovation" in my estimation, is that Soylent is the first meal replacement with young men as a target market. Meal replacements are pretty convenient, but if you're an 18-25 y.o. man I have a feeling there's a nonzero level of stigma (real or just feared) associated with drinking SlimFast ("women's drink") or Ensure ("old people drink") all the time. Before now all there was for young people were protein shakes + multivitamin, which is also possibly too associated with bodybuilding/gym rats for comfort for some people.

But if you're a young man drinking Soylent, this hip new VC-backed tech fuel drink, it occupies a similar mental association space to Red Bull. I can't help just seeing it as a marketing thing.


I used to drink a couple of Ensure every day. Soylent has more calories, protein and nutrients per serving while basically being the same price.


That's what I don't get. Most people have difficulties keeping their weight in check rather than vice versa, and you can get all kind of snacks, ranging from healthy to extremely unhealthy, practically everywhere. Streets and shops and cafés are plastered with food, the abundance is mind-boggling if you think about it (or come from some really poor country).

How is mixing & drinking a glass of Soylent easier or less time consuming than eating a sandwich with cheese & lettuce? Or an apple?


For me it's the storage. Lettuce goes bad, fruits rot, bread gets moldy, all within a short timeframe.

I buy some Soylent and it will be good there for a while. So when I'm hungry and we are out of bread, now it's a 30 second meal vs a 30 minutes or more to run to the store.


> Soylent halts sales of its powder as customers keep getting sick

>I buy some Soylent and it will be good there for a while.


... Which as far as I or anyone else knows has nothing to do with it's shelf-life.

Regardless, I'm hoping you realize that I was being general and using "Soylent" as the example there because that was the topic of conversation.

Also your comment is especially funny to me as I've never purchased Soylent the product. I have things similar to it, but I've never bought any Soylent. Once they get this figured out, I might try their bars, but they seem a bit expensive for me which is why I'm always apprehensive to pull the trigger.


It is just more nutritionally sound and low effort compared to almost all other quick fixes.


Right, but where's the tech innovation? I mean check it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Met-Rx - meal replacement powders/shakes have been around for a looooong time, and you can order online too...


Yes, Soylent is Slim-Fast.

Just with a different marketing pitch.


"Why don't people understand? It's so simple: Soylent is for meals you don't care about but need. It's not a) the ONLY food you can eat or b) supposed to replace all meals."

Problem already solved, MRE [0] and discussed [1].

[0] Example here is a Patrol Ration One Man (PR1M) used in the ADF ~ https://flickr.com/photos/bootload/4549780731/in/set-7215762...

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1665563


Processed food is always a bad idea.

It's simple, really: The closer your are to nature, the better you feel (because the healthier you are). Our body is happier when we spend our time in nature instead of artificial environment (there are studies on that subject) and we are less cancerous when we eat natural food (as opposed to processed food).

Every time we step away from our nature, we sabotage ourselves.


....you realise people are living longer than they ever have before, even though we all live in bigass cities - the literal antithesis of nature.


MMM, delicious natural snake venom.


I'm partial to that all-natural cyanide myself.

With a uranium chaser.


Well, you have a point, but our ancestors eated carrion... mmhhh, sweet, sweet carrion.

Start cooking food was a big step. Too much of nature and your body can turn into an aquatic park.


I did a DIY soylent diet for ~6 months last year. I had maybe 1 regular meal every 2 weeks during that time.

Honestly, it fucking kicked ass. I'll list some of the pros and cons

Pro

- Easy to make

- Portable

- Little mess/no cleaning

- More time to do other stuff

- Most insane regular shits. 2pm everyday, sit, shit, 2x wipe, done in 30 seconds. Every shit was exactly the same.

- Never any indigestion, gas, diarrhea, sick feeling

- Never felt hungry. Like I would go weeks without feeling that sensation

- Felt really good overall

- Skin disease cleared up for the first time in over a decade

- Perfect control over calories and macro composition

- Cheap(ish), $7 a day.

Cons

- Bland/bad taste and texture

- Gets old fast (like "Ugghh, not this again")

- Must drink lots of water with it. (really only a con because I had to carry a water bottle too, but water is good for you)

- Takes a while to drink, at least for me.

- Piss is neon yellow (from vitamin B, not really a con, just odd)

- People are kind of freaked out by it

- Doesn't store well in liquid form, so must be made each time before drinking or at least daily.

- Needs some time to sit (~30 min) after making or else it has a really bitter taste.

- First 2 weeks were brutal. Felt all manner of sick and uneasy from it. My body felt all out of wack. Intense headaches too. Others had warned of this so I pushed on. I was about to give up but on day 13 I woke up feeling great and it was smooth sailing from then on out. Guess it was my body adjusting? I had a really shit diet before that.

Right now I am still drinking them but way less, maybe 6 a week down from 21 a week. Regular food is just so good. But I plan to go back to it in the near future.


Armies have mutinied over bad food and here you are voluntarily subsisting on gruel. The 21st century is weird.


Well yeah, armies didn't really have much else to entertain them back in the day.

We have enough other stuff in our lives to look forward to that we can sacrifice one part of it.

Not that anyone should if they don't want to, just saying I can understand it.


Why do you have "Never any ... sick feeling" under pro, and then under con "First 2 weeks were brutal. Felt all manner of sick and uneasy"?


Probably because he intended to mean for that Pro to generally cover the remaining 5.5 months after what one could call the "induction" period. Once he was consistently on the diet and past the transition, having no sick feelings is a good sign that he adjusted to it, and that the initial uneasiness was only temporary, not an ongoing, permanent byproduct of the new diet.


Ok fair enough. After the 2 weeks of hell I never felt sick or anything.

Throughout my entire life I always would get get some form of indigestion pretty regularly. It had gotten to the point where I just accepted it as what it is to be human. Nausea was by far the most common and happened all the time. Once over that two week hump though, everything went away. It was awesome. Now I still get some indigestion since I eat more much regular food now, but I eat a healthier diet so it's not so bad.


Not sure what the sick feeling they had was, but any diet for me usually takes my system a little getting used to, especially if the food makes you more regular. You and your gut aren't used to all the fiber and it will not feel good at first, but I would bet its fine after awhile.


Care to share your recipe?


https://diy.soylent.com/recipes/seans-lean-mass-gainer

I use a different protein (NOW dutch choc isolate) and a different oil (smart balance). I also dropped the choline because it has a bad interaction with nicotine and I use an e-cig. When I went full soylent though I used it because I stopped using my e-cig during that time. I also added in 5g creatine.

I should note that this is a mass building recipe and meant for use while lifting. It has way more protein then you need for regular day to day. You can axe the protein down to ~60g daily and use it.

Also if you want to try it, get the corn flour from the grocery not amazon. It's waaaayy over priced on amazon.


>I use an e-cig

Why bother getting healthy in one aspect of your life if you're going to trash it in another?


How is using an e-cig trashing your health?


I''ll bet my money on the misconception that cigarette = nicotine [0]

And that health is a zero-sum game. It's not.

[0] gwern.net/Nicotine


There have been many studies showing that they are harmful to your health. Not as bad as cigarettes, but still bad.


Have there?

I see people saying this, and I've seen that they have short-term effects one would expect from taking in nicotine (not that dissimilar to caffeine), but nothing much suggesting that they're harmful in the longer term.


I absolutely love food and I'd say a significant amount of my hobby budget goes into food and cooking supplies.

I was an early Soylent supporter because my wife and I were curious about it and thought it might be inexpensive and sensible to replace our lunch meals with it. If we both worked through lunch, hilariously, we could have had an extra hour to spend cooking dinner.

Not every meal of my day needs to be a fine dining experience.

Also, my wife was pregnant, and having a lot of random food aversions. The idea of something you could just sort of mindlessly drink was appealing to her.

She tried it once and really hated it. I tried it twice and also really hated it. So it didn't stick for us, but I liked the idea of it. I brought it to the place I was working at the time and one of the engineers there really took to it, ate all the rest of it over the course of a few weeks. Different strokes.


If you stopped solely based on taste you should just try a couple similar products, eg. ambronite might fit the bill pretty spot on.


There's a niche that Soylent has been really helpful in, that pretty much everyone seems to have ignored so far (including Soylent-the-company, who I sent an email to regarding this and received back a form letter response that hadn't had all of its fields filled in).

Backpacking, hiking, search and rescue, hunting, anything outdoors.

I carry an unopened package of Soylent powder in my SAR pack and I've been glad I have it several times. Take a Nalgene, fill it up to about 300 ml with powder, add water, shake vigorously, and now you have enough fuel to ease fatigue for several hours. It's lightweight and convenient and easy. Cleanup is simple.

Now when I'm peak-bagging my default is just to carry some Soylent with me. The only time I carry my mess kit anymore is if I'm going out with the intention of a morning, afternoon, or evening meal ritual being a planned part of the trip. Like, "let's hike out to Phoenix Lake and have a nice hot dinner at sunset." Otherwise, Soylent.

I've been gradually becoming a disciple of the ultralight over the last couple of years and food weight is challenging to whittle down. The alternatives, freeze-dried anything, are mostly disgusting and still require carrying a stove, fuel, and require cleanup. Soylent has reduced my pack weight and size by quite a bit, and (for the most part) I'm getting better nutrition overall because I can just chug it in small doses throughout the day. It also means I'm less likely to develop a fatigue-related injury.

It's gotten some attention from other folks on my SAR team and my longtime hiking partner has started giving it a try too. It doesn't seem to be something that's really caught on in the outdoor industry yet. I really wish Soylent would sell small, lightweight packages of the powder that were pre-sized to mix with about .8 liters of water and then get it into places like REI, but I guess that's not something they're very interested in.


How do you deal with the Nalgene getting funky once you're >1 days into a trip, or does the Soylent rinse out cleanly enough for it to not be a concern? I used to use Accelerade for a significant proportion of my calories when backpacking - mainly because I have trouble getting down enough solid food when I'm on the go - but switched to Accel gels because the drink mix would leave the bottle pretty nasty after the first day.

> The alternatives, freeze-dried anything, are mostly disgusting and still require carrying a stove, fuel, and require cleanup

I've found Mountain House to be decently close to tasting like real food and requires no cleanup other than wiping the spoon. A Snow Peak LiteMax with a 750ml titanium pot weigh next to nothing, but there is still the fuel canister. I find the MoHo tasty enough that I'll eat it at home or work on occasion if I really don't want to spend any time on a meal.


I haven't had trouble with rinsing out the Nalgene so far. I'm pretty fastidious with my gear, so everything gets cleaned thoroughly shortly after I get home, which helps. Otherwise, while I'm out, if there's a water source nearby I just rinse with that (not dumping the leftovers into the water obviously), if there isn't, I'll pour about half a cup of my supply into the Nalgene and rinse, shake, and scrub thoroughly with my hands.

The older powder was a bit tougher to clean (but not difficult), the newer one is easier.

