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This Man Thinks He Never Has to Eat Again (vice.com)
656 points by Aco- 867 days ago | 502 comments



> a 24-year-old software engineer > ... > Soylent contains all of the nutritive components of a balanced diet

What utter bollocks. We're (as in, scientists studying nutrition and how utterly wrong food industry has gotten that in the 20th and early 21st century) finally starting to get our collective heads around the benefits of whole foods vs. highly processed foods, and just how badly our bodies deal with the latter. It may be theoretically possible to create some processed food that's on par with the nutrition of whole foods, but I doubt that anyone alive today knows how to do it. He may see "good" results on some metrics due to a lack of any desire to go hypercaloric -- i.e. there's probably no artificially boosted food reward[1] mechanisms in his glop. But that won't make up for the glop's likely deficiencies.

So an impatient _software engineer_ comes along and claims to have whipped up a drink that eliminates all that. A task that specialists have so far failed at.

> "I read a textbook on physiological chemistry and took to the internet to see if I could find every known essential nutrient."

I've seen this enough to be sick of it; it seems to be form of the software "everything is just an [easy] problem" mindset gone badly wrong. The supplement and meal replacement powder/drink industry is a multi-billion dollar market. First sanity check: _no_ staff scientists for any of these companies thought to go look at a textbook and the intertubes and do the same thing? DOH! Egg's on them!

Another example of this failure: when software/CS types wander off to do experimental science (e.g. human subjects) without _any_ training in how to do experiment design, data collection, or analysis. "Just ask 'em some questions!" The general form of the problem seems to be a blindness to the depths of domain knowledge required to be effective in other disciplines.

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>an impatient _software engineer_ comes along and claims to have [succeeded with a] task that specialists have so far failed at

The guy who invented the spreadsheet didn't have to absorb all available accounting literature first, and Elon Musk didn't spend 30 years in the Apollo program before being allowed to send his own rocket to space. Nutrition is a field full of pseudoscience and highly susceptible to disruption. People should be encouraged to try new things here. If this guy is wrong it's at his own cost, and if right the potential benefits are enormous.

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Elon Musk designed the rocket? All by himself? Wow! What a renaissance man.

I figured he had physicists, engineers, mathematicians, biologists, chemists, and you name it. But I guess he just read a few books on his weekends and that was enough to design and launch the rocket.

This guy is a hobbyist who is claiming his diet has cured most of his ails. You aren't the least bit suspicious of that claim?

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>I guess [Musk] just read a few books on his weekends and that was enough to design and launch the rocket

Ah, I love it when people think they're sarcastic but they're correct:

>"I was sitting behind [Elon Musk] on the flight back to London when he looked at me over the seat and said, 'I think we can build a rocket ourselves.'" He showed Cantrell the spreadsheet he'd been working on. "I looked at it and said, I'll be damned — that's why he's been borrowing all my books. He'd been borrowing all my college textbooks on rocketry and propulsion. You know, whenever anybody asks Elon how he learned to build rockets, he says, 'I read books.' Well, it's true. He devoured those books. He knew everything. He's the smartest guy I've ever met, and he'd been planning to build a rocket all along. [1]

[1]http://www.esquire.com/features/americans-2012/elon-musk-int...

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I can assure you (as someone who has designed part of a rocket) that Elon Musk did nothing even close to designing a rocket. That paragraph describes a school project for a propulsion class, not a rocket design. Good on him for doing what he's doing, but he's not doing it alone.

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If the fellow from the article read a few books and then proceeded to hire a team of the best and brightest specialists to help refine and perfect his concept, I'm thinking the response would be different.

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...didn't he have a Bachelor's in Physics? Either way, he didn't build/design the rocket himself. There was an enormous team.

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Go watch the tour of Space X. He shows their current rockets and prototypes and proceeds to explain that it was another guy that built it in his garage. Elon funded it's production.

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Most of his ails were probably caused by moderate obesity, and his meal replacement shakes probably have him on a calorie-restricted diet.

At the very least, this guy is probably more aware of his calorie intake than he was when he was free-eating.

(free-eating is when you eat what you feel like whenever you want to, without worrying about what or how much you're eating)

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>The guy who invented the spreadsheet didn't have to absorb all available accounting literature first, and Elon Musk didn't spend 30 years in the Apollo program before being allowed to send his own rocket to space.

Both of your examples are poor.

Dan Bricklin had earned a B.S in computer science from MIT and was studying for an MBA at Harvard when he wrote a software program that was useful for businesses. He had a very good background for the product that he created.

Elon Musk was able to send his rocket into space after he hired a team of smart engineers to build it for him. His engineers benefited from the knowledge gained from NASA research that cost (when adjusted for inflation) hundreds of billions of dollars.

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Bricklin's background in business was minimal, but he created a product that revolutionized business processes more than thousands of acclaimed gurus.

Musk absorbed a few books on rocketry (see my related comment) and constructed an accurate theoretical model before hiring anyone.

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Some people are geniuses (or close enough). Other people? Not so much.

This guy pretty much falls into the not so much category.

He forgot to include iron!

Did Musk forget to include $ROCKETRY_COMPONENT?

I'm glad that there are people willing to do interesting new stuff. I'm glad that some of these people are happy to experiment on themselves. I'm even glad if some of these people turn out to be idiots.

I get a bit unhappy when someone who doesn't appear to know what they're talking about (and who has demonstrated their ignorance) goes on to say that they've got some answer that other people should be listening to. When these people say "It worked for me! You need to try this!" all sorts of bells start ringing.

Asking people not to push their uninformed experimental pseudo-science is not the same as asking very clever people to not be clever in other fields.

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Show me anyplace in any of his blog posts where he says anything like "You need to try this!".

He does invite people who would like to try it to contact him. That's far from a hard sell. He also says things like "At this point I think scepticism is completely reasonable."

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He could be one of the rare ones that doesn't enjoy food, so he doesn't understand why eating food is often a social experience.

Even if it does turn out to be the perfect drink, though I would think you could find something similar as a meal substitute shake, MRE, or for people who can't chew. There's probably already a market for something like this that is being targeted.

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So maybe he'll make a killing in the meal substitute market. Or maybe he'll become the poster boy for why you need boron in your diet and you'll die horribly without it. Either way, we'll all learn something new and useful.

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It's a big market and it's being targeted pretty successfully.

It's a medical market, which means he's going to fail getting through the tricky regulatory problems.

See, for example, Ensure or Ensure Plus.

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I think Elon Musk is a prime example of why this guy is probably wrong. Elon Musk needed quite some time and money to organise sending a rocket successfully into space. He hired a lot of people for their expertise, because he didn't know everything and didn't have the time to learn everything by himself, let alone build it.

If an Elon Musk were to attack this problem in the way such a problem needs to be attacked, then things would be interesting. Humans are more complex than rockets.

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He's not building a human though. He's building food. Modern rocketry has been around for about a century, and food has been with us since the beginning. I don't see why it would be that complex. Like pg said, the top comment for every new product posted on HN is always something dismissive that doesn't really add to the discussion, and this thread is no exception.

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Human females contain an environment in which an organism, after being bootstrapped, can assemble itself into a human using mostly food as input. I would argue that building the correct input for that environment and process is exactly as complex as building a human.

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Agreed. You said it all.

One fair point (in defense of the Scrawny Pale Guy Diet he is advocating) is that the food industry in general devotes a large majority of its funding to making foods that TASTE really really good. If that gets in the way of nutrition, taste wins every time.

But you are correct in the fact that this is crazy. Hell, I drank and smoked a lot when I was 24, and still looked healthier than this guy. Does that mean that I stumbled across an amazing new diet of beer, burgers, and weed when I was 24?

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> If that gets in the way of nutrition, taste wins every time.

It's actually worse than that. A major current research thread is on the low-level mechanisms of "food reward" and the interaction of the brain and obesity. For example, Stephan Guyenet at the University of Washinton researches this area[1]. Even if nutrition is fine, hyper-palatable foods[2] can have a negative impact on health for a variety of reasons. In good part, they basically make it impossible to avoid overconsumption, but there are other implications being studied. Check out Guyenet's blog and twitter feed for references on this developing area. (N.B.: The work that Guyenet does and references isn't always the most accessible or easily interpretable in some cases. He's emphatically not a top source if you're just looking to learn a high level approach towards improving your diet.)

[1] example blog post: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2013/02/food-reward-fr...

[2] The idea of "hyper-palatability" refers to engineered button-pressing of the human brain by modern processed foods and food ingredients. It doesn't mean "food that tastes good", of which there's a world's variety that this moniker doesn't apply to.

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Do you have a better source than someone's blog?

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Gueynet regularly cites his own and others' peer-reviewed, published research via his blog and twitter account. He also reviews research results, which is valuable to nonspecialists trying to gain context in a new field. My intent in posting his blog was as a convenient reference to the larger body of work that he authors and cites.

Let me expound on that: with a few exceptions, most scholarly papers on diet, metabolism, gut function and disorders, metabolic syndrome, etc. are difficult to digest in isolation. Interpreting and critically reviewing new results often requires a large amount of domain knowledge and context by way of other research results.

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> still looked healthier than this guy

What makes you think he's unhealthy? Because he has whiter complexion and he isn't bulky?

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I am wondering the same thing. For all I know, the guy might have bones of adamantium, or bones so weak that they barely support his weight; a resting heart rate of 35, or 95...The only thing I can tell from the color of his neck and arms is he is an indoor person. His build looks fine to me.

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> isn't bulky?

What? He looks a bit chunky to me. Does he list his height / weight anywhere?

(Yes, I'm aware that BMI is flawed. You have olympic athletes with almost no body fat but 'obese' BMIs. This guy? He's no athlete.)

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Chunky? You should travel to the Midwest and Southern USA. It might blow your mind.

BMI is very flawed as a measure of any imaginable health outcome. You'd be better served to ask about blood pressure, pulse, blood glucose, albumin, etc.

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This is the scary thing about obesity. Bariatric patients skew reality. People weighing over 500 pounds are obese; people over 250 pounds are now just overweight. The perfectly healthy "curvy" is now applied to people who are not just curvy, but very overweight, and sometimes in the obese range of overweight.

I am wrong to call him chunky. (Although I do wonder if he's a thin-fat person, with all the fat around internal organs. But this is just noodling, and has nothing to do with anything he's said.)

And I strongly agree about your BMI comment. I should have been a bit more careful - BMI is only useful as a guide that a person may be overweight. (If that person doesn't do any kind of exercise.)

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He's 6'3 190. He's lost a health amount of weight since starting the diet and has maintained the 190 level for a while.

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"Typically [smart people] live in their heads. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. It’s a way of getting their head to meetings."

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Though I dont share quite the same level of negativity towards the idea (Personally, I think it'd be amazing to be able to give up food for something that is nutritious and safe), I definitely share your concerns.

It is possible that the nutrient powder (and similar) industry hasn't given much thought to this idea because its radical and potentially risky, especially as a business venture where legal liability might be very, very high (all it takes is one person to die or be seriously injured as a result of this drink, and they are in big trouble). I'd say that IF any of these supplement producers did consider this type of drink, they probably dismissed it as too risky (both legally and financially, as I don't see the demand exploding for this).

Also, he's not claiming that he has solved any problem. He's only claiming that after some research, he whipped up this drink, and that it seems to be working fine for his body chemistry. In fact, he's pretty clear about this being experimental and potentially dangerous (Though apparently there have been no negative effects as of now). I think its a really interesting idea, but nonetheless, I'd feel much better if he was a scientist focusing on a similar field. This seems like the exact kind of thing where small, seemingly unimportant details may propagate into significant risk.

I seriously wish him well though. Personally, I wouldn't do much more than use this as a supplement (perhaps to replace lunch), but Im not the risky type when it comes to things like this.

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> It is possible that the nutrient powder (and similar) industry hasn't given much thought to this idea because its radical and potentially risky, especially as a business venture where legal liability might be very, very high.

The stuff bodybuilders consume is not as well controlled as anything called 'food'. In fact, bodybuilding forums are full of 'I bought brand X and it was mostly filler, better stick to brand Y'.

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Im not thinking about the FDA specifically here. I'm thinking about general wrongful injury (possibly death) lawsuits where someone becomes seriously ill from consuming nothing but their "magic soylentesque shake".

Marketing it as a food replacement would be very difficult because of subtle differences between people's bodies. I think they stick with supplements/protein powder because it reduces the possibility of wrongful death lawsuits (and similar) while still allowing leeway with federal regulations.

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That's simply not true. They have to list the nutrition info the same as any other food. Protein powders that are "mostly filler" are actually ~20% filler, not mostly. And the label makes that quite clear as it both lists the ingredients so you even know what they are using as filler, but also the nutrition info. If 30g of powder is only giving you 20g of protein, obviously there's 10g of something other than protein there.

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My point is that the FDA doesn't rule this with the iron fist they rule over real food.

In other words, by declaring 'Soylent' as 'not food' he sidesteps lots of regulations and tests.

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He isn't selling it, the FDA has nothing to do with it regardless of what he calls it. And just saying something is "not food" doesn't do anything to stop it from being regulated. The FDA does regulate dietary supplements and meal replacements, exactly the same way they regulate any other food.

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Sadly, this is not the case:

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/07/02/dietary-supplem...

> While on its surface this would appear to be a reasonable distinction, given that it doesn’t make sense from a policy or scientific standpoint to hold food to the standards as rigorous as the standards to which drugs are held, as implemented by the DSHEA this distinction has the pernicious effect of allowing manufacturers to label all sorts of botanicals, many of which possess pharmacological activity, as “supplements,” and supplements, being defined as food and not medicine, do not require prior approval by the FDA before marketing. In other words, supplement manufacturers basically work on the honors system when it comes to deciding what they will market as a supplement, and the FDA can’t do anything about a harmful supplement until after it has been on the market and caused harm.

> Some firms don’t even have recipes, known as master manufacturing records, for their products.

> Others make their supplements in unsanitary factories. New Jersey-based Quality Formulation Laboratories produced protein powder mixes and other supplements in a facility infested with rodents, rodent feces and urine, according to government records. FDA inspectors found a rodent apparently cut in half next to a scoop, according to a 2008 inspection report.

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Did you even read that link? That does not apply to things like protein powder, or meal replacement drinks like this discussion is about.

>Others make their supplements in unsanitary factories

That's equally true of all sorts of food.

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> That's equally true of all sorts of food.

No, it isn't, thanks to the FDA.

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Oh I see, the FDA has magic powers that make all food products perfectly safe, which is why we never have problems with food born illness right? But that magically doesn't apply to a certain class of food products you want to pretend are different even though the FDA says they are not different and applies the exact same standards to them.

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No, the FDA makes food safer than supplements are.

You have no idea how bad food was prior to the FDA.

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> It is possible that the nutrient powder (and similar) industry hasn't given much thought to this idea because its radical and potentially risky

It may also be the case that "drink one of these a day and lose weight" is more marketable than "drink one of these a day and never eat real food again" ;)

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A word of support...

About 18 months ago I gave the Four Hour Body diet a whirl, primarily to lose weight. I was very surprised to notice that my psoriasis improved. A lot. While I was eating well. Took a stressful contract gig, resumed eating poorly, psoriasis came back with a vengeance. So I tried harder to stick the diet and my skin's health improved.

Maybe 9 months ago I saw Dr Terry Wahls TEDx talk. I thought "Aha!" I'm a software guy, not a nutritionist. And I really just want to know what I'm supposed to do, the bullet points, not really needing the details.

Since then I've tried very hard to eat like Wahls suggests. My psoriasis is now about 2/3rd gone. From bleeding breaking skin plagues back to normal skin mixed with flakiness.

I see my dermatologist next week for my yearly. I'm quite eager to see if he notices the improvement. I've been dealing with this stuff for 10+ years and have gone to great lengths to treat it. I'm a bit chagrinned (grumpy) that all I had to do is eat more vegetables.