Mountain House probably got better since I last tried their stuff, but it still requires stopping, cooking, cleanup. I've got an MSR Windburner and I love it for what it is, but if I just want to put down a lot of miles for a quick trip the Soylent is king. I'm >this< close to being able to do a Summer overnight with my 12L BD Bbee.

...of course, developing some serious intestinal discomfort 18 miles from the car would suck, so there's that.


I tried the powder when backpacking like you described when I went on a camping trip last year. The problem is that you need to rinse the Nalgene bottle thoroughly after consuming the Soylent (which means you have to carry excess water, or find a water source relatively quickly). Otherwise it stinks like hell.

I found Soylent 2.0 and Coffiest work a lot better, since their bottles are disposable. Just put it in your trash bag and you're good.


Generally speaking it seems like energy bars targeting the outdoors crowd come in bar form. I can see that... from my perspective a bar's easier to lug around in a backpack compared to something you need to add water to.

That said I agree in another aspect... I'm actually surprised I couldn't find more MRE (not just energy-granola type) bars that specifically market to the outdoor crowd on Google, especially considering things like ultralight backpacking becoming more popular. I could only find one offhand (http://www.greenbelly.co/). Maybe I'm missing more, but it does seem like there would be more of a market for this sort of thing.


REI sells a bunch of stuff that's similar other than not coming in as large a single serving size. ProBar and Bonk Breaker are the two I've found to be most palatable. Apart from the big brands at REI, there's a ton of smaller brands - for example: http://katesrealfood.com/. I suspect the reasons there's not more of this stuff in full meal size is that a third of a pound of dry, compressed food is not the most enticing thing to eat multiple times a day.

Speaking for myself, I also find that after a day of getting your ass kicked by Mother Nature, having something that somewhat approximates comfort food - warm, saucy, even if rehydrated - before crawling into your tent or bivy is a big morale booster.


You've inspired me to give this a go. I do a lot of hiking, but never considered Soylent or the UK equivalent - Huel [1].

Just ordered my first batch of Huel and am going to try it next weekend. Could make my pack lighter and might be more nutritious.

1. https://huel.com/


I'm equally amazed how every Soylent article that passes through HN has people that seem to be genuinely offended that some people enjoy Soylent/the idea of Soylent and don't want their lives to revolve around "the beauty of food and social blah blah". It's wild.


Maybe they are shills for the food industry? I don't get it either - why are they even reading a Soylent article.


Maybe they're not shills, just folks trying to expose themselves to new ideas and possibly caught out by some that upturn their current views.

Sometimes they might not understand, so they reach out and converse with others: "I don't understand why anyone would X, because Y has always worked for me." What's so wrong with that conversation and assume they're shills?


Believe it or not, some people are just not really into food. Just like some people are not into music or sports.


I'm really not into food. I force myself to eat. If it wasn't for me trying to bulk up I'd eat just one meal a day and be fine. I force myself to eat 2800 to 3000 calories per day and it's a HUGE pain in the ass. Since I first heard about Soylent I wished they'd start selling Here in Brazil. This report doesn't change that.


To be honest, Brazilian food is IMO some of the most bland and least interesting in the continent, so it wouldn't be suprising.

A lot of people think they don't like fish because they've never tasted fresh fish.


I love food. Too much, I'm very overweight because of it. My initial reaction was the same - why the hell would I want to take calories and not taste something great? It sounded like madness.

Then I tried Huel (Soylent equivalent made in the UK), and I get it. The best way I can describe it is that food had become like music for me. Rather than just sitting down and listening to music, I have some music on all the time, in the background. I constantly wanted to be tasting something, eating.

I found that by using Huel, I changed that habit. I can prepare it in a minute and drink it quickly, and it stops me feeling hungry. I can limit my calorie intake perfectly without having to think about tracking it, and it means I can avoid thinking about food at all. Then, on occasion, when I go out with friends or whatever, I can have a real meal and really enjoy the tastes.

It's like only listening to music when I go out to a concert and that's all I'm doing.

It's not for everyone, for sure, but there are definitely real cases for it. I'm sure on the other end of the spectrum, there are people that just don't care about food and this helps them remember to eat the right amount.

Assuming that your relationship with food is the same as everyone else's is your mistake.


I'm still curious why the soylent thing has hit it off in the HN crowd and not, say, Slimfast. Which is basically the same thing but with more production hardening.

Maybe fragile masculinity? IDK.


I certainly think that it's a marketing thing; while gender identity I'm sure plays a role as it does in most marketing, it's not the whole story. There are already meal replacement drinks targeted at manly men; muscle milk is one of the more well known brands.

I think that the difference is that this stuff was uniquely (and probably irresponsibly[1]) marketed towards nerds. - It's not advertised, as the shakes I mention before this, to make you bigger or smaller; it's advertised to save you effort on eating; I think that is the primary difference.

[1]My impression is that they have implied that soylent can completely replace normal food for long periods of time, and I personally think that is dangerous, just because of how much we don't know about micros and about the GI tract in general. I'm sure it's fine if you do the slim-fast thing and have 'a delicious shake for breakfast, another for lunch, then a sensible dinner' - but that's not how soylint seems to be advertised.


"There are already meal replacement drinks targeted at manly men; muscle milk is one of the more well known brands."

Huh. I've always gotten the impression that Muscle Milk is a protein supplement (though it's got carbs, too), not really a (full nutritional) meal replacement.


that how it is marketed. My assertion is that the difference is largely marketing; that we don't know enough about nutrition to make a realistically complete long-term meal replacement, making them both "something you might drink sometimes instead of eating something, but something you wouldn't want to live off of long-term"

Of course, I'm no doctor (but then, neither is Rob Rhinehart,) and it is possible research has progressed further than I know; but personally? I wouldn't take the word of a software engineer on this.


>>that how it is marketed. My assertion is that the difference is largely marketing

Nope. Here is what the Muscle Milk website says in their FAQ - note the last sentence:

Many people use MUSCLE MILK® Ready to Drink Shakes and Powders as a meal replacement or snack between meals. The ready-to-drink products are especially convenient to use as a meal replacement or snack when you are on-the-go. MUSCLE MILK® Ready to Drink Shakes should always be used in conjunction with whole foods and adequate hydration, and never as a sole source of nutrition.

http://www.musclemilk.com/learn/


That's exactly what lsc was saying - that Soylent in actuality fits those last two sentences, and that the only real difference between the two is the different emphases (and reckless overselling for Soylent).


Yeah, need to mix whole food in there to keep your bowels functioning well & avoid having the flora in your intestines from dieing off.


It's not that I disagree with you because I think this is probably correct but... I mean do we know that? As a sure thing?


>It's not that I disagree with you because I think this is probably correct but... I mean do we know that? As a sure thing?

My understanding is that we don't know either way, really. Hell, there's still a lot of legitimate controversy about the RDA - and that is just a very short, and certainly incomplete list of micros.

(personally, I'd be more concerned about the missing micros (or that they put in the wrong chemical form of the micros) than I would be about the structure of the food; but I'm no doctor, and certainly chewing is a part of digestion, so maybe that is important, too? I bet you could actually find good studies on that part, though; figuring out if a liquid diet is ok should be easier than figuring out if you have all the micronutrients you need; there are plenty of cases where people are medically tube-fed over the medium to long term.. but I think that even that involves pulped fresh food, and how is that different from food that wasn't recently living? the obvious starting place is the bacteria, but I'm sure there are other differences, too.)

That's the thing, it seems like this would make for interesting medical research but it's instead advertised as a time-saver, without a lot of actual medical supervision.

Again, the 'extraordinary claim' here is just that you can live solely off of the stuff... if they marketed it the way the other meal replacements are marketed, e.g. we tried to make this good for you, but don't let this be the only thing you eat, I think it would be a fine product.


Ha this is on my mind every single time someone brings up Soylent. Seriously, it's a joke. Some kid makes a knock off slimfast meal supplement and HN is all "Goddamn genius is disrupting meals. This is the future man!"

This would make a great Black Mirror episode.


Did you even compare the nutrition facts before writing this hilariously condescending post?


A 400 calorie bottle of Soylent has 9g of sugar, a 181 calorie bottle of Slimfast has 18g of sugar. That's 4 times as much sugar per calorie. Similarly, a 220 calorie bottle of Ensure has 15g of sugar, about 3 times as much per calorie. Cynically, Slimfast is for people trying to convince themselves that they're being healthy and losing weight, and Ensure is for people who have to stay hydrated while suffering from diarrhea. It's hardly a surprise why they hasn't caught on with the HN crowd as meal replacements like Soylent has: they're not made for it.

The spin of the marketing is almost certainly part of it, Soylent being marketed as "don't bother stepping away from that super important coding problem, just have some soylent," but it's also the first marketed (non-medical) product that really aims to be nutritionally complete and balanced. There are certainly criticisms you could levy at Soylent WRT whether they've succeeded at that goal, but at least it's their goal.


Marketing.

I've never heard of slimfast, and if I had I would immediately discount it because I'm not overweight, nor do I eat badly.

Soylent was simply the first product I heard of that did the meal replacement "with everything you need nutritionally" thing.

Not saying it was the first, just that it was the first I'd heard of it.

Never actually went out and got it, but was close because I was at a time in my life where I was too busy to prepare good meals, (between sports, work and my own side projects).


> Not saying it was the first, just that it was the first I'd heard of it.

There are a wide variety of sole-source of nutrition liquid feeds.

The reason you haven't heard of them is because they've been marketed to medical professionals, for use with ill people, and not to the general public.

The lack of caution in the promotion of Soylent is a worrying sign.


Branding? I think it's basically an Ensure for geeks. "Soylent Green" is from an old science fiction. I seem to recall Soylent being started on Reddit years ago. They call a recipe "open source", and it grew inside a group of internet culture.

It's like how "Gatorade" was neon colored and marketed for athletes, when the same kind of formula was also used for less glamorous rehydration.

Instead of being packaged like Slimfast is, where it becomes part of weight loss culture, Soylent is targeted at hacker types. It fits. They're supposed to always be working and have no time for cooking, and it has a futuristic image, so they integrate with it.

When really, you're right, it's basically the same thing as Slimfast.

http://observer.com/2013/10/how-is-soylent-not-just-slim-fas...

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/01/food-tech...

I didn't read those, but I think there's a slight difference between Soylent and other meal replacement drinks, mainly in the purpose. Slimfast is for people who only use them to lose weight. Ensure is for people who only use them because of illness. Soylent is for people who want to transcend humanity to sustain life without the hassle of ingestion.

I get it. I'd love to bypass eating. But I think it's naive. When I saw the people getting excited over it on Reddit many years ago, I rolled my eyes. Nutrition is not so simple and understood where you can mix some ingredients in batch, then drink your meals quickly without thought. You can get away with it for a while, especially if you're young. But it's really a science fiction fantasy, and I thought the people buying into it were naive at best, and being scammed at worst.