So I believe, but cannot prove, that I lacked the proper nutrition and now that I'm eating a very diverse diet my health has improved.

It's pretty uncontroversial. I'm impressed by the commenters who take great exception to your points. Like my scientist cousin is fond of asking skeptics (e.g. creationists, climate change, economics) "What level of proof do you require?"

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Do you have any actual evidence that ingesting all nutrients known to be essential in powder form will lead to a nutritional deficiency or was your fallacious appeal to authority your whole argument?

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But that won't make up for the glop's likely deficiencies.

Exactly. Yeah, he seems to have done a pretty good job of making sure his glop includes all the things we know we need.

It includes exactly zero of the things we don't know we need.

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Ignoring the processed/liquid aspect--maybe you could randomize the recipe a bit each time to account for our incomplete understanding.

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What makes you think there are things we don't know we need?

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I have upvoted your remarks, not because I agree, but because they are a classic example of head-in-the-sand thinking and should be paraded as such.

As a young developer I was often told "you can't do that" or "stop jumping to solutions" and as a now much, much older and very slightly wiser man I recognise that these were the knee-jerk fears of threatened reactionaries stuck in their ways, not the wise voices of experience that they thought they were.

As someone else implied, the appeal to authority is one of the least credible forms of supporting argument.

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Look, as a Medical student, I agree with what you are saying regarding the challenges that faces solving such a problem.

But, being stupid help solve BIG problems. This guy is risking his health for the sake of science. He has a very high risk/reward ratio. I don't think he is not serious. He is not even trying in animals (which I thought he was doing before reading the rest of the article). He's obviously stupid when it comes to experimentation, but this is when it yields interesting results.

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> being stupid help solve BIG problems.

Many new things were invented by people who had no idea how large the problems were when they started.

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First off, thanks for dampening the enthusiasm I was feeling after reading the OP. I would love to hear your thoughts on what, specifically, his formula is/may be missing. I can think of nothing more amazing than to consume a magic glass of nutrition a day and be done, and your post has given me pause.

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The biggest problem isn't what he's clearly missing; its what he's missing that we don't know about, and won't suffer any consequences for years. Saidajigumi's comment about whole foods is appropriate: whole foods have better results than any manufactured powder or drink made, but its not clear why. And how long will it take before he experiences the results?

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You base that on what study?

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The point is that there aren't any studies yet because we don't know what to study. You can't say "show me the science" when the point is there is no science yet, or not enough. That's just a cop-out.

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Does he get enough fiber? I had always understood that the lower digestive system requires adequate fiber to function correctly.

And less relevant, I had to chuckle at the "if I had any money or a girlfriend" part. He's not doing anything to break any stereotypes, there.

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It's definitely more nutritious than packaged ramen, at the least.

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He has adjusted the fiber portion to meet his alimentary needs. That might not have been the most pleasant part of this experiment, but it wouldn't be difficult.

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Dude. He's just some guy that built up some (not very useful but fun) shit, and is very cautious (explicitly!) about what it will do. He will even do an experiment, even if it's a very limited one. Give him a break, FFS. It's not like he's claiming his newly-developed pee cures cancer, or something.

Incidentally, all you have shown in this thread is some bullshit about "processed foods" and "mitochondria", plus some TEDx talk "based on personal narrative" that shows all signs of being made by a fucking crank, about how your mitochondrial bullshit will, in fact, cure cancer. Well, not really. Just multiple sclerosis. (... are you fucking kidding me...? To think I had upvoted you at first... )

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Yeah, I've also seen this pattern often enough to wonder what the underlying reasons for it are. My inchoate thoughts:

When you study, say, biology, you'll probably learn about all the wrong turns that very smart people made along the road to where we currently stand: self-moving principles in Aristotle; vitalism; spontaneous generation; enzymes as living organism; and many many more. That background gives you a sense of how hard it is to be right, and the importance of modesty and self-doubt.

Whereas with computer science, what you learn about is the (relatively short, historically speaking) string of amazing successes in the field. And the more practical side of it (e.g., what software we produce for consumers) is even more unique in having this underlying exponential growth (Moore's law) foisting it up, and drastically changing at every moment what is possible, so that in fact there are very many opportunities that no one thought about simply because they weren't opportunities three years earlier.

And then programmers start thinking that, not only is improvement easy in all fields, but also the fact that other fields don't have as much to show for themselves by way of these improvements (whereas they do) just indicates how much better and smarter and innovative they are, and how in light of this it really isn't surprising at all that they may, even as outsiders, have a lot to contribute to any given field.

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> it seems to be form of the software "everything is just an [easy] problem" mindset

> when software/CS types wander off to do experimental science...

When a random nutter makes some woo, we just call them random nutters and ignore them.

...But when that random nutter happens to be a software engineer during the day, suddenly it is game on for slagging engineers? Clearly it must be indicative of some sort of common hubris in the industry?

There is some selection bias going on here.

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Eh? It's early days, and he's approaching it more like an engineer than a scientist; but it looks like he has the right end of the stick (for some sort of stick). He's synthesizing his food de novo, so it's very easy to control the inputs and eliminate confounding factors. He's also doing occasional measurements (albeit not regularly enough for Proper Science, perhaps), and he is offering his replacement for free to other people on the condition that they do the same measurements. His hypotheses are not ideal, because he's not a domain expert yet, but that just means he's going to be a bit slower until he reads more papers and starts avoiding other people's mistakes ;-)

One key thing I learned in university: Once you start reading papers, you're quickly going to turn into the world's leading expert on the tiny corner of science that you're reading on. (Of course, this has nothing to do with being a genius, and everything to do with no one else ever having cared about that corner before. :-P )

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I am a software engineer and do tend to look at things as just simple, solvable problems... Then I met my girlfriend who is completing her masters in Public Health. She has taught me of the great importance of what you mentioned (experiment design, data collection, and analysis). You can't account for all factors, but if you haven't even considered what the most important ones are, you're doing it wrong.

That being said, I hate that stories like this get more attention because everyone here is irate over how obviously wrong it is while someone's great Show HN project gets passed over.

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It would generally be interesting to know why this kind of hybris is so common in our field.

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“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple”.

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Could you please define "highly processed foods"?

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I don't understand this. Let's say you took all the components of a healthy diet, then blended them together into a drink like this and consumed it. How would that be any different from eating the components separately? Your intestines don't know or care that a blender got to the food first.

Maybe this particular example is missing something, I don't know. But you seem opposed to the very concept, which makes no sense to me. Why does it matter whether you take your food in as a bland mix or as individual pre-blended components?

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First, we don't know what the components of a healthy diet are. We thought we did decades ago, but were blissfully unaware of micronutrients (and, as I understand it, infant formula from around this time made a bunch of babies have developmental disorders as a result). Second, we're quickly realizing that nutrition is significantly more than the sum of its parts. Nutrients taken together as opposed to separately can have significantly different effects. Calories in also doesn't necessarily equal calories absorbed.

It's a crappy analogy, but imagine this guy was trying to construct a human body out of parts. He's wired up a brain, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, a lymphatic system, and all the rest to a skeletal system. What do you think his chances of success would be?

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Is there any reason to think that "separately" is the preferred way? As for not knowing the components of a healthy diet, that objection applies equally to taking in food the normal way, so I really don't see the relevance. If we don't know enough to build a proper slurry that contains everything, then we don't know enough to build a proper normal diet that contains everything.

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One other aspect I ignored in my earlier post is that the digestive tract actually needs solid mass in order to perform peristalsis. Hospitals have to avoid giving patients a liquid diet for too long, or else the digestive tract basically just stops — and it's a pain in the ass to restart.

Additionally, we have only the faintest idea how this might affect gut bacteria, which is an enormous component of both our digestive system as well as immune system. Without giving them our "table scraps", what happens to them?

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This is just a small example, but I know that Vitamin C inhibits calcium absorption. That's pretty well known among athletes.

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Google "bioavailability"

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You sound like an industry-insider explaining why a new startup will fail. "They're too young!" "They don't have the experience" "We've devoted our LIVES to figuring this out, one kid in his basement didn't do it in a few weeks!" Etc etc

No offense but we've heard the exact same thing about every successful idea.

And what's more:

People look at the human GI totally wrong anyway. They think, what can I put in to get the best results? When in reality, the human GI evolved to support an extremely broad range of inputs as it's most significant factor.

With humans all over the earth eating an extremely disparate diet pre-civilization (and even post), the most significant factor of the human GI was it's ability to handle the wide variety of chemically diverse inputs and provide a consistent, reliable output.

So why do you approach this, which is nothing more than a new input, and claim that the output is going to be different? Dangerous? Impossible?

Seems to me like you're indignant with a touch of ego: "How dare he pretend to do my job. It's an insult to me that he is doing this!" That's the feeling I get from you reading this post.

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> You sound like an industry-insider explaining why a new startup will fail.

I certainly don't want to rain on some new visionary's parade, but I spend a lot of time tracking folks who I consider to be the real visionaries in this field. As in we are currently in the midst of the greatest revolution in human health of our lives, and this guy is running in the wrong direction. We're seeing astonishing results with dietary remediation of a vast array of conditions that were previously considered unrelated. And this isn't just "remedial eating", it's discovering that our current ways of eating are killing us but that diet can likewise help heal us. It's a Khunian revolution out of "the pill and the scalpel" mindset and into a deeper understanding of root causes of wide classes of disease and general unhealthiness in 21st century society. I must certainly be writing in an aggressive posture, for which I'll apologize. I'll have to account my overenthusiasm to the long-term health and well-being of literally everyone I've ever met being at stake.

Current research is showing that we are only just beginning to gain understanding of the complexity and health of the GI. An analogy is that our GI and GI microbiota are essentially a recently discovered vital organ. One which the industrialized western diet (now well exported globally) has been systematically destroying. Diet has direct and immense impact on GI health, which in turn impacts such matters as: chronic systemic inflammation, autoimmunity, hyperinsulinism, neurotransmitter production (a vast amount of which happens .. in the gut!), hunger signalling, and more.

I don't have time to put the references in here that this deserves, but I'll leave you all with this to whet appetites, as it were.

Dr. Terry Wahls, "Minding Your Mitochondria":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc

Watch that, so my bluntness to follow makes sense. I see this guy's protocol as nothing but poisonous in the long run. He's off and created yet another processed food product that must be assumed to fail to meet the needs of the human body. Current research hammers home the idea that we don't yet have a complete and constructive model of nutrition, so why in the heck should I believe a nonspecialist that claims otherwise? Extraordinary claims, extraordinary proof, or GTFO.

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> Dr. Terry Wahls, "Minding Your Mitochondria":

She needs some reputation management, because at the moment there's a bunch of flags that make her sound less than reputable.

1) "Mitochondra" - unless this is a peer reviewed respected journal most people using htis word are cranks.

2) TEDx - Sadly, now tainted as home of cranks.

3) Cured MS through diet - ridiculous claim

etc etc.

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I would appreciate it you'd elaborate on your first point about mitochondria here. I'm intrigued to find out why this term is highly suspicious. Are there other organelles that are less crank-like to you?

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Maybe he was thinking of midi-chlorians? Those are totally legit when they show up in a peer-reviewed journal.

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The word mitochondria is just a personal flag, a smell, that I use as part of a warning.

Mitochondria raise flags because of people like the UK Dr Ruth Myhill. She claims to be a researcher on chronic fatigue syndrome. CFS is real, but sadly is an area rife with cranks. Myhill appears to have a lot of crank-like beliefs. Her "research" is hopeless, and amounts to unlicensed unethical experimentation on desperate people.

I guess, although I have no supporting evidence, that the word mitochondria is used more often by cranks than other organelles.

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Mitochondria are pretty important (as is most of the junk in our cells for that matter). I'd be less wary of the use of mitochondria in popular science - it's shorthand for talking about the energy metabolism pathway, and doesn't indicate one way or another whether we're looking in the right spot for the causes for particular diseases / syndromes.

On a tangential note, I haven't read it, but http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21792218 might be an interesting review on CFS. Also, I assume you are referring to Sarah Myhill rather than her daughter.

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Cellular organs are a pretty untouchable class of things for anything humans are going to do on a macro-scale. If you're proposing to achieve a big effect from say, a diet, then focusing on more then 1 bodily component is suspicious because there's a huge range of barriers you need to get through to get to it (without damaging, generally).

There are lots of drugs, for example, which are useless because although they target the right protein and have the desired effect they can't actually get to it via normal metabolism and the like.

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Why is 3 a ridiculous claim? I agree that there should be evidence presented that the demyelination of MS has been reversed, but why do the words "Cured MS through diet" alone constitute a "ridiculous claim"?

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There is no cure for MS, so if the video does make that claim, it's pretty ridiculous.

It's the equivalent of saying you could cure cancer with diet.

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You can cure cancer with diet, along with generally healthy living. "Cure" perhaps isn't the best word though, because bad diet (combined with other things like stress, lack of exercise, etc.) is frequently the cause of cancer in the first place.

EDIT: I didn't mean to say that changing to a healthy diet/lifestyle after being diagnosed will magically cure you (if that's why I'm being downvoted) but I believe it certainly can in some cases. If it's for lack of references, well, when it comes to cancer, you can find a study to support just about any view you want.

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No, you can't. This is quack science.

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Dangerous quack science. Convincing people of it has the very real potential to kill people.

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Well, I could link you to a bunch of studies that say otherwise, but then you would tell me all the reasons that those studies are bogus, and then show me a bunch of studies that show there is no connection (probably sponsored by those peddling chemotherapy et al.), so I guess we'll just avoid the rathole and stay convinced of our own opinions :)

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"peddling chemotherapy"

This is the most stupid and obnoxious thing I've ever seen on HN. Chemotherapy saves lives every day. You can believe that good diets are healthy and helpful for sick people without insulting people that sell nasty but powerful medicine that is proven to work.

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Agreed. Posting those two comments was a mistake.

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Don't worry, I've got your back; I'll do it for you, dougk16.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=turmeric+cancer

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=piperlongumine+canc...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=bromelain+cancer

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=frankincense+cancer

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Link me to some peer-reviewed studies that show that cancer can be cured with only dietary changes.

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Link the (peer-reviewed) articles, rather than guessing peoples responses to the hypothetical articles.

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Steve Jobs observed very strict diets which he believed would keep him super healthy. Result: dead at 56 despite essentially unlimited resources.

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It didn't work out that well for Ashton Kutcher either:

https://www.google.com/search?q=ashton+kutcher+fruitarian+di...

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His cancer was caused by his diet? Or are you saying that choosing diet over medicine killed him earlier than could otherwise have been the case.

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His diet probably wasn't the cause for his illness, but as far as I understand, he refused ordinary medical procedures (surgery) that had a good track record against his particular type of cancer, in favour of observing a special diet. The diet didn't help and the cancer progressed to the point where surgery was no longer an efficient treatment.

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From the article stratoscope (one comment tree down) links to: "My pancreas levels were completely out of whack, which was really terrifying … considering everything.” (Jobs died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer in October 2011) Food for thought..

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Because MS, like most autoimmune diseases, is known to go into spontaneous remission even in people without a special diet.

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You're right. The phrase "Cured MS through diet" alone could be a true statement. But to be a true statement it needs to be tested by science. And this doctor isn't doing any real science.

In general when someone says "I cured this chronic, uncurable, disease through diet" I need to read what they say very carefully. At best it's an overblown claim and they actually mean "this food has a strong evidence base to help you manage your illness and reduce relapse". At worst it's evil people cynically cashing in by selling nonsense to desperate dying people.

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Jeez, man, chill out. History is littered with amateurs making breakthroughs. You're take down is uncompelling. Processing for health is a bit different from processing for cost.

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> Processing for health is a bit different from processing for cost.

In the sense that history is littered with people attempting to apply cross-domain knowledge to processing for health and failing utterly, that's absolutely true.

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Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, you'll be right about this. Then that one time out of 100, someone will advance the field in a way that the doubters never could.

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A citation would be nice.

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Hmm, you do have a point. What this world needs most is billions of people eating a pound each of fresh leafy green vegetables every day.

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That is not such a bad idea.

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> I certainly don't want to rain on some new visionary's parade,

so stop.

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>"Extraordinary claims, extraordinary proof, or GTFO."

>"I see this guy's protocol as nothing but poisonous in the long run."

You place a burden of evidence on him that you yourself in this very post violated on a number of occasions. You CANNOT call his diet poisonous simply because you disagree with it.

You admitted it yourself:

>"Current research is showing that we are only just beginning to gain understanding of the complexity and health of the GI."

So no offense, but you have literally no ground to say that this is poisonous in the short OR long term, no evidence to back that up, and you cannot rely on a field that cannot support your view.

You have a view on this, congratulations, but it is nothing more than a well-informed opinion. It is not fact, it is not supported by fact and as you've admitted -- it CANNOT at this point be supported by fact that does not yet exist.

Even your link to a TEDX (aka, unvetted content) states upfront: "This talk is a personal narrative and is not yet backed by larger experimentation."

I'm sorry, but you've been consistently and narrow-mindedly against what the OP has put forth. You dismiss his views for their lack of credibility but turn around and post sources that themselves have no credibility (admit to being anecdotal).

You seem to have picked what is correct and are now looking for evidence to support your preconceived notion. You also seem to be falling for the naturalism fallacy by pretending that since his food is "pill and scalpel" it is therefore wrong/bad.

Just my conclusions: obviously he hasn't posted data or even analyzed it, but you present many issues in your posts that I disagree with more strongly than what he puts forth (and I'm not a layman).

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> You place a burden of evidence on him that you yourself in this very post violated on a number of occasions. You CANNOT call his diet poisonous simply because you disagree with it.

Nutrition science is in its infancy. It's clear that the complexity of the interaction of food as it is digested and interacting with our organism has barely had the surface scratched. Also, if you look at the rise of processed foods along with obesity, diabetes, and other health problems that have increased over the past century it's clear that there are some serious problems, and they haven't been explained conclusively by this or that macro-nutrient trend.

So given the state of the evidence, a vague evolutionary assertion that whole foods are generally healthier than a distilled diet of completely isolated nutrients is not granola flag-waving woowoo nonsense, it's a perfectly reasonable belief based on imperfect evidence.

Put another way, the idea the ability to construct a perfect diet given the knowledge we have is likely to fail due to the overwhelming number of unknown details that simply aren't an issue when you're eating whole foods.

If this guy wants to experiment on himself than I'm happy to reap the benefits, but I do believe it's risky. Let's not whitewash common sense just because of "a lack of data". The fact that we have imperfect data does not make all approaches equal, and the fact that this guy is an engineer and wants to follow a scientific approach does automatically make his ideas superior to someone who holds certain nutritional beliefs for slightly more hand-wavy reasons.

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>Also, if you look at the rise of processed foods along with obesity, diabetes, and other health problems that have increased over the past century it's clear that there are some serious problems, and they haven't been explained conclusively by this or that macro-nutrient trend.

>So given the state of the evidence, a vague evolutionary assertion that whole foods are generally healthier than a distilled diet of completely isolated nutrients is not granola flag-waving woowoo nonsense, it's a perfectly reasonable belief based on imperfect evidence.

Isn't it possible that this is more indicative of the rise in an imbalanced diet? Processed foods may have lead the majority of people into having an imbalanced diet, but if they were instead eating a perfectly balanced diet of processed materials like this man is doing, isn't it possible there wouldn't be the whole diabetes, obesity, etc. health crisis?

To put it bluntly, is there actually evidence that a balanced processed diet is any worse than a balanced whole foods diet?

If not, I think professionals should attempt to recreate this type of experiment to find out, obviously safely on animals first. The whole principal of science is that you don't hold onto preconceived opinions when testing theories. Holding onto a "processed foods are bad, because look what's been happening" POV is very unscientific and harmful.

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This guy lost 27lbs on a balanced diet of nothing but junk food snack cakes, cookies, and Doritos.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/...

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Ahem:

> Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.

And of course, "he lost weight" doesn't unequivocally mean "he got healthier".

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I don't think you can't really establish a correlation between animal and human diet, and how a specific "balanced" diet might affect them. The difference in diet and life span are two important factors that might affect any study.

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It sounds like the drink is made from natural sources, so it probably contains compounds that he isn't aware of. The risk (and the value of the experimental results) would probably be higher if he had found a way to isolate the compounds in the drink so he could enumerate the exact chemical composition.

If there is a risk, it is that his diet is potentially more homogenous than a typical diet, and doesn't include anything from some class of foods that nearly everyone on a more heterogeneous diet eats occasionally.

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But he said he does eat out occasionally.

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> If this guy wants to experiment on himself than I'm happy to reap the benefits, but I do believe it's risky.

What I'm wondering is is this any more risky than, let's say - eating at McDonalds instead of drinking this stuff?

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The burden of evidence should be on the person claiming to have a miracle drink. The burdon of evidence should be even greater when it's a non-natural source, as Nassim Taleb argues in Antifragile, "The "non-natural" has to prove its harmlessness." If you don't take this viewpoint, you end up with cigarettes, transfat and radium jewelry.

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He seems to be very conscious that this is in effect an experiment, that might be risky as well. E.g. from his site ( http://robrhinehart.com/):

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

But he is interested in actually gathering more data, even if not exactly formally enough for a proper study:

"So…I'll just ship you some of my batch. If you are willing to consume exclusively soylent, and get a CBC, chem panel, and lipid blood test before and after the week and share your results with me it's on the house. Bonus points for getting a psych evaluation before and after. The brain is an organ. I can ship it worldwide but it would be nice if you were in San Francisco so we can meet in person."

Further down on his blog, he has also posted PDF's of his bloodwork.

While he certainly does not have sufficient evidence of general safety and effect, he is aware of that and seems to be actively interested in learning about any flaws in what he's done so far.

> The burdon of evidence should be even greater when it's a non-natural source, as Nassim Taleb argues in Antifragile

This, to me, is ridiculous. A vast range of dangerous poisons are readily avaiable in nature.

I used to pick a lot of mushrooms, and can safely identify perhaps a dozen types common where I grew up. But every year there are people who die agonizing deaths from consuming various nasty toxins because they didn't pay close enough attention to what they picked. And the safety of most mushrooms is unknown - we simply don't have data, and the effects can take a long time to show.

In some cases, popular mushrooms are known to be toxic, such as false morels that contains gyromitrin. They are seemingly safe after boiling. Except there is still gyromitrin in the mushroom, just in small enough quantities that you're ok as long as you don't ingest too much. It's typical to recommend no more than one meal per season, as the poison is stored. But many mushrooms contains compounds we don't know the effect of, and where it is perfectly possible that no effect would be noticeable for a very long time - properly cooked false morels for example, might have no effect on you for years, until you get a bit careless with the cooking (a common way for people to get poisoned by false morels is to stand over the pot while boiling it...)

Nature has an abundant supply of horribly nasty toxic substances that might pass for food for a while.

This is before getting into what "natural" even means.

Everything has to prove its harmlessness. It's just that some things we have a lot of existing data for that at least demonstrates a certain level of safety.

But in the absence of data, I'm no more going to be willing to chew on some random "natural" substance than I'd be willing to ingest some random synthetic substance.

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I really must defer to Taleb on this, I'll simply say he means natural in a more specific way than "all substances that exist in nature," and something more like, "the culture and patterns mankind has successfully practiced in relationship to nature for thousands of years with proven success."

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That doesn't sound specific at all to me, but rather extremely vague and open to whatever interpretations might suit... What "culture and patterns" have we "successfully practised" "in relationship to nature for thousands of years"?

Diets vary crazily much, even within small geographical areas. Things like lactose intolerance is something we only "recently" started seeing on the wane, and it is wildly dependent on your heritage. I'm Scandiavian, and growing up I didn't even know there were people who had problems with dairy, as it was a total non-issue. I used to drink about a litre a day of milk on average growing up.... It was first as an adult I realised there are large parts of the world where people pretty much don't drink milk.

At the same time, I also consumed vast quantities of Scandinavian salted licquorice candy. Except most of if is ammonium chloride based. I doubt that would fit very well into the idea of something "natural", but it is an integral part of Scandinavian culture.

As is fish dissolved in caustic soda an integral part of Norwegian culture, and something we have "successfully practiced" for a very long time.

And processing such as hanging/drying, burying (until half rotted in some cases) and salting various types of food have been an essential part of human culture for a very long time.

And, yes, picking mushrooms and facing the risk of poison have been integral to our culture for a very long time as well, even though many of the most poisonous mushrooms keep claiming deaths up to this day.

Many of the traditional "natural" foods I grew up with are significantly less healthy than a modern heavily processed microwave meal, or the protein powder I use to supplement for my weight lifting.

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This might be a different tack, but what if you take Mr. Taleb's "nature" to be human nature [1]? People don't tend to eat poison mushrooms as a rule.

In that case, his rule would be a good one. If you drift in to a new area of human endevour, the people who follow you out there are taking a risk until the area is well-traveled

[1] In the Aristotelian sense: human nature is the proportionate sum of all human activity. We mostly eat, drink, sleep, walk, talk, etc. so that makes up the bulk of our nature. Cannibalism and incest are acted out much, much less often, so that is a much, much smaller part of our nature, though it is tucked in there.

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You define nature as activities that people perform most? By that reasoning the culture with the largest population is representative of typical human nature. That just seems wrong.

There are almost 2 billion Chinese. They love to eat chicken paws and cow intestines. So that is human's natural diet?

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Chicken feet and cow intestines taste great. I'm not Chinese. My favorite dish when visiting Beijing a few years back was spicy duck intestines. Looked like noodles.

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Yep, I'm saying if you generalize about all of us, that's how you'd do it.

Your point is dead on: if you make a generalization that broad, you lose a lot of information.

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Not sure what makes chicken breast better than paws and cow rump better than intestines. All are animal parts.

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But he doesn't have a 'miracle drink'. He has a generic food mash and his only claim is 'contains basic nutrients and calories'.

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He says it contains all the nutrients the body needs. That is a big claim.

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Given that he is asking for feedback from others who decide to try it, and on his blog warns that he is not sure how it might work for others, and is offering to provide samples to people who agree to have blood work done before and after trying it for a week, he seems acutely aware that while he thinks it contains all he needs, he does not yet have sufficient evidence to be sure.

He's not written a scientific paper - don't assume that every single word he has written is meant to be interpreted in the strictest way possible.

By all means be sceptical, but while he might very well be wrong, at least he appears to be earnestly looking to identify and correct any flaws which already puts him far above a lot of charlatans selling risky diets.

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No, he says it has all of the ones we know about. He emphasizes the fact that there stands to be a lot of learning to do and bugs to work out.

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It's a curious statement about our society where the idea that the fuel for the human body could be simple. "Basic nutrients and calories"

It's all produced by self replicating lifeforms we've only begun to comprehend, right?

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Right, but those sophisticated replicators are so sophisticated that they tend to be rather tolerant of their input.

There's no reason to think we can't science out what that input needs to be, or at least to be able to find one or more valid subsets of input.

This is a rather large improvement over what most people do; one typically applies little to no science whatsoever. :-P

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The liver is pretty tolerate of alcohol, but a lifetime of alcohol use can cause liver issues.

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Right; the downside of a tolerant system is that it does not fail hard. This does not, however, preclude finding the system limits by use of the scientific method. It just makes it a tad trickier at times.

I'm getting the idea that people profess a "belief in science" in the general case, but then absolutely deny its applicability in the specific case here. ;-)

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What is not natural with cigarettes?

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Please read this to understand: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5370816

If nobody has a right nutrition model today(1), including exeprts doing this whole life, somebody who just read a few books has no chance to cover everything that has to be covered long term. Or in other words, don't you think that military with practically infinite funds wouldn't already use his drink or equivalent for all extreme circumstances, if something like that were enough?

(1) Because biology is darn complicated, like in "we still don't even know all the bacteria that live in our bodies." Not to mention organic chemistry 3-d effects like in http://folding.stanford.edu/

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If human GI systems are so fragile that this shake could conceivably be considered "poisonous," how come people aren't dropping dead all over the world from such "poisons"?

The shake may well not be an optimal awesome diet -- I'd bet it won't be -- but billions of humans survive on non-optimal, awesome diets. The idea that the incredibly varied, constantly evolving, often appalling diets of the whole world all fulfill whatever criteria are necessary for human survival, but that this shake doesn't is magical thinking.

Especially when you consider that -- thread title notwithstanding -- the guy eats a few regular meals a week. What are these magical micronutrients that we don't know about, that are present in sufficient quantities to sustain humans in all traditional diets, but which are needed in such quantities that shake guy isn't going to get them?

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I have to agree.. there are people that go for years on Mountain Dew and Top Ramen... I don't think the shake is any worse.. and probably could be as cost effective, and far better.

I, personally love food way too much for this to work for me... I've been working on my diet, and getting to a point where some of my Metabolic Syndrom issues are now getting better (can feel my feet again)... most of that has been from a pretty high fiber, low carb intake. Almost no processed sugars or rich starches (bread/pasta/rice/potatoes). I do have a savory crepe a couple times a week (essentially a low-carb sandwich wrap. I also eat lots of greens, and have been eating 2-3 pieces of fruit a day. It's hard enough not binging out on pasta, let alone only eating a couple times a week.

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> but billions of humans survive on non-optimal, awesome diets

Billions of people get sick because they don't have a diet varied enogh. Specific, well studied examples abound.

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Sure. Specific, well-studied examples abound. You can get scurvy, or gout, or type II diabetes, or other problems from your diet. But "billions" of people don't get scurvy or gout.

If you want to use some kind of idiosyncratic definition of "sick" that pronounces somewhere between a substantial minority and a majority of the world as "sick" at any given time, I guess I can't stop you. But as a practical matter, we're comparing shake-guy's food to the other foods that people actually eat, not to whatever your idea of the best diet in the world is.

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Historically speaking, I don't think that man ate too much of a variety over the course of a given day, maybe weeks... And the guy mentions he does eat a couple times a week. I couldn't do it... but without high yield GM crops, we couldn't even feed 1/2 of the world's population, anything that stretches that isn't a bad thing...

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I don't see why this has to be perfect. I know a lot of people who live off of potato chips, cookies, and soda. Surely this diet would be better than that.

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This is one of the weakest defenses I've seen yet. It's complicated so we shouldn't try is basically the excuse.

In my opinion: the use of supplemented food like this will only improve our understanding and increase the speed at which those models are made.

By approaching the problem from BOTH sides we can create the most full expression of what is needed and why.

Still I dislike this excuse because: you run the risk of missing micronutrients every single day on a traditional diet, too.

Your body doesn't care if you forgot a micronutrient due to carelessness or if it simply wasn't in the profile of the whole foods you ate. Missing is missing. Eating popcorn, soda and fast food for a week straight means you miss a lot of important nutrients. And yet you survive.

Let the pioneers have fun and play and learn, that's what I say!

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> "It's complicated so we shouldn't try is basically the excuse."

I think the actual criticism is more along the lines of "It's so complicated that it's incredibly unlikely this guy has been truly successful."

> "Let the pioneers have fun and play and learn, that's what I say!"

Which is all well and good when they're merely experimenting on themselves. But this guy has gone from tinkering to claiming success and safety and begun distribution.

That's beyond tinkering and well into tampering.

He should absolutely feel free to tinker and explore and even publish his recipes and personal data for anyone similarly-motivated to build upon. But there's a line between doing that and doing what he's begun, the way he's begun it.

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Or even "It's so complicated that it's certain this guy fails." We know for sure that he can't include all the stuff that we know that exists but for which we absolutely don't know how we can avoid eating the real things.

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Well, that's what science is for. If something is complicated and we don't understand it, we need to develop hypotheses and experiment. Over time our understanding grows.