Just like I think believing you need Slimfast to lose weight, or that it's a smart approach is equally naive. People want simple programs to follow though, and it's opportunity for businessmen to capitalize on the desire.


Those articles are clickbait, they don't offer a comparison between both. The difference it's not small it's huge https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/82/Slimfastlabel...


I wouldn't attribute it to some kind of nefarious gender issue.

It's as simple as marketing, which does matter. Slimfast in it's name implies a diet drink, not food replacement. Most people would never even consider them in the same arena and that's due to simple marketing by the very companies that produce them.


"Ensure" (I think) is the stuff in a can that they give old people to make them NOT lose too much weight. That sounds close to Soylent.


The commercials very prominently suggested replacing breakfast and lunch with Slim-Fast shakes, so much so that "a shake for breakfast, one for lunch, and a sensible dinner" was basically their unofficial slogan. Obviously it was still marketed for weight loss, but the suggested use is strikingly similar to what a lot Soylent advocates suggest.


Yes, I can see that in the case of Soylent vs Slimfast, customer choice is driven by what marketing says is the intended use.

But don't be too quick to dismiss masculinity or coolness factors in product selection. Diet Coke and Coke Zero are essentially the same thing made by the same company (the latter having a slightly different "flavor profile"). Coke Zero exists because some men or many men will not order a Diet Coke: it's sissy or uncool. Coke Zero was introduced solely for that reason.


Coke Zero exists because they decided to try to make a diet version of Coke that actually tastes closer to regular Coke. Diet Coke does not use the regular Coca Cola recipe with sugar replaced, but a tweaked one, on purpose.

Compare to e.g. Diet Pepsi, which is to Pepsi what Coke Zero is to Coke, Coca Cola was for decades worried about making something that was too close to the original (hence Tab being their first diet cola)

Or Diet RC Cola, which is the only diet cola product I've ever been close to confuse with the real thing (my parents insisted I "wouldn't notice the difference" with diet colas as a child in an attempt to get me to accept them, and utterly failed).

If you want a diet cola that tastes like a regular cola, Diet Coke will never be it, and it left Coca Cola with a gap in their lineup for people who weren't as concerned about picking a diet product, but would pick one if there's a diet cola available that is "close enough".


Have you ever seen the ads for Diet Coke and Coca Cola Zero?


Coca Cola definitely tried to market Coke Zero to a male audience (it was described as 'Bloke Coke' in UK newspapers [1] around launch), but I think it's popular today not because of the marketing, but because it's a good product. To me, Diet Coke tastes artificial and... bland. Coke Zero tastes similar to regular Coca Cola, but has a distinct enough character to be appealing in its own right. In my experience, this is what most Coke Zero drinkers will say.

[1]: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/introducing-bloke-co...


I can taste the difference between Diet Coke, Coke Zero and the new Coke Zero - Zero Sugar. Diet Coke has the most artificial sweetener taste, while Coke Zero Zero sugar almost has none.


Soylent in its name implies cannibalism ... so it's interesting that the name would sway people away from Slimfast.

How do they differ in ingredients?


Your basic premise is wrong they are not the same thing at all. Soylent doesn't replace a meal, it is a meal with all the nutrients. Slimfast was designed to supplement food to lose weight. The nutritional aspects of each are totally different.


SlimFast is designed to "supplement" food in that they suggest you replace two meals a day with it. The difference is that SlimFast doesn't suggest replacing three meals.


I used to drink SlimFast for lunch everyday, until I became lactose intolerant. Years later, Soylent came out, and I was tired of eating fast food all the time for lunch. Now I drink Soylent for lunch, which is healthier, cheaper, and faster.


I think the answer is mostly that Soylent is new and associated with the startup world.

- initially announced on a blog in 2013

- crowdfunded on Tilt, raising over $3M

- got funding from a16z

Due to that it's got a lot of cachet. Also, the idea of a meal replacement is more in line with life/body hacking.

Slimfast goes back to 1987 and is marketed as a diet and weight loss product. One could consider it more "old tech".

This is just my very fallible perception, and I don't intend any judgement on either.


Is Slimfast the same thing? It sounds like it's specifically meant to lose weight, which suggests it has a different purpose, and possibly a different composition, than Soylent does.


When Soylent was first announced but wasn't available yet, it struck me as something I'd like so I tried Slimfast (and Ensure).

Had to drink a lot to get enough energy and it was way too sugary and sweet – it gave me the sick feeling I get when I have only donuts or something for breakfast. The sugar free version tasted too much of aspartame.

I'd be happy to try something else with the same sweetness balance of Soylent if you have a suggestion.


The one thing that makes all the recent food alternatives like Soylent interesting is that they are nutritionally complete, or at least aim to be. Especially if you are eating vegetarian, it's easy to miss something vital without being very careful what you consume.

I use a Soylent-like products occasionally just to increase my chances of my body getting all the specific nutrients it can use.


Considering the fact that the Slimfast website has learning resources for cooking regular healthy meals, I would posit that their products aren't designed or intended to replace all meals.

http://www.slim-fast.com/recipes/balanced-meals/#balanced-me...


Not all people taste food the same way. Some people don't have a strong sense of taste, so eating Soylent all/some of the time is just not a big deal to them. Just the same as how some people are tone deaf, so music is not important to them. Or colorblind people can't tell the difference between red and green, so stoplights aren't a big deal to them. Wait a minute...

But really I think a lot of the Soylent hate comes from the fact that people assume their own senses are the best judge, when really we only have a sample size of one. It doesn't even have to be a lack of sense acuity as I said above, but just personal taste. People come in all different types, and that's cool.


I don't really care about food. If I didn't have to eat anymore, that would be amazing! I tried Soylent and it was disgusting, though. Couldn't stomach it.


Honest question: Why not just make yourself a bowl of lentils? Definitely more nutritious than this stuff and very easy to make it bulk/reheat.


More nutritious? Uh... no. I have no idea why you'd think that. The nutrition facts[1] on the powder show that you can basically live on the stuff and receive 100% of your micro and macro nutrients. Which is the whole point.

[1]: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0421/5993/t/4/assets/Compl...


Uh, you realize that nutrient absorption means that you can't just eat the molecules that you need and stay healthy? That's why products in the same space as Soylent, like Ensure, have a lot of research involved.


Given the amount of people that are consuming large amounts of this stuff and reporting their progress, I'd have expected any serious nutrient deficiencies to have been reported quite a while ago.


Absolutely not. You can be deficient in some mineral for your entire life, with the only thing to show for it a permanent light rash and an increased chance of colon cancer. E.g over 50% of the population is deficient in magnesium, even following conservative daily suggested intakes.

People report Soylent 'curing' rashes: that's exactly the opposite happening. They were deficient in e.g. zinc until now and finally got enough through Soylent. A good multivitamin would also have solved it.


Multivitamins are starting to get the stink-eye from medical science [1][2]

There's argument to be made for supplementing a known deficiency, but it seems as if you're better off eating it in food rather than a supplement.

[1]: http://annals.org/aim/article/1789253/enough-enough-stop-was...

[2]: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/07/the-vitami...


Is there a test to find out whether you're deficient in Zinc, Magnesium etc? Tailored vitamin/mineral supplements could be a pretty cool startup.


I'd suggest that you read research on the topic instead of having expectations. Some things only affect some people. Other things take a long time to develop.


Coffiest actually tastes pretty good. Doesn't have the soy-ish taste and texture of regular Soylent, and if you like coffee then you'll also enjoy the mild coffee flavor in it.


Traditional social eating is deeply embedded into the culture I was brought up in. However, that doesn't stop me from experimenting with food that requires no preparation, no ordering, no waiting when I am in a hurry to accomplish a life goal.

That said, of course I would never support "soylent" anything if it is making people energy/immune system/vitamin deficient no matter how many classic dystopian novels it names its food after.


I love the Soylent concept. I did it for a good amount of last year (before getting a job with free food).

My only complaints:

* Too expensive

* Too inconvenient (It leaves a residue on everything, and mixing a pitcherful consistently was a chore)


Rhinehart asserted from the start that Soylent was meant to replace shitty meals like the Big Mac consumed at your desk alone. There was and still is a lot of misunderstanding about this. One of his interviews took place at some LA hipster fried chicken place. He's not antifood or antisocial.


He asserted this from the start???

Here's the Tilt crowdfunding page: https://wayback.archive.org/web/20141012152640/https://crowd...

Note, it's titled "Soylent Free Your Body". Here are some phrases in the short post:

  "What if you never had to worry about food again?"
  "Soylent frees you from the time and money spent
  shopping, cooking and cleaning, puts you in excellent 
  health, and vastly reduces your environmental impact by 
  eliminating much of the waste and harm coming from 
  agriculture, livestock, and food-related trash."
Packages available:

  $255 One month supply of Soylent
  We'll ship enough soylent to fully replace one month's worth of meals
This is after he went on a 30 day experiment titled "How I Stopped Eating Food" http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298


Don't forget:

"Soylent™ was developed from a need for a simpler food source."

"No need to shop for individual ingredients or plan ahead" (I think this one was Mealsquares)

"You’ve got more important things to do than worry about food."

"Enjoy a 26 hour day"

I wrote a parody post based on the marketing on the web page and my own personal outrage with the claims:

https://medium.com/@__1/on-food-and-not-cooking-4c9fba0d2d20

I still believe my note is true:

    Note: Neither Soylent nor Mealsquares make any public claims that I could find, 
    beneficial or otherwise, about using their product for the complete nutrition 
    of women, especially those expecting or nursing, children, teenagers, the 
    elderly, or people with medical conditions, including malnutrition. I think 
    it’s probably optimized for healthy males, aged 20–40-ish, or in the words 
    of Soylent: “All Adults”, but I don’t have a B.S. in Electrical Engineering 
    like Rob, so I probably shouldn’t comment. 
    
    Please proceed at your own risk just in case.


Really? When Soylent was first announced, I'm pretty sure I read something where Rhinehart was positioning Soylent as the primary source of meals, with the occasional real meal thrown in as a luxury.


Can't both be true for different people?


No, this particular question has an empirical answer.



I'm anorexic. This shit is amazing.


There are a lot of products, like Ensure, which have a much longer researched track record than Soylent. It's more than sticking a few things into a powder.


As far as I can tell, Ensure is just sugary chocolate milk with vitamin pills, ie it has horrible macro-nutrient balance.

Its not like these companies do their own research anyways; its an application of the same nutritional studies everyone else has access too.


And I see no evidence that Soylent paid any attention to basic things, like what you need to also eat in order to absorb the necessary nutrients. While Ensure has more sugar that I'd like, at least it's not totally ignorant.


>>And I see no evidence that Soylent paid any attention to basic things, like what you need to also eat in order to absorb the necessary nutrients.

Care to elaborate? What exactly do you mean by "what you need to also eat in order to absorb the necessary nutrients"?


Different food items will have different absorption rates for the nutrients they contain when passing through your stomach, upper & lower intestine. For example, an apple may contain a small amount of iron absorbed at a rate of 20%, while a steak may contain significantly more, with an absorption rate of 80%.

These absorption rates can also vary widely from person to person, based on the flora in your gut, the drugs you ingest, your diet, and also certain DNA (eg. most East Asians never developed specific lactose related digestive abilities [1]) and ancestry can significantly alter this too.

For example, my grandfather had issues with high iron absorption, thus he would regularly donate blood to get rid of the excess iron in his bloodstream. Neither I nor my immediate family share that issue, but he made dietary choices based in part on avoiding iron rich food (like the iron enriched cookies I used to eat, mmm).

TL;DR: Your body & the food you eat are very complex things to understand, and we understand the tiniest sliver about it. Highly processed food likely misses important nutrients you need.

1 - https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance#statis...


But how much fast food has paid attention to those things? That Soylent is not perfect does not mean it's not better than the likely alternative.

Food like this that's specifically tuned to your own metabolism would be fantastic of course, but just getting some healthy stuff into you instead of whatever the vending machine sells, is already an enormous improvement for a lot of people.


Look up Ensure's nutritional label. It's just sugary flavored water. It's calorie dense nothingness for people who have trouble keeping anything more complex down.


Ensure gives me digestive issues that I haven't experienced with soylent. Obviously I'd love some more insight into why.


> It's not just eating it, it's all the flavours and ingredients and cooking with friends and loved ones and parties and such.

One possible angle for explanation is that if you're already missing these things, there's only upside. Additionally, it seems most who use soylent don't use it to replace all meals, but only some where time savings is the primary consideration. Anecdotally, I searched for bars that would do the same thing some years ago, because I had no patience for cooking anything, no friends or family to enjoy it with, and always something more interesting to use my time for.

That's still largely true today. Cooking anything more than a very simple meal is a big indulgence, and will leave me questioning why I spent all the time I did preparing it. When cooking these days, usually I will prepare a few days' worth of food at a time, sacrificing time in the short-term for savings later without feeling pressured to eat something quick and unhealthy (and potentially expensive).

Soylent -- the idea, not necessarily any particular product -- seems very attractive in this case.


I appreciate your position. I agree there is more to good than mere nutrition. There is also a segment on HN that likes the idea of hacking biology, especially their own. They seem good more as fuel for an engine than something to be enjoyed.


> I think I'll just stick to Quest bars

Oooh, protein bar talk! Lately I'm liking EAS Myoplex 30 Chocolate Peanut Butter and NuGo Dark Mint Chocolate Chip. For when I'm uh..."too busy"...


yes I agree, the lack of bulk would be one of the many worries I'd have about eating this regularly (if you know what I mean). Is it really that hard to go and pick up some groceries? This would probably keep you alive for a while, but is it really worth it? even prisoners get better food.


Soylent’s product itself has zero novelty in it. Meal Replacement Powders (MRPs) have been around for decades and are popular among the bodybuilding crowd. The only “innovation” Soylent has brought to the table was being the first company to market MRPs to geeks and hipsters -- and that's it. Personally, I've never tried their product because the ingredients they use seemed average/fudged at best (and I tend to avoid brands that pop out of nowhere with a lot of hype). Tip: if you care about maximizing the quality of your dietary supplement, research and buy each ingredient individually, and then mix it all up yourself.


> The only “innovation” Soylent has brought to the table was being the first company to market MRPs to geeks and hipsters -- and that's it.

That's not true though. Look at the nutritional information for MRPs compared to soylent. 3 meals on an MRP will give you 21% of your daily value of potassium; Soylent will give you 100%. 3 meals will give you 12% of your dietary fiber from MRPs, 96% from MRPs.

The goal of Soylent is to provide you with all the nutrients you need if you eat it 3 times a day. You can argue whether or not it achieves this goal, but it's not even the aim of the MRPs. You can find some examples of people who tried an MRP only diet online; they're pretty good examples of why MRPs are not the same as Soylent at all.


If someone marketed this type of product as a reasonably nutritious meal on the go as an alternative to grabbing a Big Mac or a soggy slice of pizza, it would be utterly unobjectionable--and no one would pay it the slightest mind. So instead we get this narrative around meal replacement for Silicon Valley types who are too busy advancing Western civilization with a Facebook for Farmers to have time to eat.


What's wrong with skipping a meal? (While we're on the subject, what's right about it?) Folks have been sold a solution to a problem that does not exist. Marketing and its various permutations wins again.

The use case of this aptly-named "Soylent" product is a load of hooey. When the military starts using meal replacement powders instead of MREs, then I will reconsider my position on this issue.


> When the military starts using meal replacement powders instead of MREs, then I will reconsider my position on this issue.

The primary challenge with feeding soldiers in the field is not efficiently delivering nutritionally complete food to them, it is getting them to eat it day after day after day. Soldiers get bored eating the same things over and over again and eventually this drives them to stop eating, which negatively affects their performance.

It was technically feasible to replace rations with meal replacement powders decades ago, but the reason that MREs continue to be a variety of real food items is because they are more likely to be eaten that way. Even with all the variety, most US and Canadian rations include hot sauce to add optional variety to the same set of packaged meals for those who happen to eat a lot of them. This is also why MREs include heater bags - because hot food is more likely to be consumed than cold. Incidentally, this is also why personnel tend to love other nations' ration packs and disparage their own - not because they're better, but because they're not sick of them.

Food Officers take this stuff pretty seriously, and put a lot of effort into delivering nutritionally complete food to soldiers that they will actually enjoy eating. Meal replacement powders don't cut it in this environment.

As for Soylent, the primary use case I have seen is convenience. In this role, it's better than many other convenience foods, so I can see why some people go for it.


You really can't think of a situation in which skipping a meal (or maybe several) is the best choice to optimize someone's happiness or productivity?

Example: In my case, I don't particularly feel like cooking breakfast if I get up early to play golf or hike, and doing either while hungry is unpleasant. Soylent solves that problem, and I prefer it to Clif bars, which is what I would have used before Soylent.


I never made that claim, but thank you for the reply. I am glad you found a way to be fitter, happier, and more productive.


There are soldiers that have specifically opted to use Soylent over their MREs. I haven't heard any negative feedback from the ones that did.


>What's wrong with skipping a meal?

Absolutely nothing. But it's not uncommon, if you skip a meal, to feel a bit low energy and/or to snack instead. When I'm out doing things, I'll often skip lunch but I may have a granola bar, fruit, some nuts, or something along those lines.


In the USA, we love to aspire to be other, "better" people. It's why some poor people vote against their own interests to cut taxes on the rich (thinking that one day they'll be wealthy enough to benefit from it), it's why Uber is a "revolutionary" and not a regulation-dodging jitney cab service, it's definitely what's powering much of tech bubble at this point, and Soylent is but another example of all this in action.


I know this comment got downvotes for being kind of snarky/evoking political debate, but I just thought I'd throw my support out for the main sentiment. It seems like a lot of startups are more marketing rather than technological successes. And I'm not sure I really like that.


You are spot on. Almost 30 years ago the tiger bar meal replacement bar was introduced and 1000s have followed. I'm trying to understand how the tech community doesn't get this? The big natural foods trade show happens a few times a year. It is referred to as NatutalExpo East / West. I've been attending (as a food scientist and entrepreneur) for more than a decade. Food bars are perhaps have the lowest barrier to entry. If you have the 10K, I can find you a a dozen copackers who will produce 3-5 thousand bars for you.


As another FS person, I was looking around for bay-area jobs and saw an ad for Soylent. This was probably in 2013. They were looking for someone w/ a FS background to bag product and other general work like this and I was shocked that they weren't using a co-packer.


Do you have any contact information? I'd be interested in producing a different food bar for a specific market.


> Tip: if you care about maximizing the quality of your dietary supplement, research and buy each ingredient individually, and then mix it all up yourself.

That defeats my primary use case for MRP: not needing to think about nutrition. I hate cooking, I hate cleaning, and eating out all the time feels wasteful. I just want quick, healthy meals with a decent shelf life.


> not needing to think about nutrition. I hate cooking, I hate cleaning, and eating out all the time feels wasteful. I just want quick, healthy meals with a decent shelf life.

As I've come around to thinking of the human body as more of a system than a binary switch (sick/not sick), I've come to appreciate that natural food sources have a lot of nutrients in them that are hard to get with manufactured foods.

There's a lot of debate about studies proving this one way or another, but for me looking at it intuitively from a co-evolution standpoint (foods we eat evolved in conjunction with humans) is proof enough to pay attention to the quality of my food. The intuition is basically: food we've been cultivating and bringing around with us for millions of years is going to be more beneficial to our internal chemistry than a substitute we recently made up to save money on production costs.

I also view eating as a chore (except when it's not), so I often end up eating this: black beans, chicken, guac, milk

PS: for the "naturalistic fallacy" group, how do you account for the role of evolution as an optimizer for health vs evolution as optimizer for 20th century economic cost? Optimization targets make a difference.


Evolution is not an optimizer for health. It is an optimizer for breeding and nothing more. The only optimizer for health that I know of is medical science.

EDIT: Also I think the term we should actually be using is "Natural Selection" rather than "Evolution" in this case.


> Also I think the term we should actually be using is "Natural Selection" rather than "Evolution" in this case.

Nope, I'm using it in the "evolutionary algorithm", "evolution as mathematical optimization" sense.

> It is an optimizer for breeding and nothing more.

I really disagree there. Humans did not evolve in a vacuum; their are a ton of systems and subsystems that evolved across different species leading up to humans. I don't have time to write an essay, but I think you're vastly oversimplifying evolution in pursuit of a binary function. It's just not that simple, and neither is how food interacts with our body.


Ok, I now see how you were using the word "evolution". For some reason the fact that you were addressing the "natural fallacy camp" made me think you were talking about human evolution and its role in our eating habits, my mistake.

As far as your disagreement goes... Perhaps "breeding" wasn't the 100% accurate thing to say, but natural selection is the process that decides what genes to pass to the next generation causing evolution... if you really disagree with that you are not disagreeing with me personally, you are disagreeing with over 200 yrs of science spanning many fields.


> you are disagreeing with over 200 yrs of science spanning many fields.

Oh, is that what I'm doing? And here I thought I was suggesting that evolution (in practice and in theory) is a more nuanced process than you're letting on.


Yes, actually that is what you are doing. Natural selection is that simple. I think you are confused by the fact that sometimes the goals of "health" and "passing on genes" overlap. However "passing on genes" (or what ever the analogous "building block" is if you are using a genetic algo for something) is the only underlying "purpose" of evolution. There really isn't any more nuance required.. but go ahead, Im all ears..er eyes. If you don't want to write an essay just post up a link. Im curious if there is actually something out there leading you this way or if you are just "saying stuff".