What we don't do is go all "hurr durr it's too complicated, let's not even try".

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I'm not a person whose opinion on the subject matter should matter to anyone, so I'm not commenting because of a vested interest in this argument. I'm commenting because I think you're misapplying the principles of the scientific method, which makes your criticism unfair.

> You place a burden of evidence on him...

It isn't saidajigumi placing the burden of proof on him, it's the scientific method. Everything we know about nutrition tells us that we don't understand it enough to pull something like this off. It would be a breakthrough if it turned out we can, but the null hypothesis is that it won't work, so that's what our position should be.

If our default position is that this doesn't work, and the guy is really relying on his mix for most of his sustenance, that means we think he's going to experience adverse health effects because of his diet. Perhaps we have no evidence to suggest they'll be adverse enough to qualify his diet as "poisonous", but the assumption isn't completely baseless, as you've asserted.

Again, I have no idea who's right and who's wrong, but the two claims are certainly not equally likely.

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The problem was in how the argument was stated. The post essentially claimed that his diet is dangerous until proven otherwise and therefore everyone should follow a "natural" diet of whole foods instead. It's a false dichotomy, even if his diet proves to be lacking or unhealthy in some way that does not make a "natural" diet automatically healthy.

Furthermore he makes the mistake of assuming correlation is causation. I.E. he claims the recent rise of processed foods and the increased incidence of poor health are a cause and effect relationship when in fact no evidence to such a connection exists other than the very weak correlation between them. He then goes on to extrapolate from this false causation that what he perceives as the opposite of processed foods, I.E. whole foods, are therefore inherently healthy.

The fact is whole foods are not special in any regard, being unprocessed does not magically confer health benefits on them. There are plenty of unprocessed substances, including various plants that are unhealthy or in many cases poisonous.

What the man in the article is attempting is a vital first step in better understanding human nutritional requirements. By breaking down nutritional inputs to carefully controlled individual compounds and then monitoring the results we can gain a much better understanding of what the real nutritional requirements of the human body are.

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As services like services like WellnessFX become more sophisticated (NOT affiliated) it will ultimately lead to people being better able to both self-experiment and provide evidence after an initial baseline to demonstrate what they're arguing. Exciting times ahead, I think.

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Except this isn't new software. There is an actual answer to what this purports to be, i.e. a complete nutritional food. It is a very hard question to answer, and even if you had the absolute top minds of the industry making a food source in this manner you'd be provably messing up badly as recently as ten years ago. You'd probably be messing up today but we don't even know how at the moment.

I mean look at the warnings on what is basically the next step, TPN http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional_disorde... . He is basically drinking almost exactly this. Look at all those scary scary warnings. Some of them are IV dependent, but things like "Metabolic bone disease, or bone demineralization (osteoporosis or osteomalacia), develops in some patients given TPN for > 3 mo. The mechanism is unknown. Advanced disease can cause severe periarticular, lower-extremity, and back pain. Temporarily or permanently stopping TPN is the only known treatment." and such are probably some odd nutrient problems.

Any nutritionist will tell you that there just isn't a great long term complete meal replacement. If this guy has one that is great, but he has done nothing to prove it yet. I mean he isn't even completely replacing meals, and has only been doing it for 6 weeks. Which is shorter than some people have done entirely cabbage based diets. Heck he could have subsisted on beer for this long. ( http://blogs.menshealth.com/health-headlines/the-beer-diet/2... )

It is sort of like some blog post claiming to have solved scaling and not actually had any real workload. I mean sure it doesn't look completely broken at a glance, but it hasn't been shown to even work yet. Come back in a year or two when you've dealt with some load (or merely a couple years of drinking the same thing in this case).

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Yeah, it seems to me that the first problem with not giving your GI tract food is that it could make your GI tract atrophy. (His blog suggests he barely poops on this diet.)

As much as I share the fantasy of perfectly balanced, easy to prepare "bachelor chow", I hope he doesn't damage himself.

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I hope he doesn't damage himself

Bad as it sounds, I hope he does. That would be the equivalent of "failing fast", I guess.

Here's the worse outcome: he goes happily for some time, inspires some people to follow his lead, the group grows ... 5 or 10 years down the line - bam, they all end up with some irreparable damage to their health ...

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What mechanism can you imagine that would produce such a nightmare scenario? Is there a fat-soluble (or otherwise stored) nutrient of which most human bodies contain a five to ten year supply?

No I didn't think so. If Soylent Dude and his merry band of poor cooks can prove our current nutritional understanding wrong by dying five to ten years from now, then they should.

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As mentioned, there are too many "unknown unknowns" to say for sure. So I'll refer to an anecdote:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animals-and-us/201106/wh...

In her early 30's, Staci's health started going downhill. After twelve years of strict vegetarianism, she began to suffer from anemia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and she experienced stomach pains for two hours after every meal. "I was completely debilitated," she tells me. "Then I changed the way I ate."

The point here is not to bash vegetarianism, but to point out that it took her 12 years to develop health issues. And that's with vegetarianism, that is often considered a very healthy way to eat. So I would expect more potential hazards from something new, untried and untested.

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From that study, about 20% of vegetarians who go back to eating flesh do so for perceived health reasons.

After 12 years of no health issues, and with a low general reason to believe that vegetarianism causes health issues, I'd be slow to attribute the reversal to the thing the person thinks worked.

(I would also expect more potential hazards from something new, untried, and untested, but I've signed up because I like the idea and am willing to risk it. Fortune favors the bold.)

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Just to clarify - that was an example. Whatever will be wrong with Soylent, will probably be something no one considered.

What do we know about completely eliminating fiber from the diet for an extended period of time? Or what do we know about chewing food being beneficial for dental health? It was mentioned he hardly poops on Soylent - were there prolonged studies on this subject?

Willingness to risk is something I respect, anyway.

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The diet of the Inuit was widely believed to be impossible for some time (and probably still is) because no one thought it was possible they could subsist solely on fish meat.

When put to the test by a pair of scientists who replicated the diet though, they found few ill-effects - except at one point where they were hitting a nutritional deficiency, but corrected it by putting semi-rotten fish product (which is a dish in Inuit cooking) into their diet - because it turns out that provided certain key nutrients.

The human body can handle some surprising and varied diets, a lot simply evolved by trial and error over a long period. With modern technology, we should be able to "fail fast" over a much shorter time.

Probably more importantly: anyone putting that much thought into what they eat, what the effects of it are etc. is already doing 10x the thinking of most people about their nutrition.

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I would like to know more ...

I know a bit about Inuit and their diet - I've read "My Life with the Eskimo" by Vilhjalmur Stefansson

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Eskimo-New-Vilhjalmur-Stefansson/...

Stefansson and another explorer, Andersson, participated in an experiment where they did not eat anything but meat for a year - and remained in excellent health

http://inhumanexperiment.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/two-brave-m...

But I haven't heard about the 'rotten fish' and specific nutrients that can be obtained from it ...

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I don't know about the Inuit, but "gravad" fish (fish buried and fermented near the tide mark) has been fairly common in the Nordic countries as well as in the Baltics since the middle ages or before.

"Rakfisk", a Norwegian variation, could be left to ferment up to a year. Iceland has Hákarl, - fermented Greenland shark that is also left for 6-12 months: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1karl containing ammonia (the process is used because it is poisonous when fresh).

My total guess is that it's more about having access to a wider range of types of food throughout the winter, when many other dietary choices disappear. Traditional food in the Nordic countries at least is very centered around processing that allows for longer term storage, and I'd guess Greenland has much the same.

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That second link should be the experiment I was referring to. I remember reading an account of it that one of them did run into some vitamin deficiencies which they realized were because they'd been excluding a particular type of partially-rotten fish dish that normally provided them.

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>The point here is not to bash vegetarianism, but to point out that it took her 12 years to develop health issues.

No, it took her twelve years to admit to and respond to health issues. They presented very early on. She was simply on a terrible diet, and was deficient in iron. No mystery, no "unknown unknowns", just a very simple, straightforward, common deficiency we've known about for decades.

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Are you kidding?

It's not about your body suddenly running out of a nutrient five years down the line. It's about your body starting to repair and build structures that need to last for years while missing key ingredients.

As a random example, people can develop osteoporosis after years of drinking diet soda.

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> As a random example, people can develop osteoporosis after years of drinking diet soda.

citation?

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You don't your side of the argument any favours by offering made up nonsense like "aspartame causes osteoporosis" as an example.

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He'll probably have it but I believe vitamin B12 can last for 5 years, so there may be others.

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I would think that this + some sort of bulky whole grain would be a better solution since it would still provide er...colonic stimulation. Which isn't just important for pooping- the short chain fatty acids are important for colonic cell metabolism. Something like oats could be made easily in a crock pot.

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you summed it up nicely.

6 weeks on some combination of stuff that contains good things like olive and fish oil and other nutrients can't be as bad as the 'supersize me' diet, and even he managed to survive for 30 days...

hardly scientific or even "common-sense" evidence of any long-term viability.

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>I mean look at the warnings on what is basically the next step, TPN http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional_disorde.... . He is basically drinking almost exactly this

You do realize there is a substantial difference between drinking it and injecting it right? You are talking about the side effects of completely bypassing the entire GI system and providing for all nutrition through an IV.

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They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

- Carl Sagan

Sure, he could be on to something. But we also need an enormous amount of skepticism when evaluating it, just as we do when evaluating any large claim. What pings my radar is that we're still trying to understand how our body processes "whole food" as opposed to vitamins in supplement form.

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In fairness, Columbus was also wrong.

If they hadn't happened across the Americas, they would all have died. India was nowhere near where he thought it was, and almost exactly where the common knowledge of the time (and Eratosthenes) said it was.

Sorry. It's just a pet peeve of mine when people think Columbus was somehow right, or even worse, that people believed the world was flat pre-Columbus.

EDIT: To be clear, I'm not implying you think that, but it seems to be implied in the Sagan quote that Columbus was something other than completely wrong in his assessment of the situation (or possibly lying 'cause he wanted to explore the other side of the world. He certainly seems to have been brave enough)

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And Colombus believed, till his death, that he had reached India. He never realized this was another continent altogether.

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And he ate more than soylent.

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If only they were as reasonable stating this as you.

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I think what he's lamenting is a lack of appreciation for the history and nuance of the field, and the presumption by software engineers that everyone else is too mired in old-world thinking to do the obviously-successful thing.

From my perspective, both sides of this argument have supporting examples, and neither takes a clear lead. I would say that hackers who throw together disruptive successes tend to be innovating on market capture, not underlying technology, otherwise they wouldn't have quite as much success without proper education. (Either that, or the hacker is working in Information Tech, where they do have insider knowledge.) That said, market-capture should equate to commercial success, so it does matter. I just don't think it's directly correlated to the innovation you're suggesting.

As for the ability of the natural genius to emerge without formal training, of course that's possible-- and increasingly likely thanks to the Web-- but it's still rare enough that I'm skeptical of the claim.

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>When in reality, the human GI evolved to support an extremely broad range of inputs as it's most significant factor.

While we can agree that innovation should not be stifled, the idea that we can determine the processes by which the body utilizes nutrients and their interdependent effects, after a few months of research, is utterly hubristic.

I often make the claim that the human body (other animals are close too) exhibits one of the highest levels of complexity out of all the known systems in the universe, far exceeding the complexity of man mad systems. I challenge anyone to put forward a counter-example...

I've been researching nutrition for 5 years and read hundreds of papers on PubMed and, involved with QS (quantified self) and life extension movements, track my bloodwork in Google Spreadsheets etc.

You may be wondering, why would someone invest such an extraordinary amount of time (1000+ man hours) an energy in this topic? Well I used to think very differently about my health. As a young strong-willed software developer, I arrogantly assumed like many before I knew it all in my teenage years. My mental model of the body, was not dissimilar to your current views on GI (the body will just handle whatever you throw at it). As a result after 10 years of eating badly I ended up with a chronic disease (Psoriatic Arthritis).

Being a teenager I knew better and ate anything I wanted, which specifically was an extreme diet consisting entirely of pasta, milk and coke. Because that's what my body "wanted". Now I'm in my 30's and undoing the damage, but I've learned that this system really is complicated, more so than a rocket or microprocessor. You're right in the sense that the body can tolerate it for a while, but it's not designed to cope with abuse over a period of many years. Eventually you will pay the price.

Even now though, I wouldn't consider myself an "expert", although some of my peers might. But I have learned enough know when someone is out of their depth. This guy is well intentioned but that does not mean he's justified in making such grandiose claims.

For example he says "Vitamin D" and "Vitamin K", without acknowledging various forms exist.

For example he says he takes "Vitamin D(400IU):"

What exactly is 'Vitamin D'? Cholecalciferol (D3) [1] is quite different from Ergocalciferol (D2)[2]

D3 levels are particularly important when talking about overall health.

Or take "Vitamin K" for example, are we talking about the philoquinone (K1) [3] or the menaquinone (K2) [4] group?

Even if then, if one is talking Vitamin K2, there are various menaquinones forms so is he suggesting Mk4, mk7 or some other form? [5].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholecalciferol

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergocalciferol

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylloquinone

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_k2

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10084398

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>What exactly is 'Vitamin D'? Cholecalciferol (D3) [1] is quite different from Ergocalciferol (D2)[2]

Not as far as nutrition is concerned. Some studies have indicated that D2 is slightly less potent, but the majority have shown equal efficacy.

>Or take "Vitamin K" for example

Same deal. You are confusing the notion that there are multiple chemical compounds that fulfill the role of a vitamin, that you need them all. They fill the same role, you need something to fill that role, not one specific form.

Your whole argument seems to be an attempt at pointless pedantry, when the pedantry presented doesn't even matter to the subject at hand.

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Not as far as nutrition is concerned. Some studies have indicated that D2 is slightly less potent, but the majority have shown equal efficacy.

The evidence does not support that claim. If anything we don't know, and that's my point. [1][2]

>Your whole argument seems to be an attempt at pointless pedantry, when the pedantry presented doesn't even matter to the subject at hand.

No I'm saying similar to "Vitamin B". You body may be lacking in pyridoxine or cobalamin or one of the other B vitamins. They are not equivalent. The B group has been studied in far greater depth, compared to say the menaquiniones (K2 group), and there simply does not exist the same level of research. Similarly K and D are groups too, and treating them like it's a single chemical with a specific effect is just plain wrong.

If you want to continue to argue please backup your claims with studies indicating K2 (any form) is equivalent to K1.

A study of 11000+ men by a German cancer research center found this:

"Our results suggest an inverse association between the intake of menaquinones, but not that of phylloquinone, and prostate cancer. Further studies of dietary vitamin K and prostate cancer are warranted." [3]

In other words K2 intake was correlated with reduced levels of prostate cancer, and K1 was not.

They are NOT the same thing and it's arrogant to dismiss this them as being functionally equivalent or assume one's body will perfectly convert between various forms as needed.

[1] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/4/694.full

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21289249

[3] Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18400723

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>The evidence does not support that claim

What claim?

>No I'm saying similar to "Vitamin B"

There is no vitamin B. You clearly know this, and are deliberately posting complete nonsense.

>In other words K2 intake was correlated with reduced levels of prostate cancer, and K1 was not

And in the studies that found no such correlation to begin with? Pretending a single study is evidence that there's an entire family of vitamins we know noting about is so incredibly stupid I refuse to believe you are actually doing that.

>it's arrogant to dismiss this them as being functionally equivalent

No, it is arrogant to claim that you know everything and this guy is a total moron because he did a great job of 100% completely and totally covering all vitamins, but you want him to worry about what form of vitamin D he uses based on absolutely no evidence that it matters at all.

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>"No, it is arrogant to claim that you know everything and this guy is a total moron because he did a great job of 100% completely and totally covering all vitamins "

Emotionally charged strawman. He's done some homework. My argument is that it's simply not enough. IE it's possible to be ignorant of how much one is ignorant of. There are also unknown unknowns that exist.

>Pretending a single study is evidence that there's an entire family of vitamins we know noting about is so incredibly stupid I refuse to believe you are actually doing that.

Another misrepresentation. I'm saying that the Vitamin K2 group is not widely understood and only recently gaining more attention in the last few years. [1]

Also there is no pretending going on, simply advocating skepticism and that it's an extremely complex topic with ongoing studies often refuting "obviousness" of a prior generation of thought.

I haven't even started on the role the microbiome plays in our health. The fact that there are 10x more non-human cells (100 trillion cells) in our bodies should be pause for concern and a little humbleness. We literally carry around thousands of different strands of bacteria and are only now in this decade starting to map the genetic material to figure out new advances and how these interact with the food we ingest and their systemic effects. [2][3][4]

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Vitamin-K2-Calcium-Paradox-Little-Know...

[2] http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ubiome-sequencing-your-mic...

[3] http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/american-gut-what-s-in-you...

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Microbiome_Project

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>My argument is that it's simply not enough

An argument that you did not support, as I said.

>I'm saying that the Vitamin K2 group is not widely understood and only recently gaining more attention in the last few years.

And I am saying that just because you want to pretend there's magic pixie dust that we need to live, doesn't mean it is actually true.

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>And I am saying that just because you want to pretend there's magic pixie dust that we need to live, doesn't mean it is actually true.

Another misrepresentation. I started the thread by saying that the human body can take a lot of abuse for many years without apparent ill-effects. That said, many would argue the difference between "living" (or surviving over a certain time period) and optimal health, is not an insignificant consideration.

It's quite possible to develop chronic conditions, that are not apparent at first, and only manifest themselves after years of nutritional deficiency.

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>It's quite possible to develop chronic conditions, that are not apparent at first, and only manifest themselves after years of nutritional deficiency.

Oh, well that is certainly a reasonable basis to pretend a very complete diet is dangerous and lacking. Oh wait, no that is a completely nonsensical basis.

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The author himself shows a little more humility: "You’re exactly right. This is a risk, an experiment. " -rob [1].

I find it incredible that you will not concede any significant difference between D3 and D2 or between K1 and K2 groups. When the facts show the opposite. [2] Have you actually read the book on K2 and the evidence that it reduces arterial calcification?

You act like it's perfectly reasonable to dismiss studies and because of your preconceived notion that this diet is a perfect and "very complete" and "100% completely and totally covering all vitamins" (your words) and therefore any counterclaims means <insert strawman attack>.

I like this Rob fellow. I'm a huge supporter of ground up approaches, but this is simply not a black and white issue, and no amount of bullying from your quarter is going to change that.

[1] http://robrhinehart.com/?p=424#comments

[2] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102338.ht...

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>"You’re exactly right. This is a risk, an experiment. "

But that is not what you claimed. You didn't say "this carries some risk", you said he is out of his depth, doesn't know what he is doing, and will pay the price. You are the arrogant one.

>You act like it's perfectly reasonable to dismiss studies

You are the one doing that, not me.

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Did you read his blog? He's claiming it cured his skin disease, gave him mental superpowers, has him in the best shape of his life, it gives him more energy, it tastes great, and costs $150 a month.

Reads like a sleazy wonderpill ad.

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I'll observe that virtually all of that can be accounted for by eliminating known problematic elements in the standard american/western diet. Whether it promotes long-term health or doesn't cause other problems is a very different matter.

Despite what else I've written in this thread, I'm not against the idea of healthy, cheap, time efficient nutrition options. But I don't think we know enough yet to nail the "healthy" part, and the human cost of our failures to date has been truly terrible.

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Did you read his blog? That's an extreme exaggeration of what he said.

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>> "I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker and my dandruff gone. My resting heart rate is lower, I haven't felt the least bit sickly, rare for me this time of year. I've had a common skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris since birth. That was gone by day 9. I used to run less than a mile at the gym, now I can run 7. I have more energy than I know what to do with. On day 4 I caught myself balancing on the curb and jumping on and off the sidewalk when crossing the street like I used to do when I was a kid. People gave me strange looks but I just smiled back. Even my scars look better.

>> My mental performance is also higher. My inbox and to-do list quickly emptied. I 'get' new concepts in my reading faster than before and can read my textbooks twice as long without mental fatigue. I read a book on Number Theory in one sitting, a Differential Geometry book in a weekend, filling up a notebook in the process. Mathematical notation that used to look obtuse is now beautiful. My working memory is noticeably better. I can grasp larger software projects and longer and more complex scientific papers more effectively. My awareness is higher. I find music more enjoyable. I notice beauty and art around me that I never did before. The people around me seem sluggish. There are fewer 'ums' and pauses in my spoken sentences. My reflexes are improved. I walk faster, feel lighter on my feet, spend less time analyzing and performing basic tasks and rely on my phone less for navigation. I sleep better, wake up more refreshed and alert and never feel drowsy during the day. I still drink coffee occasionally, but I no longer need it, which is nice."

Yeah, I'm the one exaggerating.

>> "Consuming only Soylent costs me about $50/month, another order of magnitude improvement, and would be cheaper if I didn't need the energy for running every day. At scale the cost would be even lower.

>>Edit: this was a miscalculation from a mistake in my spreadsheet, at personal scale it actually costs me exactly $154.82/month."

...Again. I'm exaggerating.

His blog is overly sensationalized. It really does read like a sleazy ad. He even gave his experiment a product name 'Soylent'. Sure, I was being funny about it, but I wouldn't call what I said an extreme exaggeration of what I just read.

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In my personal experience, optimal nutrition creates what I would, in jest, refer to as "superpowers". When I compare my mental and physical state under optimal conditions to under poor conditions, there is a dramatic difference in me.

This, to me, is also why for many athletes, their performance doesn't begin on the field but rather it begins with their food intake.

I don't trust the data he provided because it isn't rigorous, reviewed or even analyzed at all.

But I'm curious, regardless.

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Disagree. Many elite athletes are not super scientific about their food choices [1]. Instead they eat what they crave. The human body is pretty good at figuring out what it needs nutritionally.

That being said, there is a lot that is important off of the field (e.g. sleep, stretching, etc). Just nutrition is fairly low on that list.

[1] http://www.active.com/triathlon/ironman/Articles/Nutrition-T...

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As much respect as I have for triathletes, they aren't really representative. Food choices are incredibly important for athletes in weight class-limited sports (eg wrestling) or where muscular hypertrophy is important (eg powerlifting). Gymnastics is another one. Believe me when I tell you that coaches have diet absolutely dialed in for many classes of athlete.

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Is this actually a disagreement, though? Doing a hyper-specific sport act like that is much less natural than being a triathlete.

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Here is a little summary of what he's saying: The only things we really know about nutrition are related to diets that cause obvious problems quickly. Ie, we know vitamin-c is needed because it causes scurvy. What we know now and are learning is that there are possibly thousands of other interactions and nutrients needed for diet that are more subtle. We do not yet have a complete model for this, and probably won't for a few more decades. Therefore, anything made now will be insufficient because we know our current model is flawed.

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>What we know now and are learning is that there are possibly thousands of other interactions and nutrients needed for diet that are more subtle.

And the evidence to support this claim is what exactly? People keep acting like nutrition is magic and involves lots of pixie dust. It is not. We have a very thorough understanding down to the exact chemical reactions occurring. Anything he is missing that would cause damage only seen after 50+ years is also causing that same damage to millions of other people as we speak.

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I think that's a total misreading of the criticisms.

This actually is a hard problem and the science well short of consensus. The surface area of the problem seems to grow every year as scientists publish new research. That seems like a good indication that the odds of this (relatively) uninformed approach being a great one is low.

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Of course it is a hard problem.

It is a mix of politics and economics and ethics and a very small probability of doing any real experimentation on other people.

So far I have more faith in Internet communities doing self-experimentation than with big corporation-sponsored studies.

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The novel aspect here is that his experimental methodology looks promising; not that he has some magic silver bullet.

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I don't, I have a BS in Biology and these kind of disruptive ideas are exciting to me. After spending years studying biochemistry and nutrition, I realize that a lot of evidence is out there is crap.

Nutrition isn't some old-guard field with a hundred years of solid decided science weighing it down. In my opinion it's like genetics, a fast moving, exciting field full of interesting ideas and disruptive possibility.

Quite frankly, our understanding of the human GI and human nutrition is still rather pathetic, and a lot of the "common wisdom" is based on misinformation and bad evidence.

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The common wisdom of 100-150 years ago is not as bad as common wisdom from 1980.

Anna Karenina, Part Two, chapter 19:

"He had no need to be strict with himself, as he had very quickly been brought down to the required light weight; but still he had to avoid gaining flesh, and so he eschewed farinaceous and sweet dishes."

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I can pull out quotes of Greek philosophers or Egyptians extolling the virtues of lifelong exercise and moderation in food... that's not quite the common wisdom I'm thinking of!

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You sound like a software dilettante explaining why (formal) education is obsolete. "So what if it's a triple nested loop, hardware is cheap" "Encapsulation? Relational algebra? Who cares about this CS mumbo jumbo just show me teh codez".

No offence but we've heard the exact same thing from every amateur that "learned programming" by toying with Wordpress or Jquery copypasta.

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There are also a lot of smart and thoughtful coders who are self-taught, however. It depends on your approach, your mental toolkit, and how much self-discipline you have to recognize that what you are doing is crap and how to learn more.

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I doubt he's taking the manner by which nutrients are best absorbed into account. Having everything in a liquid suspension is likely not ideal, and could result in a dangerous deficiency.

Just because someone can survive on something doesn't mean they're getting good nutrition. Humans have adapted to eat many types of food, but that doesn't mean everyone was equally as healthy, disease-resistant, etc.

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I'd agree here – given the nature of the digestive system, and the different things that are absorbed at different points across the digestive tract, I'd say that throwing it all in, ready for the body to soak up is probably a bad idea.

Further, you don't really know what the hell you're doing to all 100 trillion of the little beasties living in your gut by drinking that stuff. We're really a very carefully balanced system for homeostasis and shortcuts rarely appreciate the subtlety and complexity of the system they are shortcutting.

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>You sound like an industry-insider explaining why a new startup will fail. "They're too young!" "They don't have the experience" "We've devoted our LIVES to figuring this out, one kid in his basement didn't do it in a few weeks!" Etc etc No offense but we've heard the exact same thing about every successful idea.

We also heard the exact same thing about every kook, and his idea of a "perpetual motion engine", "cold fusion in my backyard" etc idea.

And that has happened far too many more times than the "successful idea" thing -- so much, that "the idea being shot down by critics" && "it being successful" case is like statistical noise.

Which is also true about your startup example. Most startups DO fail. A staggering majority of them actually.

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As a side note, look into what rescue organisations feed to starving people. There are a few options that area all cheap and vary effective at bringing people back from starvation.

With that said, the question becomes what's the goal. Is it to cover the bases while keeping room left over for desert? Is it to find something better than the average western diet? Because, while perfection is going to depend on your DNA and activity levels finding a good baseline substitute for breakfast and lunch is vary possible.

PS: Now if you read what was written then this is sounding a lot like a 'fad' food with wondrous super powers. But, there are fairly good substitutes out there that cover most bases.

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Impossible? No, but not very probable either. I am not an expert on human physiology, but I presume it is very complex, and doesn't lend itself to hobbyists making large breakthroughs. If tomorrow I read an article saying a biologist has solved P = NP, I would treat that with a lot of skepticism. It is possible that he gained enough expertise to do so, but given that some very smart people have been spending a good portion of the lives on this, I wouldn't consider it likely.

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> People look at the human GI totally wrong anyway. They think, what can I put in to get the best results? When in reality, the human GI evolved to support an extremely broad range of inputs as it's most significant factor.

That doesn't mean that there isn't something you can put in to get the best results for yourself.

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That doesn't mean that there isn't something you can put in to get the best results for yourself.

My point is that there are likely very many things you can put in to achieve a similar optimal result.

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Side note for comprehension, if like me you wonder: GI means GastroIntestinal. It is used in the comments both as adjective but also to refer to the whole gastrointestinal track and connected organs.

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You're supposing that the criticism is of Rob Rhinehart's abilities and character, but it's a critique of Rhinehart's nieve belief that the problem he's solving is a simple one.

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>We're (as in, scientists studying nutrition and how utterly wrong food industry has gotten that in the 20th and early 21st century)

What does the food industry have to do with anything? They aren't trying to get nutrition "right", they are trying to sell their products. This is the same reason people who don't know anything about nutritional science claim that "science doesn't really know anything about nutrition, one day fat is good, the next day it is bad". Science never said fat was good or bad, marketing weasels for food companies deliberately misrepresent research to support unsubstantiated claims.

>finally starting to get our collective heads around the benefits of whole foods vs. highly processed foods

Except, there is no evidence to support that claim at all.

>It may be theoretically possible to create some processed food that's on par with the nutrition of whole foods

Not just theoretically, but practically too. What exactly do you think they are feeding people on feeding tubes? It isn't salads. http://abbottnutrition.com/Adult/Adult-Tube-Feeding-Products...

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> the benefits of whole foods vs. highly processed foods, and just how badly our bodies deal with the latter

This sounds like the naturalistic fallacy.

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The naturalistic fallacy is only relevant when dealing with ethics.

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No it isn't. "Good" is not a strictly ethical question. In this case, someone is wrongly pretending that whatever is "natural" to eat is also "healthy" to eat, and thus "good".

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On second look, I agree with you that my statement (while true) does not apply to the grandparent, because as you explained the naturalistic fallacy does seem to apply here.

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Yeah, the guy's testing on himself. We'll see in a year.

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I have Crohn's and as a result had periods in my life where I was on a liquid diet of something called Modulen for weeks and months at a time.

http://www.nestlehealthscience.com/products/modulen_ibd A similar, more familiar product: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensure

Pretty terrible experience. I had to drink close to a dozen cups of the stuff a day and it didn't go down easy. The stuff worked however and I went back into remission.

Defecating while on this became a very rare occurrence but otherwise almost normal if I recall correctly. And another interesting twist: while I was very weak, I gained some noticeable muscle mass - I imagine because this is essentially taking protein powder consumption to an extreme.

It seems like this perhaps guy created a better version than Nestle on account of it actually tasting good and not needing a dozen cups a day - it is not a good lifestyle for healthy people but is very interesting as a supplement.

Drinking one can of something a day to insure you get all the nutrients necessary, including the rare ones, is a lot easier than adhering religiously to a very balanced diet. Sort of like a multivitamin that actually works.

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Thanks for this post! I too have Crohn's (and ankylosing spondylitis), but I had not heard of Modulen before. I also very much share the sentiments of the article author, so I'm a bit bummed to hear you found it to be a terrible experience.

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> It seems like this perhaps guy created a better version than Nestle on account of it actually tasting good and not needing a dozen cups a day [...]

Just speculating here, but the limiting factor for Nestle might be to get the same stuff that he is using into a product that you can deliver as a ready-made "just add water" mixture. He specifically wrote that he has to make it fresh every day, so that could be the difference.

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>It seems like this perhaps guy created a better version than Nestle on account of it actually tasting good

I just want to point out that it doesn't actually taste good. He says it does, but try mixing whey powder, olive oil, and maltodextrin in water and drink it. It tastes fucking awful.

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Eating to me is a leisure activity, like going to the movies, but I don't want to go to the movies three times a day.

For anyone that doesn't understand that statement, I recommend taking a few years off work, where you spend your time getting up early every day, doing something all day (hiking, walking, gardening, building, whatever) and go to bed late in the evening (i.e. Full days of activities you want to be doing). I spent 2 years doing this, and I was shocked how much time is wasted buying, cooking, and eating food three times a day. It's really a huge chunk of time you can't spend doing what you want.

Now I'm back in the 9-5 routine, and it's not so obvious - partly I think because taking time away from my desk to eat is actually nice, as-is dinner with my girlfriend and others.

When you've got other things you'd rather be doing, eating is a time-consuming PITA.