> for the "naturalistic fallacy" group, how do you account for the role of evolution as an optimizer for health vs evolution as optimizer for 20th century economic cost?

Human evolution has optimized us for having children early and often and living to 40-50 so they've enough time to grow up and become the next generation of subsistence farmers/breeders.


naturalistic fallacy


In my opinion, no. We can't even completely understand all of the chemical reactions (the Maillard reaction) involved in making toast at this point.

Sure, we do have a fair bit of nutrition knowledge right now, of course, and not everything natural is good for you, of course. However, current popular "natural food" at this point has been vetted through centuries of sampling and cross breeding. At this point I would consider it "more reliable" than processed MRPs (soylent powder is made of natural ingredients too but has been very heavily processed to get where it is) for that reason alone.

MRPs are okay every now and then, sure. Personally I would bet against using them all the time. Even in the bodybuilding community where whey protein supplements are popular, the consensus seems to be its much better to get your protein from a chicken breast if possible.


Not really. We still really don't know as much about nutrition than we think we do. That is why eating a varied diet is promoted; because we just don't understand what we need as well as we think we do.


and the macro-nutrient focused approach of the last decades is scientistic fallacy.

Mindfully listening to the body will lead to better adaptation than formulaic consumption.


2 years of gym and I never needed these powders to fill up my macros.

>sunday

>market, buy groceries, pasta and meat for whole week

>cook everything at once

>put everything on freezer

>clean up everything only once

Of course, I need to wash my dishes during week, but it takes literally 1 minute and half. And you can argue that there are powder to purposes other than macros, and I agree with you that you must take it if you think you need to. I, personally, don't.


It requires you a little more upfront work indeed but once you have your stack mixed and stored it gets as practical as with any other MRP.


I think it goes against a lot of people's idea of efficieny. Why should each person need to research, source, and mix their own MRP if we have similar needs?


That's why I started the sentence with "if you care about maximizing the quality of your product" -- it's a trade off. If you are ok with getting the average stuff, it's absolutely not necessary to customize your own MRP. The problem is, in the supplement industry, "average" often times means bad, so at least do a little research on any off-the-shelf supplement you're about to buy.


In the past when I was using legal prohormones and needed to feed in a lot of protein and nutrients, a 1 gallon milk jug filled with mix and stored in the fridge was ridiculously efficient. There's no way it was more unpleasant than Soylent; I distinctly remember kind of enjoying the chocolate flavor.

The deal is that people have to know what their body needs first and foremost. Gain? Lose? Maintain? All are different goals and methods. Solyent advertising as an off-the-shelf works-for-all-people might be fundamentally true, but I don't think it can be argued that it's the ideal for each and every person.


Because you might not don't trust a company to do a good job at the price point in question.


True. Also many times they don't tell the real story of what's really inside their packages.


but cooking good meals is so damn easy, there are even companies which will deliver the ingredients to very nice meals if you want to cook them.

anecdotal at best, but a friend years ago was diagnosed with adult diabetes and told he had to change his diet. this guy never cooked. part of his transition was cooking classes provided as part of his diabetes counseling. he discovered a world of quick and easy meals, many in a single pan and all were healthy.


I subscribe to Blue Apron, one of those companies you describe that deliver ingredients. I'm thinking about canceling because it takes so damn much effort to cook their meals. I have to chop my own garlic, where I would just use garlic powder or minced garlic before. I have to prepare my own kale, which I would just get kale with the stems removed before. I have to fry my own sage, which... well I would never use a garnish before. It's a meal I'm eating, not a meal I'm selling.

Saying "it's so easy, they deliver the ingredients" is a non-sequitur. Sure you don't have to buy groceries, but cooking still takes a lot of time and effort. Sometimes it's a solid hour that I spend cooking, then a half hour eating, and a half hour cleaning up.

I get four hours I spend at home between work and sleep, and two of those are spent preparing to eat, eating, and cleaning after eating. It's much quicker and easier to pick up KFC on the way home instead. That's the problem Soylent solves.


I tried Blue Apron. It was OK but their meals were definitely reasonably involved to prepare. For example, one of their meals was some sort of gourmet hamburger that took way more work than I would normally put into making a hamburger and I wasn't even all that impressed by the final result.

On the one hand, it can be kinda nice getting everything you need for a new recipe delivered to you. But I have a pretty well-stocked larder and a binder of recipes I make semi-regularly so it didn't really solve a problem I have. (And it's not inexpensive either.)


Cooking still takes time.

For anything decent, you need AT LEAST 30 minutes, usually more like 60+.

And then comes the cleaning of pots, pans, filling the dishwasher.

That's a WHOLE HOUR I could be wasting my time on HN instead!


I strongly recommend getting a good electric pressure cooker. Getting one has been a huge time saving for me because of how automated it is. Just put the food in the inner pot, put the lid on, and press a single button. It senses temperature and pressure to control the heating element so the food is cooked perfectly every time with no burning/scorching and minimal steam escaping. You can put frozen food in and it will still cook perfectly. If you don't overfill it the only thing that touches the lid is steam so all you have to clean is the stainless steel inner pot. You still have to wait about 60 minutes but most of that is leaving it unattended. The food usually has a better texture than with conventional cooking too.

I learned of these from obesity researcher Stephan Guyenet's blog: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/instant-pot-...

I use the same Instant Pot LUX60 model. I haven't tried any other model.


I'm sitting here eating my scrambled-eggs breakfast taco. Fry eggs, fry taco (for decadence), add veggie condiments that are already prepared, eat. I even use a cast-iron skillet so I don't have to wash it, just rinse & leave on the burner a minute. 10 min.

Cookbook author Melissa Joulwan has an algorithmic approach to weekly meal prep that results in delicious and easy weekday meals, if you're willing to make the "cook 2 hrs on weekend + cook no more during the week" trade-off. It's not the mere minutes that Soylent promises, but for some folks reading this it might be useful. It's paleo so easy to adapt to high protein/low carb/high veggie/whatever floats your boat here.


You can, and maybe should, wash cast iron skillets...

http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/how-to-clean-maintain-cas...


Listen to a podcast or audiobook etc. while you cook.


This is underrated advice that applies to any household chore. I like cooking for the sake of cooking but the time spent on it feels wasteful. If I put on an educational podcast I suddenly don't mind the time I spend cooking/washing dishes/whatever.


man, I'm glad I'm not the only one. One compromise I found that works is go to the deli at your grocery store. Get a half pound of some salad (doesnt have to be greens, they have potato salad, noodle salad, etc ), then get either "tuna salad" or "chicken salad", and buy a loaf of bread or crackers. Then just scoop the meat-salad onto your crackers/bread slice right before you eat it. It's like JIT cooking. Cleanup consists of throwing away the salad containers.


You do not spend 30 minutes, let alone 60, chopping, mixing, turning, cleaning. No way. You can do other things like browsing HN (or nothing if you wish) while the meal(s) cook. A fair part of the 'cooking' is just about waiting, not acting.

And as far as the active part is concerned, I like to listen the radio and if I can get organised so that I can prepare the food while one my favourite broadcasts is on the air, I don't even notice I "have to work".


Find me a MRP that has: A balanced amount of nutrients, and not just 600% protein and 10% of everything else. Isn't loaded with sugar so it tastes like a dessert. Isn't filled with artificial sweeteners so it tastes like a fake dessert. And isn't nutritionally designed for body-builders / children / elderly.

I wouldn't mind switching away from Soylent. With articles like this, and their spammy marketing for their new products (no, I don't want a coffee flavored drink, no I don't want a candy bar). But I don't know any other products like it aside from the Soylent clones.


Slimfast and Complan off the top of my head. And those two have been around for decades. MyProtein sell simular stuff that is more balanced than whey protein + whole milk for a meal replacement. Also, whey + whole milk + instant oats lets you control the macros fairly well, assuming your getting all your micro-nutrients from real food elsewhere. And this is without looking on google. Id bet there are many many more. All the own-brand versions of slimfast for example.


I know those, and they don't match any of my criteria. Slimfast has no flavors that aren't dessert drinks.

For a 400 calorie serving of Slimfast original, it's over 36g sugars (vs 9g Soylent). Slimfast Advanced has almost no sugar, but is "sweetened with non-nutritive sweetener" (from their website). I can't find which actual sweetener it is, but most artificial sweeteners upset my stomach and taste more terrible than sweet.

Complan is also loaded with carbs, (33g sugar + 30g else) and has no fiber.

They're marketed as meal replacements, but I don't see how they're anything but vitamin enriched milk shakes.


The same one serving of Slimfast[1] has less than 10% of my daily calories, less than 2% of daily carbs, and between 35% and 110% of daily vitamins.

I don't see how it's a competitor to a drink (Soylent 2.0) that has exactly 20% of all macros and micros.

[1] http://slimfast.com/products/advanced/shakes/creamy-chocolat...


want fiber? Try an apple or if ringing a piece of fruit too difficult for you too.


You've got to be kidding me. There are 100s of products to choose from. And nobody should be living off of a powdered food. But a vitamix blender ($450) and you'll be able to blend about anything. Here's one of my favs, Take some cashews, Coconut oil, avocado, raw Cacoa you'll be below away and healthy.


Huel


The only person to respond with a real answer! Thank you! An actual product with an unflavored version that's low in sugar. Sadly I see no option to have it shipped to the US on their website.


Look up: Schmilk


It might just be an irrational perception, but when this first came out and got some media attention, I thought it was a great example of the attitude that some engineers/developers have: "too good to do something normal like eat a sandwich, the only thing that matters is more coding."

It struck me as a fundamentally antisocial product developed by someone who might have some kind of an eating disorder. But, like I said, that might only be a perception.


I'm not even a "foodie" person and the idea of just eating these meal replacements all the time seems like being in "food prison."


Because once you start Soylent you cannot possibly stop, or skip a drink and go out and eat with friends? Or cook dinner sometimes? Nonsense.

I'd call a steady diet of fast food a 'food prison'. That's the addictive stuff that ruins your health.


You rally against a false dichotomy and then commit one in almost the same breath. There isn't a choice between a "food prison" of fast food or soylent.

The reality is you should probably choose neither.


Fast food is designed to be addictive (salt/fat/sugar triangle), so the dichotomy is not really false. Its possible to be addicted to fast food. I point to obesity in America and draw some supporting evidence there.


You don't need to point at things there's actually evidence. "Neuroimaging studies in obese subjects provide evidence of altered reward and tolerance." Reward seems to me the most underrated, and extremely powerful form of cognition effecting behavior. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21999689


Agreed. Personally, I take supplements as a way to complement my normal diet -- not to substitute it. Once in a while, when it's not possible to have a real food meal, those MRPs can be also very handy.


Although I'd imagine a liquid diet where you are mainly only consuming smoothie type beverages has to be less hard on your digestive system just because of the simply fact it requires less effort to break down?