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> For anyone that doesn't understand that statement, I recommend taking a few years off work,

I really don't, how do you define what is a waste of time and what isn't? Why eating is a waste of time and working isn't?

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If you could not work but still get all of the benefits that work gives you (salary, stability, etc), would you continue to work? Would you decide, maybe I'll work just once a week?

No one is saying that eating is a waste of time.

The OP says it like: Eating is a leisure activity for him like going to the movies. But he doesn't want to go to the movies 3 times a day for the rest of his life.

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I don't know what your situation is, but personally, being married, I love spending time cooking with my wife. For example, last night we spent 2 hours cooking crab cakes, chocolate souffle, kale chips... it was fantastic. We both enjoy one another's company while cooking.

For some people, it may seem like a waste of time, but for me, it's a way to connect to other people.

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I don't think there is any argument that cooking can be a pleasant activity. However, the truth is that's the only option because we need to eat every day.

Tonight I can get home from work and spend time with my partner cooking and it'll be great. And after work tomorrow, if we want to spend time together, we can cook or eat out. And the day after that... more cooking.

The opportunity here is not that we'll never cook again but, instead, that maybe we can do something else together once in a while.

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Another option is to live somewhere where there are healthy options (for whatever definition of healthy you choose) that you can purchase. You can then (or I can) be done in 10-15 minutes. Whether that's a cafeteria, a convenience store, a restaurant, a waiter.

Examples: Working at a company that serves breakfast lunch and dinner I can leave my desk, get food, eat and be back at my desk in 15 minutes. Or I can grab food and be back at my desk in 5 minutes.

Living in Japan I could stop at a convenience store and get reasonably healthy food on the way to, from home (at least in Tokyo you're likely to walk in front of probably an average of 6 convenience stores between your place of work and your home as well as many other food sources).

Living in the bay area there are places like Whole Foods that have large relatively healthy salad/meal bars. I happen to live a 2 minute walk from one.

Note: Personally I like taking time out to eat. I dislike spending 15-60 minutes making something that's consumed in 10 but I like spending time making something and sharing it. But still, I notice that I can eat pretty quick if the food is pre-prepared.

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I so miss the convenience stores with actual edible food. In NZ they generally just have a pie warmer :(

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While the cooking is a big part of it, I would argue it's really predominantly the company you're enjoying. Subtract the enjoyment you get from cooking alone day in and day out from the enjoyment you get from cooking with your wife, and see what's left over.

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Whilst I understand your point, that's a matter of choice (or needs). You can perfectly buy, cook and eat 3 times/day without wasting too much time. Of course, if you want to have a gourmet experience in every meal it would be complicated.

I have had different phases in my life (currently I eat mostly paleo), and even though now it is the moment of my life when I spent more time cooking, I used to cook only once per week, having to re-heat the food on each meal.

You can also prepare food using slow cooking if you know the time you will be having the meal.

In my case, I "parallelize" and I work/study/work out/whatever while things are being cooked.

I am still unsure of the viability of these systems where they mix every single thing "needed" by the human body. How much time is needed to ensure this method of feeding is viable for humans?

PS: the drink kind of reminds me of Wall-E...

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"How much time is needed to ensure this method of feeding is viable for humans?"

Yes ha ha.

(For those who don't get the joke there's long been available a liquid meal replacement called "Ensure(tm)" as with many "tech" novelty stories a supposed inventor is actually just walking on very well trodden ground rather than inventing anything.)

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A quick google suggests that ensure is marketed as a high calorie product designed to help you gain weight. Is there another version of it that's nutritionally complete and low calorie like Soylent (supposedly) is that I'm missing?

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There are several meal replacement programs sold in the dieting community. I was on one for three months where I could choose to consume zero solid food and get all my nutrition from powdered soups and shakes; the US equivalent seems to be Medifast, though that includes a single food meal daily. It was not a healthy plan, but my energy levels were great and I lost a significant amount of weight in that time (45 pounds or so). The composition was designed to induce and keep participants in ketosis, but I don't see why a little more carbohydrate couldn't be added to avoid this.

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Yes: http://abbottnutrition.com/Products/jevity-1-cal

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This really hit home for me one winter vacation when I decided to fast for 5 days straight. I had absolutely nothing to do so I mainly played video games and read. I couldn't believe how not hungry I was and how utterly bored I was because I wasn't occupying my days with procuring, preparing, eating, cleaning.

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> For anyone that doesn't understand that statement, I recommend taking a few years off work, where you spend your time getting up early every day, doing something all day (hiking, walking, gardening, building, whatever) and go to bed late in the evening (i.e. Full days of activities you want to be doing). I spent 2 years doing this [...]

How did you afford this, financially? What was the before/during/after story of how you organized life to do this?

Suddenly up and leaving my job and financial obligations (of which I have few), for a period of a year or two and then resuming where I'd left off does not seem even remotely feasible.

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I saved for ~18 months, then spent two years driving from Alaska to Argentina, because I wanted to.

I blogged the whole time at http://theroadchoseme.com

All the financial details are at http://theroadchoseme.com/the-price-of-adventure

You'll be interested to note I only spent $1200/mo on the road, which is almost exactly what I was spending month-to-month to go to work every day.

I'm currently back working as a Software Engineer, saving for the next adventure. This time I plan on saving up enough money, and maybe contracting a day every two weeks, that I can go traveling for at least 4-6 years next time. Current estimated departure is spring or fall 2014.

I'm extremely passionate about helping/encouraging other people to do the same thing. If you have any more questions, or I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me (here, my blog, email, whatever)

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Are you a full time employee?

I'd be interested in knowing what your current employer thinks about you have a scheduled departure date that far in the future.

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Yep. They don't know I plan to leave.

As I said elsewhere, they have fired a lot of loyal people in last ~18 months, so I have no problem with leaving. We're all free to leave anytime we want, be if for a different position, start our own business, or to go traveling, or anything at all.

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Nice. I'm more or less in the same boat in that I'm trying to save some money but don't want to spend so much time working to do it. The problem is that most companies are looking for long-term employees, so it's more difficult to find something on a shorter term.

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What's wrong with signing on as a full-time employee then quitting a few years later?

My company has fired many loyal full-time employees in the last 18 months with very minimal notice, so I feel no compunction about doing the same.

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There's nothing wrong with it per se, but I'm not thinking of spending years with a company, because I want to start travelling sooner. Last time the discussion came up with a company, they said they were looking for someone for at least 2 to 4 years, and I couldn't lie to them and tell them I would stay that long.

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> and I couldn't lie to them and tell them I would stay that long.

That's a choice you have to make.

Keep in mind, even when they say they are looking for someone for at least 2 to 4 years, they'll fire you with zero notice if it makes sense to their bottom line.

If there is nothing in writing, you are not bound to them any more than they are to you. Circumstances change, and you need to do what's right for you.

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Yeah, I should think more like that.

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Hey Dan, I couldn't find any contact info here or on your blog. I have some specific questions I'd like to ask about your trip and the aftermath. Could you please contact me?

zachwass2000@gmail.com

Thanks!

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I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this info, I honestly was not expecting such a detailed and thorough reply!

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It's awesome to run into you on HN. I'm building travel plans based on your blog postings!

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Nice! You'll find my side project, http://wikioverland.org extremely useful.

If you need anything at all, please don't hesitate to contact me!

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Thank you! I actually found your blog because I stumbled upon wikioverland.org; I plan on doing the Pan American Highway route.

I'll definitely get in touch!

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Oddly enough, for me, playing The Sims taught me how much time is spent eating, defecating, and sleeping.

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In The Sims that effect sometimes happens because time in that game is so much faster. It's like "The ride for work will arrive in one hour." -> Well I'll just make my Sim eat breakfasts. Suddenly, The Sim arrives at the kitchen after crossing the house to get there and two hours passe.

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In addition to this, even those of us who sit at a computers for 7-8 hours a day and then spend the rest of our time doing other activities.

I try and go surfing every week day, and most of the weekend, and i don't want to be bothered with taking time out to eat (i've got 2 kids too - so I don't have much time). Sure I can easily go grab some junk food and eat on the go but I really don't want to when I'm trying to keep my body in good shape.

I usually mix a bunch of raw nuts, raisins, fruit/berries, yogurt into a smoothy and have that as food. but it still requires time to make a clean up, not to mention the cost of fruit and nuts. Dinner is usually cooked by my wife, so that's not an issue for me because it's time with the family.

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Taking off work to do this, is absolutely great and i recommend it for everyone as long as you can. But whether something like cooking is a PITA, is mostly up to you and what you make out of it.

in 2008 I've took a seven month unpaid leave from my job to travel through central america and the caribbean. I never felt buying, cooking or eating was wasted time. Quite the contrary. Some of the most memorable moments of my whole journey came with those. Being it, cooking with people from all around the world in hostels, learning how to open a coconut and make a spoon out of the shell with a machete (yes, pretty touristy), or getting invited by a local family and let the kids show me how their favorite dish is done.

And I wasn't an avid chef before. I barely cooked by myself back home. Now i love it. Every step of the process. Its like programing – with real time compilation.

Yes, it is really time consuming. When I had other things to do, i just didn't spend that much time on it. I actually never had three meals a day (and i don't have now either).

I understand the statement and I find the idea of a having a food replacement in some cases very interesting. Its not anything new after all. But in my opinion, his motivation is questionable. Honestly, this Soylent-Shake thing remembers me of employers trying to squeeze everything out of their workers for sheer productivity. But, to each his own. If that guy is happy with his choice, he should continue doing it. If people blindly follow his way, its not his fault – they'd follow someone/something else. (As long as he is not starting a big campaign, saying that his way of life is the only right one)

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There's this triangle of food - cost/time/consequences.

You can spend little time and little money, and get something that's not very healthy for you. The dollar menu, for instance. You can spend a little time and a lot of money buying pre-prepared food at say, the deli at Whole Foods, and get something pretty healthy. If you have the time, tools, and knowledge, you can make cheap healthy food at home.

It just depends on what resources you have and what sacrifices you want to make. Shopping, cooking, doing the dishes, those things all take time you could use to do other things.

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I think if you've wrapped your daily lifestyle so tight that eating is actually disruptive, then your lifestyle is the problem not the eating.

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It's got nothing to do with a "tight lifestyle" more like a "I'd rather be doing something other than eating" lifestyle.

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You want to talk disruptive? Let's talk about the other end of the digestive tract. Some people spend inordinate amounts of time pooping. I claim that they are flushing away their valuable productivity. In our culture, eating at your desk is considered acceptable, but due to social biases, pooping at your desk is not yet accepted. Let's hope that Google tackles this problem soon. Until then, the only advice I can give you is to avoid beans and dairy products.

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If I could afford to give up work, I could afford to not cook. The actual eating takes up very little of my time.

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> If I could afford to give up work, I could afford to not cook.

Conversely, if you cooked more, you could afford to give up work sooner :)

(One of the ways I was able to go 2 years without working was by cooking almost every meal. The only ones I didn't was when it was cheaper to buy than cook, i.e. an entire meal for 0.75 USD in cheap countries)

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I don't get it, don't you have to buy, cook, eat every day even when you are working?

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I think the point is that doing these things is a welcome distraction from work.

Eating becomes a chore when you could be doing something better.

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Yeah, but then that better thing becomes a chore, when you do it all day every day.

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That's why you fill your life up with lots of varied "better things" so no one of them becomes a chore.

Even if they somehow did, you can just pick new "better things". The drain of buying/cooking/eating/cleaning up food is you can't easily opt out.

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Now step back and consider how much of a time-consuming PITA sleeping is.

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If he's a true programmer, he'd code up an iphone app that controls an arduino that mixes up the precise amounts of amino acids, boron, saccharides, glucose and polyphenols for the perfect Soylent to start his day. Maybe even post his objective C on github so I can issue a pull request with 200% more boron. You know, here in the bay area, we have plants that tweet when they run out of water. I can rig up a tweetbot so his body tweets whenever he is dehydrated, and Amazon can intercept that tweet to dropship amino acids to his kitchen where the arduino mixes up the next batch of Soylent.

I should stop watching scifi.

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"plants that tweet when they run out of water."

Get off my damn lawn.

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But I was only trying to water your lawn! It sent me a DM!

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"randomchars, you gotta help me... Kluny has blocked me on twitter, and I'm like literally dying without water here!"

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If you took it to production you could just distribute a mixer that has compartments for independent ingredients, maybe even go so far as to standardize cartage sizes of them to use as a fixed insert, have them delivered regularly, and plug them in to make your nutrient sludge once a day.

Then just go a step further, have it delivered by automated transport, brew itself, and you just go grab a cup of juice to keep you alive and get on with your day.

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>standardize cartage sizes...have them delivered regularly

When I first arrived in the USA in 1995 as a CS student, I was surprised to see these identical Walmarts. They were all the same - same aisles, same items in those aisles, same prices, same senior citizens manning the checkout counters.. So I asked the gent at the checkout counter - Sir, instead of me coming to your Walmart every weekend to buy groceries, why doesn't Walmart standardize on groceries & deliver them weekly to all American citizens ? Huge savings on driving costs, shopping time,...

He looked at me and said - Son, that's called communism.

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Ignoring the fact that this never happened there are plenty of stores that deliver, just not Wal*Mart.

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He is capable of this.

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>Soylent contains all of the nutritive components of a balanced diet, but with just a third of the calories...

This worries me. It's not a misquote, either. From his blog^0 :

>...I get all the nutrition and energy I need with about 1/3 the calories the average American consumes...

The average American consumes 2,757 calories^2 . There's a term called the Basal Metabolic Rate. It is the amount of calories your body needs just to keep living, without thinking about movement^2 . A sample man's basal metabolic rate is over 1800 calories^3 . So thinking you can drop that down to 900 is suspect, especially in the long term.

[0]http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298

[1]http://www.livestrong.com/article/347737-the-average-america...

[2]http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolism/WT00006

[3]http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ for a 5'10", 175 lbs, 30 years old, inactive man

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I wonder if it's an efficiency thing.

Maybe the human body is not efficient when eating heavy, processed things like bread, steak, etc. etc.

Is it possible that by eating only what is essential, and in the right balances, the body is more efficient and can extract more useable energy from what goes in?

And obviously the mix is different for every person / body type / activity level etc. You can't do this kind of thing and not watch your weight, blood content, etc. carefully.

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Digestion involves heavy duty mechanical crushing and grinding, at least three sets of enyzymes, dissolving in acid strong enough cut metal, more mechanical squeezing action, and anything microbes can do to the remainder, over the course of several hours.

Up against that, ageing a steak is not going to make a difference. As for bread, if anything, it is easier to digest than something "natural" like raw grains since it has less fibre and anti-nutrients.

The food in question is ever more "processed", since it seems to be made mostly of the base nutritional chemicals.

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25% of calories are wasted digesting protein, <5% for everything else.

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How is steak processed?

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It's worth noting that "processed" is a very loosely-defined term when it comes to food. At it's broadest, even peeling a banana could count as processing.

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Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beef_aging

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If you're eating aged beef, you're going to know about it, because it's going to be $30/pound... and this is hardly the sort of processing people should be concerned about.

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I thought all beef was aged. I have heard the taste is unpalatable at best if it's not aged at all. I'm really curious.

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I looked into this a year ago. You're right: "dry-aged beef" is the fancy expensive stuff your yuppie butcher is selling you. "Wet-aged" is everything else -- they pretty much stick it in a plastic bag in a brine that breaks down tissue. If you don't do anything what you have is a curiously tough meat product.

Wet aging is cheaper because you raise the water content (and thus the weight) a little, whereas in dry aging you lose a bunch of moisture, and because it only takes a week or so.

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I suspect this is an example of oversimplification; it doesn't make sense to say "1/3 the calories" without including the quantity. The actual meaning is probably closer to "equivalent nutrition from an average American diet would require consuming 3x more calories", which sounds reasonable.

The article mentions that he can raise or lower his weight by simply changing how much of the stuff he drinks, so consuming more calories is simply a matter of drinking an extra glass at "dinner".

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His "What's In Soylet" [0] article provides a little insight.

Carbohydrates (200g) 200 * 4 kcal = 800 kcal

Protein (50g) 50 * 4 kcal = 200 kcal

Fat (65g) 65 * 9 kcal = 585 kcal

That's a total of 1585 calories.

[0]: http://robrhinehart.com/?p=424

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Unless he has almost no physical activity those calories are lower than recommended for weight loss. Also, when on a diet with calories as low as this your body's protein requirements increase, as they also do with higher physical activity. 50g is much lower than recommended.

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"That's a total of 1585 calories."

That fits with the reported claim of being 1/3 of an american diet. That also explains why he's the only person at walmart taller than he is wide.

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The average American eats a lot, but not 5000 calories!

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I'm sorry, but the dude doesn't exactly look like the portrait of health, either. I don't think the Scrawny Pale Guy Diet would sell well. Not that it would be remotely scientific to judge the diet based on a sample of 1. Which is essentially what the article is doing.

And let me also point out something: Why didn't the journalist think to ask what the diet costs him per week/day/month? I'm interested.

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He looks far healthier than the majority of Americans.

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He's only been doing it for approximate 6 weeks, so I wouldn't expect to see a significant change in his appearance just yet.

Nor is that a stated goal here: He simply wants to eat easier, not necessarily lose weight. The ideal experiment would be to completely replace his current food intake, not also reduce it. That would introduce an additional variable for which there is no control.

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Given the recipe on his blog, from just carbohydrates, protein, and fat (at 4 cal/gram, 4 cal/gram, 9 cal/gram respectively), he's consuming -at least- 1585 calories a day.

(It says 200 grams of carbs, 65 grams of fat, 50 grams of protein)

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Actually there is a lot of evidence to show that calorie restriction can lead to longer lifespans. I'm not a nutritionist, doctor or someone who is on a calorie restriction diet (though I'm sure I eat less than the average American).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie_restriction

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Caloric restriction used to be thought to increase lifespan, but more recent studies don't support this.[1][2]

[1] - http://earthsky.org/human-world/oops-caloric-restriction-may...

[2] - http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v489/n7415/full/nature1...

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Yeah it didn't make much sense to me either. More I was just saying that obviously people can go well below these "minimums" with limited ill effects.

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The article doesn't support "calori restriction" -> "longer lifespan"

<quote> No clinical trial has been performed involving humans. Two trials have been performed involving primates, but have not demonstrated increases in median lifespan. A study of rhesus monkeys begun in 1987 by the National Institute on Aging published results in August 2012 that found evidence of health benefits, but did not demonstrate increased median lifespan.[2] A study by the University of Wisconsin beginning in 1989 is still ongoing.[1][3][4] Research on maximum life span in that study is still ongoing. </quote>

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assertTrue() recently did a series on this. If you're interested in this kind of thing, it's worth a read.

Here's one of the posts (ignore the linkbait headline) - http://asserttrue.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-to-live-30-longer...

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But isn't it a plus to put yourself at a slight caloric deficit, so you can make up the difference with whatever real food you indulge in?

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I don't think you should take that quote literally, it's just figure of speech. He probably exaggerated both the average and his reduction in calorie intake.

Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_food_energ...

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Not saying this guy isn't a quack, but I have seen studies (or articles about studies, at least) by reputable universities on low calorie diets that suggest they increase your lifespan.

I can't recall the details, but if you're interested, start googling - it's a legitimate field of study with some surprising outcomes (to a layman like me, at least).

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My impression is that everyone is dialing back their excitement over those results. They were based on rats, they failed to hold up for primates and almost certainly will shorten lifespan for humans.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=calorie-res...

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Perhaps, but I believe the one I saw was on people, not rats.

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It's quite possible to live on a very low calorie diet[1] of 800 calories or less. In fact I've read about successful studies using only 300 calories per day.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Very_low_calorie_diet

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Indeed, if I was to make this I would have to up the fats. If you're a health 5'10 175. You may have some fat you can burn.

I'm 6'2 and uh... not nearly that heavy. So I think this drink might be a bit dangerous for me, as it is.

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I'm 6'2, 175, with a lean somewhat muscular build, more in the core and legs than in the arms.

(Wow, this is starting to sound like a personal ad, heh)

Anyway, if you're not "nearly that heavy" then I imagine you are quite thin? So yeah you don't need to be dropping weight! Beef it up!

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I think this is absolutely fascinating. I'm surprised that many think that this type of eating is some sort of dangerous experiment. People eat crap diets all the time. In my bachelor days, I knew several people who ate only fast food, microwave burritos, frozen pizza, etc. Literally, these people would almost never eat fruit and their vegetables were mostly just the beans in their Taco Bell.

Myself, I eat almost exclusively low carb. Salads, chicken, various low carb veggies, eggs, cheese, etc. I supplement with a lot of protein shakes to increase muscle mass from working out. I feel fantastic, I have very little body fat, and my mind stays much clearer than when I'm carbing.

I think the whole low-carb trend showed us that the dogma surrounding foods and diet has been a load of crap. There are lots of approaches to eating that can work, and many are far superior to the "food pyramid" nonsense that has practically ruined the health of America.

Experiments like this one in eating (er, not eating) may show us things about our metabolisms that we never realized.

I, for one, would love to get rid of most food preparation, save money, and maybe even be healthier. Kudos to Rob Rhinehart for looking for a new approach to the problem of sustenance.

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From the "recipe"[1]:

This mechanism can also metabolize protein and fat, but the brain can only use Glucose for energy. In fact, the brain uses 25% of the body's glucose, though it accounts for only 2% of its weight.

This would have me concerned if I were considering this. While 100% true, it neglects the entire ketone metabolic pathway[2], which the brain will use fine instead of glucose. If this something big like this has been missed (it's the foundation of many very-low carb diets, treatments for epilepsy and other brain disorders, etc), what subtle things have been missed?

1. http://robrhinehart.com/

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketone_bodies

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Ketone metabolism works, but it's treated as if it's some kind of fallback -- it's only used when no other source of energy has been available for a few days. While it does seem like it's helpful in some situations, the way it's treated leads me to suspect it's probably harmful in the long run for otherwise healthy individuals.

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I look at it just the opposite. Alcohol, in too much quantity, is essentially poisonous to your body, so it processes it out first. Glucose, in too much quantity, is also poisonous to your body, so it processes it out second. Ketones, on the other hand, are produced[1] by the body, so can stick around as needed.

1. Trust me, I know everything produced by the body is not good. It's just that, when comparing ketones to glucose and alcohol, I think ketones win hands down.

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Those low carb diets are also diets that reduce your ability to engage in strenuous activities, and cause muscle wasting. The idea is to be healthy, not to lose weight or treat epilepsy.

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and cause muscle wasting

Low carb diets do not cause muscle wasting - at least if one continues to exercise.

I.e: Very-low-carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1373635/

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>Low carb diets do not cause muscle wasting - at least if one continues to exercise.

Which you can't do because your muscles have no glycogen stores.

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My understanding is that when carbohydrates are in short supply, then gluconeogenesis kicks in and liver starts producing glucose from lactate, glycerol and amino acids.

I.e. some information can be found here: Low-Carbohydrate Diet Burns More Excess Liver Fat Than Low-Calorie Diet, Clinical Study Finds

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090120074631.ht...

I personally did not follow a low carb diet for more than 12 weeks, but I kept my regular 3 times per week workouts and maintained my strength while losing about 8kg bodyweight from ~83 to ~75 kg. My workouts were fairly short (40 to 50 min), but quite intensive.

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>Those low carb diets are also diets that reduce your ability to engage in strenuous activities

That's because low carb diets cause stored glycogen in muscles to be shed. That glycogen is used by the muscles for immediate energy during anaerobic exercise (e.g., weight lifting) when a sudden burst of energy is needed. It has less effect on aerobic exercise like running. You can still lift heavy things in a glycogen-depleted state; you will be come fatigued sooner, though.

>and cause muscle wasting

That's not really true. Extremely low carb diets were in use by body builders during the cutting phase of their routines for decades before they gained any sort of mainstream popularity, specifically because they they allow retention of muscle mass while shedding fat.

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>That's because low carb diets cause stored glycogen in muscles to be shed

Uh huh.

>That's not really true

Yes it is. Bodybuilders cut with low fat, not low carb. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/nutrition/how-many-carbohyd...

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Are you seriously citing Lyle McDonald as proof that low carb diets lead to muscle wasting?

>If glucose requirements are high but glucose availability is low, as in the initial days of fasting, the body will break down its own protein stores to produce glucose. This is probably the origin of the concept that low carbohydrate diets are muscle wasting. As discussed in the next chapter, an adequate protein intake during the first weeks of a ketogenic diet will prevent muscle loss by supplying the amino acids for gluconeogenesis that would otherwise come from body proteins.

http://membres.multimania.fr/robody3/Ebooks/The_Ketogenic_Di...

>Bodybuilders cut with low fat, not low carb

It's a surprisingly common topic of discussion for something that's supposedly not done.

https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Abodybuilding.com+keto...

CKD and TKD with specific carb ups to replenish glycogen stores are more common, but there are people that do it with purely ketogenic diets, as well.

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>Are you seriously citing Lyle McDonald as proof that low carb diets lead to muscle wasting?

I don't even know how to answer such a nonsensical question. Are you upset that a proponent of low carb diets actually knows what he is talking about and doesn't lie?

>It's a surprisingly common topic of discussion for something that's supposedly not done.

Your evidence of what bodybuilders did decades ago is that people have started talking about doing it in the last few years? Seriously?

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>Are you upset that a proponent of low carb diets actually knows what he is talking about and doesn't lie?

No, I'm saying that McDonald does not say what you're claiming he does. Low carb diets will not lead to muscle loss simply because they're low carb. McDonald even says as much in the article you linked.

>I’d also note that, as long as protein intake is sufficiently high (e.g. the diet is covering the increased breakdown of protein in the liver and elsewhere), the amount of carbohydrates which are truly required is still zero.

Low carb diets can lead to muscle wasting, but that's the case with any diet -- which is something else McDonald had said.

The only thing I'm taking issue with is the assertion that low carbohydrate intake necessarily causes muscle wasting.

>Your evidence of what bodybuilders did decades ago is that people have started talking about doing it in the last few years?

Again, if you're going to cite McDonald, this is something he covers in the first chapter of his book.

EDIT:

I hadn't even seen the handy chart he includes at the bottom of that article. He recommends 50-100g of carbs per day to avoid muscle loss with no additional intake required to maintain light exercise. Those values are firmly within the low carbohydrate intake range.

Seriously, it's rather uncouth to imply the person you're talking to is lying when you're completely misrepresenting the sources you've cited yourself.

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You might want to go back and read the thread. Low carb diets used to lose weight and manage epilepsy are no where even remotely close to 50-100g of carbs a day. Many set limits as low as 10g a day.

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50g is on the high end of maintaining ketosis for most people, and 100g is specifically for those who wish to avoid ketosis.

And he says, multiple times, in that article that carb number can be lower without ill effect with sufficient protein intake. He's just saying it's easier for most people to just eat 50g of carbs a day than jack up their protein intake.

e.g.,

>However, strictly speaking, any diet with less than 100 g/day of carbohydrate will cause ketosis to develop to some degree (more ketones will be generated as carbs are lowered).

[...]

>In any case, an intake of 15-50 grams per day of carbohydrate will still allow ketosis to develop and those ketogenic dieters attempting to ‘eat as few carbs as possible’ might want to consider that in the context of not only providing much needed food variety (at 50 g/day, even a small amount of fruit can often be fit in) but also in the context of the protein sparing issues I discussed above. Getting to the point, although the physiological requirement for dietary carbohydrates is zero, we might set a practical minimum (in terms of preventing excessive body protein loss) at 50 grams per day. I’d note again that, within the context of The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook approach, carbs are limited to essentially trace amounts; however protein (which makes up the majority of the diet) is set high enough to limit muscle loss.

[...]

>So, summing up mid-article, the absolute requirement for carbohydrates is zero grams per day. However, depending on protein intake, a practical minimum for carbs lies between 50 grams/day (if someone functions well in ketosis) to 100-120 grams per day (if they don’t function well in ketosis). Let me mention very specifically that I’m not suggesting those numbers are a recommended level, I’m simply using them to represent a practical minimum value.

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I (half-Swiss) like efficiency as much as the next HN reader, but at a certain point, efficiency must be weighed against enjoyability. I can't imagine not eating a delicious roasted vegetable strudel with a balsamic vinegar reduction, or potatoes with crème fraîche and chives in puff pastry. I delight in the delicacy required to prepare these items, and enjoy eating them even more.

Cooking is (obviously) an activity that is not enjoyed by everyone, but it's an enormous leap to call it "a waste of time". Imagine, if you will, that someone has invented a speedy way of deodorizing yourself without water and soap, as showering is as much a waste of time. Sounds great, until you realize that there is a reason for these rituals. It takes me away from code, writing, and working, and offers me a moment to clear my head. What does your morning shower take you away from? What does preparing your breakfast, a cup of coffee, or dinner take you away from?

Not everything needs to be optimized for efficiency. If you've ever been to France, you'll know that many people spend an hour or more at breakfast. It slows people down, and provides them a chance to think, contemplate, and relax. Sometimes, the very act of something being inefficient can be beneficial in its own right.

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I'm surprised at how many people are pointing out objective, scientific issues with the product instead of the subjective component. Even if this stuff worked perfectly as advertised (highly doubtful) I wouldn't buy it because I don't share the same viewpoint as its creator. To me and you, eating isn't an annoyance that needs to be optimized away, it's a one of the fundamental joys of being alive.

You mentioned strudels and potatoes, and one could extend your list ad nauseum with all of the magnificent culinary fare, all of the diverse textures and smells, the sublime human sensory experiences that can only be shared over a fine meal. To trade all of this for some homogeneous slop would be like adopting artificial insemination in order to avoid having to waste time with all of that inefficient sexual intercourse.

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Exactly - the human body is well designed to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods. Many (most?) of us enjoy eating - when I travel that's one of my main goals - to eat as much different and interesting food as possible.

Why do you think we have all sorts of teeth - canines, incisors, cuspids, etc - not to slurp down some disgusting goo!

As far as sexual intercourse, it may be that a certain percentage of the HN readers don't have to worry about that problem. (That's a joke BTW)

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> Not everything needs to be optimized for efficiency. If you've ever been to France, you'll know that many people spend an hour or more at breakfast. It slows people down, and provides them a chance to think, contemplate, and relax. Sometimes, the very act of something being inefficient can be beneficial in its own right.

I think the Buddha would agree.

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You can have a lot of fun with your post doing a literal or subjective search and replace of your "eating" with alternatives such as "hunting game" and "butchering". Or "vegetable gardening".

Also the relative success of fast food restaurants vs gourmet grocery stores does tend to point out the majority has already decided in favor...

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More vegetarian recipe ideas, please... those sound great!

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> because "soylent" is the name of a wafer made out of human flesh and fed

Bit of nerd pedantry: this is incorrect. "Soylent" is the name of a type of processed food. There are different kinds made from various things. "soylent green" is a new variety introduced in this category that is supposedly made from kelp (or something like that) but is famously made from something else entirely.

It's actually a pretty apt name.

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It may be apt, but it's a stupid name from a marketing perspective because of the associations it brings to mind. I noticed how eager he was to correct the record about the term "soylent", demonstrating a common blind spot among technical people. He should be focused on persuasion but is wasting attentional resources on pedantry and ego stroking.

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Ah, but he's not selling it, or even publishing a list of the nutrients on his blog.

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> It may be apt, but it's a stupid name from a marketing perspective

And? Should everything we do be filtered though the lens of marketing?

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This is the kind of idea that will probably go nowhere, but could change the world.