I don't think "less hard on your digestive system" is an advantage but rather a disadvantage. Just like "less hard on you bones" is not really an advantage for astronauts that spend a couple of weeks/months in space.

If you want to have a healthy body you have to put it under a stress level for which it was designed by evolution. I.e. exercise once in a while and don't just sit in front of your computer, eat enough fibres and harder to digest food, etc


A lot of our digestive flora actually uses "non-digestible" components for sustenance, we're finding. There can be surprising and unexpected side effects to eliminating food components we thought we just excreted. Fiber, for instance, is technically not all digested -- much just passes through -- but it's really important! Other types of fiber are fermented in the gut depending on what bacteria you've got.


Note that Soylent has continually reduced the fiber (and protein!) content of their drink, while increasing non-fiber carbohydrates.


Our bodies having to break down food is not necessarily bad. For example, it allows you to receive a steady stream of nutrients throughout the day, instead of getting it all at once and being deprived later on.


I would be more of the foodie bent, but I love Soylent. You don't have to eat it all the time, just when it's the best way to get your next meal.


Your dismissal is 100% emotional. Do you have any reasons that I should find it compelling or are you relying entirely on emotional resonance to make your anti-soylent case?


What? The dismissal was that the product previously existed. What's emotional about that?


What's not emotional about requiring products you have no hand in to meet your standards of innovation?


What... what is emotional about that? Saying a product is trying to fill a need which has already been filled is the least emotional reason I can think of to not purchase something.


Fair enough


How about the company itself taking their product out of the market because it's making people sick?


That wasn't the reason given for the dismissal. I'm not arguing anything in particular about soylent, and in fact I don't care about it at all. I'm just pointing out that personal standards are a boring emotional basis for deciding what is innovative.


I bought a box of Soylent bars to use as occasional between-meal backups, since I sometimes miss a meal while traveling or because I forget to eat lunch.

Over the course of a few weeks I ate two or three bars and was fine. Then one day I missed lunch, ate a bar, and about four hours later started feeling nauseous and experienced the worst diarrhea of my life.

Let's just say I'm glad it hit me when I was at home, within tightly clenched shuffling distance of a good sturdy toilet.

By the next morning I felt fine.

I have no known food allergies or sensitivities. On no occasion did I eat more than one bar in a single day, and I don't think I ever even ate bars on two consecutive days.

I do remember thinking, while eating that last bar, that it didn't taste quite as good as I remembered the other bars tasting. It seems possible that the bars contained inconsistent amounts of an ingredient and the last one just happened to have a larger amount of whatever did me in.

I sure would like to know what it was so I can avoid it in the future.


Not putting solid food into your system for long periods of time (months, years) will destroy your ability to digest solid food when you start refeeding. I've seen people in eating disorder facilities who have lived on diets of liquid food (historically Ensure, basically the same thing) who have not defecated for months, and when they start eating again suffer for weeks and weeks from horrendous constipation, often requiring further hospitalization. This has happened to me.

Your ability to digest basically shuts down, your intestines stop moving what little solids there are through you.

Not eating solid food is not good for you. Don't do it.


I don't advocate for or against liquid diets necessarily - and I realize this is overtly a throwaway account - but this sounds pretty pseudo-sciency to me, anecdote notwithstanding.

At bare minimum, include some citation here.


You have it exactly backwards.

Anyone suggesting Soylent is safe with arguments like "glucose is glucose" and "it has the right macronutrient ratios" is spouting pseudo-science.

If you have insufficient evidence that something is safe and a strong anecdote suggesting otherwise the logical option is to abstain.

Attempting to bring science into the decision making process when the science has not been done is pseudo-science!


There is still so much science to do related to food, we just do not have a good grasp of all the nutrients your body needs and what allows you to absorb those nutrients the best. One form of protein from a plant can have completely different absorption rates than that of protein from a cow, its a complete crapshoot to try and blaze a trail with processed staple food products due to the lack of understanding we have of nutrition, and its going to take decades of research to even start to unravel the mysteries of the human bodies digestion system.


> You have it exactly backwards.

I would call either argument pseudo-science, but only one was presented here and it's the one I responded to.


I have to agree. I'm not saying that people on liquid diets don't have digestion problems, but the liquid diet alone likely didn't cause it.

Even if you eat no food, you'll still have bowel movements as your intestines shed cells and mucus. If you have a colostomy done (intestines no longer connect to your rectum) you'll still pass small small amounts of stool out the normal way (anus).


Your bowels are muscle. Like any muscle, if it doesn't get used much, it wastes. Just because you're passing some stool, doesn't mean you're in good digestive shape, no more than an irregular heartbeat is healthy "because at least the heart is beating"


What does "good digestive shape" even mean? I've never heard of "digestive muscle wasting" in any of the medical literature. Your digestive muscles are smooth muscle (different from the heart) that are autonomically innervated (more than just food stimulates them).

The fact that people have gone on extended fasts and then broke them without much trouble suggests a "breakdown" of digestive function is a weak argument.

I would say that a change in the biome of the digestive tract is probably more responsible for any digestive upset after breaking a fast than "muscle breakdown".


Its not quite what was described but refeeding syndrome is an interesting somewhat related thing https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC390152/


He just told you what he lived through, and you're asking for a citation?

Never change, HN.


A throwaway account gave us a wholly unsupported anecdote. This isn't gospel and it's not taboo to ask for some scientific support.

Even if the anecdotes are 100% true, they have no causative evidence.


Your dismissive attitude discounts:

1. People lie.

2. People believe things to be true that are not, in fact, true.


"Somone would to that? Just go on the internet and tell lies?"

I grew up with AOL chatrooms. I will believe whatever someone presents about themselves up to the point at which it leave the magic circle of the internet.


"Not putting solid food into your system for long periods of time will destroy your ability to digest solid food when you start refeeding"

That is an unscientific statement based on no citation.

Top it off, I have personally lived of Soylent for a year. I go out to eat only a couple times a month and I do not die from horrendous suffering everytime. In fact, nothing changes.


"Your statement is unscientific because anecdotally I've had no problems with it"

Where's your citation backing up your suggestion that it's safe?


One counterexample is enough to contradict the "will destroy" claim in the grandparent.


"Smoking will destroy your lungs"

Gonna give me a counterexample there too?


Dear down voters: it should be obvious that just because smoking is not literally guaranteed to destroy your lungs, and you can find plenty of counter examples, it's still a very good idea to warn people that "smoking will destroy your lungs".

And it would have been a good idea to do that back in the 50s when doctors were calling it safe without the science to back up their claims. "You have no evidence" is what you say to justify avoiding something suspect, not what you say to justify consuming it!


Pretty sure smoking is literally guaranteed to destroy your lungs.

If you find a long-term consistent cigarette smoker with no lung damage, I believe you have a medical miracle on your hands.


"Destroy" does not mean the same thing as "damage".

Destroy = something big enough ruin your quality of life.


Sure, counterexample: my grandfather. Hyperbolic claims like "it will destroy your lungs" are counterproductive in the long run; far better to give a measured, accurate description of the actual level of danger.


Anecdata... strawman... no citations of your own despite requirements for same... somethingsomething 'unscientific'?


The point is that one unsubstantiated anecdote cancels out the other. Why is the first comment okay but this one isn't? You can't have it both ways.


The comment I responded to was mockingly talking about dying with the original wasn't. It was being smarmy when the original was talking cleanly. Abusing someone for lack of science when you're being snarky is a footgun.

My point is that if you are chiding someone for a lack of quality, you shouldn't use even less quality to do so.


Look I get it, but there are citations. https://www.reddit.com/r/soylent/comments/3orq9s/is_diarrhea...


No he told us about something he claimed to see at a place. A lot of people say the same thing about UFOs.


Having entirely lived on Soylent for a full year and having went back to solid foods with no weaning period and no ill effects, I doubt the veracity of your unsubstantiated claims.


As someone with Crohns disease, who has been on an elemental diet not by choice but by necessity, I can assure you it is very much a real world effect.

Unfortunately, we lack a corpus of evidence of long term liquid diet feedings (and intestinal investigations), mainly for ethical reasons, but there is at least one good rat study I could quickly recall: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01308310 There are, however, countless great articles I suggest you read on liquid diets and their impact on satiety and other important illness recovery markers. One of the important topics for researchers has been how to safely transition patients more quickly to solid food, given some of the less desirable side effects of the liquid food diet.

And yes, I understand that the Soylent team is confident that they've solved, for example, all gastric emptying issues by adding exogenous fibres. I'm positing that for every variable they're convinced they've figured out, they're opening up another potential set of problems that they've not even considered. Their latest opacity on this recall isn't giving me hope that I'm wrong here.


Two people in my family also experienced it, but I think it's likely related to your particular gastrointestinal system genetics, really. Doesn't happen to everyone, but those it does happen to it's pretty horrific; that said, my family has a huge history of Crohn's, et al. so there's probably a bit of cross-pollination between the two, so to speak.


@timdorr: "Crazy to think that over the last year and a half, more than 50% of my diet has been in the form of liquid @soylent." [1]

So not all of your diet. I very much doubt your ability to refute my claim, given that you did not meet my criteria of not eating solid food.

[1] https://twitter.com/timdorr/status/694271673248264192


I switched to 50% Soylent for the 6 month period following the year, with a break for "normal" food in between. The first year was almost 100% Soylent, with some occasional solid food when Soylent wasn't available. I had no ill effects from any of these temporary diet changes, nor the period immediately following either period of long-term usage.


Isn't 100% more than 50%?


[flagged]


"They are substantiated. It's clearly your research that is not." Where is the evidence? Link me to one scientific paper or credible news source on this. There is no backing to either your claims or the throwaway account's claims.


Both accounts are throwaways!


Not to mention, a major part of digestion begins in the mouth. Saliva breaks food down and prepares it to be broken down in the stomach, so that it can be assimilated in the intestines.

When you consume liquid calories, you miss out on this important part of the digestive process (and subsequently lose out on absorbing a portion of the nutrients), unless you are "simulate chewing" or leave the liquids in your mouth long enough for the salivary enzymes to "get to work."

Granted, this doesn't mean you can't survive off of liquid calories, but digestive issues are bound to happen. Nutrient-dense, whole foods should always be the first option.


Source?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saliva#Digestion

It's not clear that salivary digestion is categorically different from non-salivary digestion -- it works on compounds the rest of the GI tract also deals with -- but as a matter of degree, as a matter of the extent to which your food is digested, it certainly seems important. 30% is nothing to sneeze at.


Ensure is not intended to be used as a complete nutrition source, so it's not surprising that subsisting on it for long periods would cause problems. For long term use a nutritionally complete formula should be used such as Jevity or Twocal (made by the same company that makes Ensure).


> Ensure is not intended to be used as a complete nutrition source,

Why did Soylent promote it like that? When did that message change?

On the front page at Soylent they have "We engineer foods that offer complete nutrition, value, and convenience." -- here "complete nutrition" means it can be used as a sole source of nutrition.

On their about page they say "Soylent™ is a pioneer in food technology, producing convenient, complete foods designed to provide maximum nutrition with minimal effort."

They also make reference to Rob's experiment of living off Soylent for a month: "and the co-founders quickly realized that this experiment solved a problem not only for themselves but for thousands of people around the world."

In their blog post announcing v1.6 of the powder they say: "r latest iteration in convenient, complete powdered food. We have redesigned the formula to create a superior mouthfeel and taste, while still providing a nutritionally-complete staple meal."

All the language points to these products being usable as a sole source of nutrition, even if they don't actually come out and say "you can use this as a sole source of nutrition".


Ensure is not made by Soylent.


Sorry, yes, I made a stupid error.

Ensure is most assuredly designed to used as a sole source of nutrition. This happens in hospitals every day where it's used in naso-gastric feeding, sometimes against the patient's wishes. It's used in prisons as a naso gastric feed on hunger striking prisoners. It's used in hospitals for ill people.

The makers of Ensure have a wide range of products, many of which are designed to be sole-source of nutrition products.

The fact they don't advertise these to the general public as sole source of nutrition products just means they're a bit more responsible than Soylent.


Ensure is not indicated for tube feeding so hospitals should not use it for that. I have first hand experience with this after having been hospitalized for Crohn's and put on a liquid diet. For sole-source nutrition in a hospital setting a formula designed for that, such as Jevity, is used. If a hospital tries to give you Ensure as sole-source nutrition they are doing it wrong.


I get 100% of my daily calorie intake Mon-Fri from powdered food (not Soylent, but a different brand). I shit fat bricks, two to three times a day. No diarrhea, no bleeding, no constipation, nothing.

It's all about proper macronutrient intake and exercise. People on Ensure probably had drastically reduced daily calorie intakes.

Edit:

> your intestines stop moving what little solids there are through you

If you think there are ANY solids in your intestines, you better read on anatomy and human biology.


The founder may have thought for a while that maybe he could get away with just Soylent for extended periods of time, but I don't think very many people actually tried using it to the exclusion of all other food.


I lived on liquid food for about a month after a surgery and when I started eating solid foods again my stomach was actually handling it better than it ever had.

I'm not advocating eating liquid foods for months, I thought it was hard as I was hungry all the time in the first week or so. But doctors tell patients that go through some surgeries to eat liquid foods for at least a month before the surgery. How can it be bad? It's not that the bowel movement stops like you are suggesting.

Like others have said, please submit some kind of referral if you're going to make such a statement.


Doesn't Soylent contain extra fibers specifically for this purpose? I don't use it, but I recall Reinhart blogging that he added fiber because he was worried about this exact issue.


I've been drinking only protein shakes for breakfast for years, and recently the Coffiest product from Soylent. My poops are coming out just fine (of course I'm having regular solid food for lunch and dinner, and for all my meals on the weekend).


Did you know some people don't even eat breakfast?


Yes I did, I've even gone without breakfast for periods. Unfortunately it seems to kill my ability to focus in the mornings, perhaps because I don't eat that much generally.


Just a quick counterargument from a regular Soylent consumer: I drink a coffiest for breakfast every morning and drink two liquid Soylents on days when I don't have time for a nice lunch or dinner. It's convenient, healthy and tastes good. I've never had any intestinal troubles. I use it as a meal replacement, not a complete food replacement.

It sucks that they included this ingredient in their powder and bars that has caused people problems. But HN folks should know that doing startups is hard, and we all make mistakes along the way. Food is obviously a much more sensitive and important application than most mobile apps.

But I expect Soylent to figure out what went wrong, correct it, and keep iterating and improving.


"doing startups is hard, and we all make mistakes along the way"

I'd love to see a restaurant use that line. Food safety is hard!


Or a surgeon. "Sorry, but surgery is hard and we all make mistakes along the way!"

The statement is actually true... but you need to hold yourself to a higher standard when your product can have an impact on people's health. Of course, stopping the product while investigating the cause sounds like they are taking it seriously, so hopefully it will all work out in the end.

But I'm not worried either way - meal replacement shakes have been around a long time, and despite the marketing, Soylent isn't that different than its competitors. So hit GNC on the way home and get whatever works for ya.


But we have made surgery mistakes along the way. We have made food mistakes along the way. And drug mistakes, and flight mistakes, and war mistakes.

It hurts to get better. But it should also hurt the companies making the mistakes themselves, and for companies that make things like food and drugs there should be balanced regulations. Iteration should happen on small scales, but licenses and inspections should be enforced as you grow.


Comparing this with surgery is not fair, I think. Here (with a food like soylent) the gains are low and the risks are high. With surgery, the risks are high but so are the gains. Before you go into surgery you're given a list of 10 ways you might die if something goes wrong. Oftentimes, though, the alternative is certain death (in the very near future).

Edit: I was replying to "But we have made surgery mistakes along the way". On a second reading, I notice that you did not actually mean to imply "it was necessary there so it's necessary here".


> the gains are low

bruh


You should go talk to some surgeons during residency. There are systems in place to mitigate the possibility of mistakes, but they do happen during the learning process for new surgeons.


Go look into health inspection reports. Restaurants of all kinds routinely violate health codes.


Yes, and we don't accept "hygiene is hard!" as an excuse when they violate health codes.


Restaurants don't get shut down for every little violation.


I used to follow these quite closely. In my experience in Silicon Valley, there was a decent correlation between how good the food was and how badly they perform in those inspections :)


Not because health codes are a hard problem to solve, it's because the proprietors are lazy pieces of shit who make up their margin by storing their bleach next to their raw chicken.


Even the biggest restaurant chains follow this approach when things go wrong. You just fix the problem and hope customers stick with you.


Using the term "hard" over and over is getting really old. It seems to be a SV thing. Not sure.


When we make mistakes in making a website, people get frustrated.

When we make mistakes in food, people die.

Not every industry can accept the "move fast and break things" mantra.


well, sorry to say this but healthcare operates in a way that puts individuals at risk for the benefit of moving medicine forward. For example, surgeons tend to be at at their prime in their early to mid 40s. Getting operated on by a typical 35 year old is flat out dangerous, statistically speaking, but we allow it because to get better, people have to practice their craft.


The surgeon example is one of 'move slowly and accept necessary risk' not 'move fast and break things'.


I don't drink the coffee version, but I've otherwise had the exact same experience. It's so nice to have times when I can skip the whole "figuring out food" thing and grab a soylent. I keep a case or so of the pre-mixed liquid bottles around at all times now. At my various clients I generally leave one in the fridge. It's the meal I can eat during a meeting, and feel even less guilty about my Sunday night double cheeseburger.


when you make a mistake at a web tech startup, the worst thing that happens is some people don't get to look at a web page they wanted to look at, or maybe somebody got an email they shouldn't have.

when you make a mistake at a food production startup people get sick or die. this is a different domain and applying the same logic that you would apply to web tech is a horrible idea.


Huel is better


The latest version of Soylent powder is the best-tasting version to date and I get no uneasy feeling from it. The original powder versions I could more easily believe gastro issues, so I'm surprised this is cropping up now rather than before, but I guess it could be ingredient/allergy-specific.

I tend to eat 3000 calories to maintain my weight so Soylent is great for my busy schedule. I'm still eating 1500-2000 calories of regular food per day, which is certainly enough. I don't get why people keep harping on the all-or-nothing idea behind Soylent. Most people advocate this as part of a balanced diet.

Even if Soylent isn't perfect, I'd rather down something the FDA considers a food than an excess of weight gainers/protein bars/protein powder supplements filled with ingredients I don't want. That being said, I could throw oats, protein powder, peanut butter, milk, and a banana in a blender.. but that's not necessarily something I want to do consistently.

I also consider Soylent a bang for the buck when looking at things at price per 100 calories. Soylent 2.0 is far tastier, but I find it annoying that you have to get a ton of heavy bottles shipped to you and it's more expensive.


> I don't get why people keep harping on the all-or-nothing idea behind Soylent.

Because that's what all Soylent's advertising and messaging has focused on?


No it isn't. Their slogan is something like: Not meant to replace every meal, but it can replace any meal.


The original launch page suggested to only eat it, though, and the founder does exactly that, too prove its viability.


"This gun isn't for killing people, but you could"


Move fast and break things, including people's GI tracts. The fact that Soylent powder is at "version 1.6" and causing these problems points to gross version number inflation. This is a showstopper. Rob Rhinehart asserts that the human body is "just chemicals," yet a vat of elemental hydrogen, oxygen, carbon etc. would seem to behave a little differently from a human body composed of reproducing cells and structured organs. His CS background has made him consider the body a narrowly deterministic system that requires a minimum of sanity-check testing before releasing it upon the world. We're the beta testers here. Real world, physical systems have vast amounts of variability that techies don't seem to appreciate. I won't be surprised to see VC funds starting to require deep involvement of health professionals for companies in the diet/medical space, especially in light of Theranos and now this.


"Beta testers" is generous. More like alpha, or even nightly builds.


`GIt reset head`


I had hemorrhoids that would flair up from soy/almond milk or large quantities of corn chips. However, I never had blood loss and it was mostly gone by the time I tried Soylent.

After having one drink made with powder version 1.2 or 1.3, I lost about a liter of blood and couldn't move or work on anything that week. Had to switch to yogurt for a month to eat normally again. I think it has to do with jagged precipitates that remain after going through the large intestine.

I love the idea of the product, but unnatural food like this has potential to cause unforeseen side effects.


What do you mean by unnatural? What is in Soylent that isn't natural? Food in and of itself is just a mix of different chemicals - be they from plants, animals, or other sources. But at the end of the day, a molecule of glucose from a plant is identical to a molecule of glucose created synthetically.


This attitude is exactly bothered me about the CEO of Soylent when he was first doing PR about the product years ago. It's not a question of being "natural" per se, it's the question of trace elements and how our body metabolizes food. Food is not just a pile of molecules, it's a particular organization of molecules. How your body digests it matters. A bunch of milled and refined powders of macronutrients is simply not the same as anything we've evolved to eat over the last X million years. How different is it? That's hard to say, but when the CEO is so dismissive of the fact that there are real subtleties here and nutrition science still has a long way to go, it's not confidence inspiring.

The reason that oft-derided-as-woo-woo granola crowd is actually making the logicallly sound choice here is because given the lack of conclusive science, the default assumption should be that a diet closer to what our ancestors ate is a safer bet than a brand new diet that we fabricate based on incomplete and presumptive knowledge.


>>It's not a question of being "natural" per se, it's the question of trace elements and how our body metabolizes food. Food is not just a pile of molecules, it's a particular organization of molecules. How your body digests it matters. A bunch of milled and refined powders of macronutrients is simply not the same as anything we've evolved to eat over the last X million years. How different is it? That's hard to say, but when the CEO is so dismissive of the fact that there are real subtleties here and nutrition science still has a long way to go, it's not confidence inspiring.

On the other hand, what you are saying here sounds extremely pseudo-science-y and hand-wavy. You're basically saying "well, 'real' food is different because something something molecules, it's hard to say exactly how but..."

Soylent CEO on the other hand is arguing from first principles:

- Our bodies need macro- and micro-nutrients - We have a pretty good (although imperfect) understanding of how much of each we need to consume - Therefore, we can probably get rid of all the extraneous stuff associated with nutrient consumption (prep, cooking, clean-up, etc.) and still achieve the same results


This is science-worship attitude that is prevalent among a certain type of personality, usually a person who prizes their own logical thinking and objectivity, and thus more easily misses their own biases. Essentially you're using "natural" as a dog whistle that says my argument is wrong and the Soylent CEO is right. But the only reason you feel that way is because he fits the sort of engineer-type logical thinker which you trust. It's all emotions.

Here is the hard truth: there is no science here on either side. There's a subjective judgement about how complete our knowledge is. I say nutritional science is still in the dark ages and therefore we don't have evidence to conclude a pile of molecules is the same as traditional food, Soylent CEO says nutritional science is "pretty good" and the only thing that matters about food are its measured consituents and there in the absence of evidence we should just assume that eating the exact same thing in liquid form at metered intervals should be perfectly healthy.

For you to suggest he is arguing from first principles is absolutely ridiculous, his argument is chock full of hubris and assumptions. It's very very wrong to hold that up as an example of sound scientific thinking.


>>I say nutritional science is still in the dark ages and therefore we don't have evidence to conclude a pile of molecules is the same as traditional food

What you say is wrong, though. We have a pretty good understanding of how food works and what our bodies need. How do you think hospitals feed comatose patients? They do it either via a feeding tube (liquid food), or through an IV (fluids containing glucose, salts, amino acids, lipids and micronutrients).


Everything is relative. What you need to survive short-term is much easier to understand then the long-term effects of subtle dietary differences. The core of my point is that treating a pile of molecules as the same as food is not scientifically sound reasoning "from first principles".


>>The core of my point is that treating a pile of molecules as the same as food is not scientifically sound reasoning "from first principles"

Here is what Elon Musk said about batteries when asked to give an example of his first-principles thinking:

Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be… Historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt hour. It’s not going to be much better than that in the future.”

With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?”

It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can. Break that down on a material basis and say, “If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?”

It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. So clearly you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.”

--

Thinking of batteries as being made of cobalt, nickel, aluminum etc. is EXACTLY THE SAME THING as thinking of food as being made of proteins, fats, carbs, etc. There isn't anything special about a piece of chicken - it's a combination of molecules, some of which are digestible by the human body, i.e. nutrients. Therefore, taking those nutrients and putting them into a meal replacement shake is perfectly fine. And incidentally, just like in Musk's example, treating the nutrients individually and assembling them into a shake results in much cheaper food.


Cheaper food? Are you serious? Soylent is not cheap, not at all. It's much more expensive than the average diet, let alone low-cost options.


Soylent costs $1.93 per meal:

https://www.soylent.com/product/powder/

That's pretty damn cheap, especially compared to the "average diet", which consists of eating out on a regular basis.


The average person eats out for birthdays and anniversaries, not more.

And Soylent is at least 40% more expensive than even buying freerange organic food to make your own meals.

Which is insane for the horrible quality it has.


Average American spends $150 per week on food. Among young adults, this number is $173. That comes down to $21-24 per day.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/156416/americans-spend-151-week-f...

Soylent costs $1.93 per meal, which comes down to $5.79 per day. In other words, about a quarter of the average daily spend.

I'm also not sure where you came up with "horrible quality." Care to qualify - or better yet, quantify - that claim?

As for eating out, another survey in 2013 showed that 58% of Americans eat out at least once a week. That's way higher than you claim.

http://m.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/gener...


I didn’t talk about americans, I talked about the average German. (as Soylent is a product with a global market, but I can only speak from my experience as German, not having experienced how life is like in the US – such simple things as longer working hours can affect such things a lot)

Which spends on average 225 bucks a month[1] on food. That comes down to 7.50€ a day.

Soylent, including shipping, is actually more expensive than this.

> As for eating out, another survey in 2013 showed that 58% of Americans eat out at least once a week. That's way higher than you claim.

The German statistics for that are below 13%.

> I'm also not sure where you came up with "horrible quality." Care to qualify - or better yet, quantify - that claim?

I’m comparing Soylent, a product with no taste, no texture, which is basically torture, with cheaper, higher quality meals, handmade, with organic ingredients.

Soylent can’t measure up in taste or variety even to public cafeteria food.

    ________________________
[1] German Federal Agency for Statistics: https://www.destatis.de/DE/ZahlenFakten/GesellschaftStaat/Ei...


Soylent doesn't compete with the 'average diet', it competes with eating out 2-3 times a day. I personally save hundreds of dollars a month with Soylent.


Given that a) our ancestors lived a very different lifestyle and b) we would like to live long past child-raising age, which is where evolutionary benefits to longevity would mostly end, a diet similar to our ancestors is by no means a safe option.


s/ancestors/parents. They seem to be living decently long lives, so I'll let someone else experiment with liquid meal replacements for a decade or two, thank you very much.


Decent, yes. On the other hand, if diet changes were able to increase life expectancy by say 10 years (which is what some people claim agriculture reduced it by) then I'd jump at that.


The main problem with most dietary recommendations is that they oversimplify in a skewed and wrongful way.

From a very basic, we can be quite sure that a very simple model roughly describes the system (as in "there are calories and the human body is bound by the laws of thermodynamics"). We also no that it is not that simple, because a biological organism is a very, very complex machine.

Everything else is mostly the attempt to find a "simpler model" than "its a complex biological machine and we need very large empirical studies to understand it" and mostly fails. In that sense, soylent is on a similar level as the "detox" crowd. Pretty sure their mission statement is not right. They might get some stuff right by accident. Other stuff is wrong.

Of course thinking in "right" and "wrong" is also an oversimplification, as we should probably use "better on the average population" or "worse on average population".

The stone-age crowd has a point in using kind of an evolutionary explanation for what food to choose. On the other hand their premise "we eat what our ancestors ate, because thats what our body has optimized for" is seriously flawed in its own logic, because we won't reproduce the hunter-gatherer environment when switching diets, and they don't account for the adaptability of the genome, as well as the variance of diets among hunter-gatherer cultures and early stone age farmers.


Anyone who struggles with digestion and still decided Soylent was a good idea probably deserves at least in some part the gastrointestinal stress that ensued.

There will never be "conclusive" science regarding how and what we eat without experimentation. Soylent is, regardless of how the founders frame it, an experiment. A fairly successful one, at that.

Obviously not completely successful, given that this story is about them utterly failing, but that failure is temporary. They will recover.


That's like saying a puddle of human molecular composition is the same thing as a human. As far as biological interactions are concerned, even in digestion, it doesn't appear that molecular quantities behave identically independent of molecular arrangement.


If you grind beans and rice into a powder, with other stuff, and cook them, do you think that that's the same as cooking whole beans and whole rice with the other stuff?

The answer is no. It's not just about molecules.


Can you please expand on how they are different? A powdered bean or powdered rice contains the same macro and micronutrients. Perhaps the quality of the fiber would be different?


To begin with the uptake rate would be different. If you eat a whole bean your body will have to break it down into smaller parts (by chewing initially and so on) and in the end you'll get different amounts of whatever is in it in your system at different times if you eat it whole or grouns up. another example would be certain seeds. Many seeds contain cyanide (well known poison!?), which is not dangerous in the seed because the amount you'll get into your system is miniscule. however if you ground the seed up, you'd get more cyanide taken up by your body, which could be bad for you. (I can't say how big the difference would be but it is theoretically sound)


That makes sense. I guess my followup question would be whether this impacts how healthy the food is. I guess soy beans and tofu and metabolized differently, but it's my understanding that tofu is still very good for you. Same with peanut/almond butter. Anyways, thanks for the detailed explanation, it does make a lot of sense.


I don't understand why you would think they are the same. Cooking a whole bean vs cooking a powdered bean is different. Digesting a whole, chewed bean is different from digesting a powdered bean. And what happens at the end of your gut is different.

An example of a related principle is "need" vs "what's needed when it's needed". How much vitamin C do you "need"? Oh, wait, it affects iron absorption.


You literally don't understand how someone could draw the conclusion that the same materials produce the same energy, regardless of form?

That concept utterly eludes you?


You don't fully absorb the foods you eat. You pass them through your body while absorbing parts. Anything that makes it easier or harder to absorb parts of the food will affect what you get out of the food.


I will speculate that eating liquid food for a prolonged amount of time doesn't do your teeth and gums any favors.

Whether Soylent qualifies as "unnatural" depends on whether its ingredients, and the amounts of them, are nutritious and not poisonous. Humanity hasn't yet reached a point where we have definite answers to questions like that.


OP shat a litre of blood. That seems a pretty unnatural reaction to food.


"Natural" is a terrible word for describing things when you are trying to make a point. It doesn't mean anything. Natural things can be safe or unsafe, well tested or unknown, healthy or unhealthy, better or worse.

I really wish people would use the actual comparison they are trying to make when they use "natural" - say "food that people haven't tried living on for extended periods" or whatever.

Natural has become an advertising buzzword designed to trick people into thinking something is good because people associate it with a bunch of stuff that "Natural" does not imply.


> Soylent said there shouldn’t be any issues with its premade drinks, which cost slightly more than just the powder.

Interesting. I tried the premade drinks (Soylent 2.0) a couple of months ago and within an hour had stomach cramps and was forced to retreat to the bathroom.

Unlike a software bug it's mentally very hard to forgive -- I love the idea of Soylent but doubt I will ever try it again, in any form.

Serious question: why is it so hard for them to find the root cause of these issues? There are a limited number of ingredients, all of which are surely well documented and tested.


> Serious question: why is it so hard for them to find the root cause of these issues?

Biology is hard. Humans are really, really variable. Look through the comments on this page - you'll find people who couldn't keep down one bottle, or who love the bottles but can't stand the powder, or who have had zero issues, or who find the entire idea disgusting.

And these reactions may also change over time. Medical science can only really draw firm results from large-scale tests involving highly-controlled groups - and even if Soylent were able to run those kinds of tests and optimized for the most universal solution, the end result would probably still disagree with someone.


> Biology is hard. Humans are really, really variable.

Plus Soylent has been presented as a replacement for all other food, and some people use it as such. I would think that would make it more likely that their users would experience problems, since it would mean greater and constant exposure to ingredients that might not cause issues if consumed less frequently.


also might be an issue of endurance, sometimes the body needs to adjust to things and that could take a week - most of these complaints are 'x happened to me the first time'


I've gone through a few cases of the premade drinks. My first bottle or two did the same to me but never since. Pretty sure it was the high amount