My first reaction, being an ardent lover of many ethnic cuisines, was "of course I'd never use something like that" but then I got to this line:

Eating to me is a leisure activity, like going to the movies, but I don't want to go to the movies three times a day.

Suddenly, I'm imagining "A DVR for eating." You have a steady intake of Soylent (the name absolutely must change), and when you have time to prepare a nice meal or go out to a restaurant, you adjust your intake ahead of time so your hunger level is appropriate. Crazy, but now I have another ingredient for my sci-fi universe.

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This stuff, which I'm going to call meal replacement powder [1], already changed the world for two groups of people I know of. First ones are famine victims, who need a special diet to recover, a diet which was time and work intensive for relief workers to prepare until meal replacement formula became widely adopted. Might sound crazy but this plus rehydration salts save lots of unlucky people every year.

Second group are bodybuilders, weightlifters and some elite athletes who want to easily ingest a specific number of calories with a carefully controlled macro-nutrient ratio several times during the day. Doing this through traditional meals is not compatible with a traditional full time job in any shape or form. With meal replacement protein powder it's pretty easy: just add water and maybe some milk to your powder which you already have in your shaker and shake.

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=meal+replacement+protein+pow...

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I prefer the name Bachelor Chow myself, though I'd try Soylent as well. I wouldn't want to eat it for every meal but every once in a while I'm in such a hurry that it would be practical to do this for a period.

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who instantly thought of Futurama. This does seem like a food product for people who are too lazy to make even a simple meal and clean afterwards.

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too lazy, or too busy? I could be doing a bunch of other non-lazy things I much prefer doing instead of cooking, such as coding, exercising, music, reading, etc.

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It's not a matter of being lazy. Cooking and eating consumes hours in my day. At least four hours a day, and typically six hrs a day if I get fancy with cooking.

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Wow, you need to optimise! I spent less than an hour today cooking and eating a healthy breakfast in the morning, and a healthy dinner (with leftovers) this evening. I bought prepared food for lunch, but it wouldn't have taken me three hours to cook and eat something else...

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My thoughts exactly.

I'm hoping for it to spread to impoverished countries or slums. If the price of production is indeed low, this could be a great chance for them.

Then let's hope it doesn't get associated too much with homeless people's food, and the rest of the world might adopt it as well. Once a large-scale production industry exists, there might not be such a high threshold for adoption. People are in a hurry to eat so often, if they could just pass by a place to grab some Soylent, they'd certainly take the opportunity.

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Yeah some sci-fi books/films have incorporated that idea. For example the scene in the Matrix where they eat goop that contains "everything the body needs".

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"It doesn't have everything the body needs." - Mouse

I'd be interested in the long term effects on cognition and mood. I already supplement my eating with mixes of protein powder and half n' half, this could be an interesting addition.

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Then you'd probably be interested in this: http://www.angryman.ca/monkey.html

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Fascinating. The discussion as well. Surprised at how few comments there were about the culture of eating.

Part of the reason Soylent makes sense is that we are already eating 'food-like substances' (to paraphrase Michael Pollen) much of the time. He is just doing it in a controlled instrumental way.

When I go to the datacenter (5 miles from the Lincoln tunnel in the godforsaken New Jersey Meadowlands). I generally pack the same food. kefir, beef jerky and an almond cranberry mix. Purely functional food so I can stay there and concentrate. Is it balanced and nutritional? probably not really.

I am American and the soylent thing feels very American to me. Which is not a bad thing. I love food and good eating but when I compare my relationship with food and eating with my wife's it is totally different. I was raised on frozen stringbeans with a sauce made of canned mushroom soup next to pot roast cooked to medium well...

My wife is Korean and food is totally different - more like what I would associate with someone from Italy or the south of France, etc. Ingredients and process. Her kimchi or the way she cooks rice (6 kinds of grains) - the innumerable side dishes all complementing one another, table grilled meat. Friends, wine. Strong coffee afterwards.

I could not imagine life without that - even though much of the preparation is time consuming. When she roasts seaweed over an open fire it takes hours. My boys seem to eat it in minutes...

Homemade dumplings involves the whole family and flour all over the place and a few hours of work to make about a gross of dumplings...

All of that is not something I would like to replace.

However - how often do you have a meal like that? 10 - 20 times a year.

What happens the rest of the time? There is an element of drudgery to daily eating. I use a hand grinder and a moka stovetop pot for my coffee. A pain in the ass - but I am addicted to the result.

Maybe a routine where you ate soylent for the instrumental times and had festive meals when desired (or when you really craved something).

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I read a textbook on physiological chemistry and took to the internet to see if I could find every known essential nutrient.

The danger is that there are far more essential nutrients that we don't know about, than nutrients that we do. And the only way to get these nutrients is to eat a well balanced diet.

That being said, this would be amazing if it works and I applaud him for trying.

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Yes, food is complex and we can't pretend to understand how it it used by our bodies. A whole food diet is still surely healther in ways we can't quantify. And if it was it would be very hard to prove affirmatively.

That said, almost no one eats a whole food diet these days. I imagine this would be a step up over 70% of the diets in modern America.

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This was exactly my thought, and I don't know how you mitigate the risk effectively. The problem with missing nutrients is the effects are often subtle, may not show up for a long time, and may be catastrophic.

Of course, the rebuttal is "eat food occasionally", but that may just postpone the outcome, making it even harder to know if it is safe.

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yeah but if we switch to that we will probably start noticing the holes quicker

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One of the comments on his blog remarks about him being a one man experiment to discover new vitamins. He acknowledges that this is likely. :-P

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Call me superstitious, but I believe there are unknown unknowns in our understanding of nutrition. The human body evolved eating various fibrous things. I'm not going to run that kind of experiment on myself.

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Many, many people already do far, far worse to themselves with a steady diet of fast food and other trash.

I don't think we're as delicate as you're worrying. Heck, for those people, this is probably an easy step up.

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While I think his idea is promising, I'm inclined to agree. Simply something a subtle as pooping less for a year might wreak havoc on the bacteria in the colon. As far as I know, the precedents for powder-based nutrition are all supplements, and did not displace a regular diet entirely for a significant period of time.

I think it's something that should be tested in a scientifically rigorous way. Trying to hack your body like this is bold but if it fails it will fail in a very public way that might tarnish the idea for a long time.

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Overhyped synthetic-milk or what. Another misguided 'engineer' thinking he can 'hack' a system, which modern science is still figuring out, and that too without any controls or rigorous monitoring...

I'll check back in 5 years and see how healthy he is, assuming he sticks solely to Soylent without problems till then.

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He's a child. He's allowed to be dumb.

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Setting aside the question of whether the subject is actually feeding his body everything he needs (a question that he appears to readily acknowledge as "good skepticism"), I have to wonder about the consistency of statements like these:

    we'll have to give up many traditional foodstuffs like fresh fruits
    and veggies, which are incompatible with food processing and scale.

    Soylent can largely be produced from the products of local agriculture
If local agriculture suffices to produce Soylent, why not just eat food? What concerns me is that it's somewhat unclear what's actually involved in producing the constituent ingredients, whether there are limitations on how much of them you can easily produce, and what the byproducts of the production process are.

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The "fresh" part comes into play here. We can be more efficient if we can immediately process the agriculture to render the ingredients of Soylent, then store those ingredients for a longer time or in more forgiving conditions.

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Freeze-drying does this, and the end result better resembles the original food.

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I think the second point's moot, anyway, considering the fact that the the leader photo implies that as it is the only way you're going to whip some up is with non-ubiquitous-and-therefore-processed ingredients.

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When consuming all vitamins and minerals together, some cancel each other out.

I tried Googling some articles to back up what I'm saying. Unfortunately, there is nothing presented in a pretty pre-packaged form. So go with this. e.g.: CTRL + F "vitamin C supplements can destroy dietary vitamin B12" and "Potassium" here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/926.html

He may not be absorbing all the nutrients. Talking about absorption, through my own experience, I believe a body absorbs naturally occurring things like protein, carbs, and fat better than when it is isolated. Again, I couldn't find some quick hard scientific evidence, but found very general malabsorption of nutrients info here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000299.htm

Generally, it is thought that loose stools means you are not absorbing nutrients properly. So, joking aside, I am interested to know what type of stools this man has.

I'm sure we can gain some interesting insights, albeit from one single person, if he tracks his experience/diet properly.

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While I too have heard that nutrients absorb better when isolated, it makes me wonder if his body is going to adapt to the shakes and start absorbing the nutrients it needs first until saturated. While the reaction you mentioned above may happen, maybe the adaptation will absorb the specific nutrients and neutralize the already saturated nutrients.

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I believe you are right! You've probably read about the Bee Venom in a "nano-particle" that kills HIV right?

Let's assume that the structure of Apples, Bananas etc. serves a specific purpose. (Like everything else in Nature) Effectively to transport nutrients within nano-structures more effectively to their destination, than isolated consumption.

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"I believe a body absorbs naturally occurring things like protein, carbs, and fat better than when it is isolated"

I will ask my farmer great-uncle to ask his cow owning friends about this, and one of my wedding guests is/was a veterinarian and he'll likely have a lot to say. I will say based on evidence that humans Might be the only animal who require nutrition isolation, because I am unaware of any practice like this with livestock or pet nutrition. Now I do have personal experience that some farmers "mix their own" a cup of this to a sack of that to a spoon of this and shake it up, but others just use premix, and as far as I've personally seen even the home-mixer livestock farmers might custom mix but they then feed the same stuff every day. I'm intentionally excluding mammals drinking milk, I've read this guys blog and I think we can safely assume he's a young human but well past weaning.

I don't know anyone raising pets with nutritional segregation, and I've never heard of them accused of animal cruelty and never seen malnourished housecats because they've eaten the same food for many years.

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I am a 27 year old software engineer and am glad to see a peer researching alternate nutrition (and it truly is just that) that doesn't boil down to [Agent X] is EVIL or [Agent Y] is MIRACULOUS.

I have a negative appetite in the morning and used to forego breakfast. Last year I opted for a protein and fruit shake as soon as possible after waking and began a low-carb low-sugar diet. I highly recommend it for a lifestyle that unavoidably includes sitting far too long in front of a computer.

His idea is taking that to an extreme - but I'm certainly interested in trying that extreme.

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I'd be really curious to learn how his teeth and gums are doing. If you can find a way to eat without ever having food touch your teeth or gums, I'd imagine you'd have incredible oral health. Thoughts?

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Alternatively, it might weaken your teeth, in a similar way as being in space weakens your bones, while running helps build bone mass.

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You could still chew gum to make sure your teeth and jaw get exercised. In fact you probably should?

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This was my first thought. If you don't have to chew your food, your jaw muscles will atrophy (and I believe teeth and gums may also suffer from lack of use).

If you have to chew gum to make up for this, you're starting to lose the simplicity which was one of the idea's main selling points. A bit like switching from cycling to work to driving to work to save 10 minutes, then having to spend an hour in the gym to make up for the lack of exercise.

I can't help thinking there will turn out to be many more subtle effects to compensate for. Yes, I am a sceptic.

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Haha, I love this reply. It's how ingenious people (engineers) think, patching and ducktape will solve all your problems! :-D

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Going from short-chain carbs to polysaccharides alone should help a lot.

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Use em or lose em.

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What no fibers and structure?

Problems with the digestion system, teeth and gums will occur that way. So, even if it was healthy, it would lack fibers and structure that cleanup our digestion system and make our jaw, teeth and gums stronger.

Chewing your food thoroughly also exercises your teeth and stimulates the vitality of the socket and gums which hold the teeth in the jaw. We know that activity that causes muscles to stimulate the bone protects against bone loss and one loss and decalcification is one of the many ways which teeth become lose in their sockets and contribute to plaque and bacteria getting under the gum line, which is a primary reason for tooth loss.

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there is chewing-gum :)

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I don't get it.

There are plenty of liquid feeds already in existence. These contain fibre and all the other nutrients you need to survive, and they come in a variety of flavours.

And you can have a naso-gastric tube fitted, to eat while you're doing just about anything else.

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"So what’s in Soylent, exactly? Everything the body needs – that we know of, anyway..."

...and that's when it falls apart.

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I don't think that's where is "falls apart" at all!

To quote Edison, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

He's out there trying something, seeing what works. If it turns out that there is some essential nutrient missing? Well? We found something out. And that's pretty cool.

Personally, I think it'd be worth setting up a study around this kind of thing. If we could cheaply produce a human chow of sorts, a lot of good could come of it.

Personally, I'd be down with it. I'm a bit of a weekend warrior foodie, I love making big meals on the weekends, or every once and awhile during the week. However, for the most part, day to day eating is just kind of rote. It takes too much time to make something decent, and so I usually end up eating a sandwhich, or maybe fast food, or perhaps some microwavable thing. If I could supplement 80% of my eating with a nutrient rich drink, I'd be pretty happy to do so. Finite control over calories would be a big plus, as well.

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Exactly. I was thinking the same.

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This diet already exists. It is called by many names: elemental diet, space diet, astronaut diet.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1410941/pdf/gut0...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elemental_diet

Some hospitals may serve this to very ill patients. It has been the subject of much study. It is customized based on the needs of an individual. Most can't stand the taste. It generally works well in the short term, although I am not aware of any long term studies that have been done.

I too am interested in this. Have they determined that animals live longer or shorter lives on this diet? It could be rather easy to determine this: considering the relatively short life span of earthworms or fruit flies.

Anyone who is interested in this topic: email me at: nickelnerve@gmail.com

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I am surprised how no one here references space research. Tons of money and talent spent on astronaut diets and space diet optimization in general. However, regarding the evolution of space diets, soylent type foods from tubes are a thing of a past! Today we send best organic products for people in orbit to eat and enjoy.

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His approach assumes (among other things) that we know absolutely EVERYTHING there is to know about nutrition.

I'm fairly confident that that's not a good assumption. And that a long-term diet of his soylent will lead to some nasty deficiency. (Of course, if he's willing to be the research guinea pig for the rest of us, more power to him.)

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I'm skeptical, too.

Without any variety in your food intake, it's an all-or-nothing approach which seems pretty risky. You'd need to keep a close watch on your vitals to ensure you're not missing out on specific nutrients. Something like this would need to be tailored to each person's needs depending on their lifestyle, which can also change depending on various factors like climate, age and so on.

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"I'm fairly confident that that's not a good assumption."

Consider the diet of livestock and pets. Not unusual for multiple generations to eat the same product.

If livestock and pets were generally scrawny and sickly you would have a point, but they generally seem to live much longer and healthier than in the wild, usually by a pretty large multiple. I've often wondered if I'd be willing to drink "ensure" for 240 years, much as serving meow mix to a cat seems to result in a extremely long feline lifetime. It might be boring... but 240 years might make it worthwhile.

Binary thinking always strikes HN pretty hard. This is a tar baby or minefield for startup thinkers. It doesn't have to beat the best possible diet definable, for all people in the entire world... it merely needs to be better than J6Packs average diet. And that's a very low metric to achieve. Sad to say that Meow Mix probably would be better than the average american diet... And this is before we go 3rd world and compare to the average Somalian. I think its not very controversial that the average inner city kid would probably be better off with soylent than a big mac or a school lunch.

That brings up the interesting point that we live in a nearly completely centrally controlled economy WRT food production as opposed to an actual free market and lots of people make a lot of money selling vastly inferior product, and they're not going to be too happy about this.

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Livestock and pets aren't as healthy as you think they are. Their lives are better because they are protected from various factors like bad weather, lack of water or food, but they still need a vet or medicine (by the way, chicken used to have antibiotics in their diet). I doubt that they're in a better shape than a wild animal living in a good area.

As an example I'll quote from an article [1] about the eggs from free-range hens with access to pasture:

The "Mother Earth News" and SARE studies found that free-range eggs contained 67 percent and 40 percent more vitamin A, respectively, than conventional eggs (see References 2, pages 1 and 3).

Free-range eggs contain more vitamin E than their conventional counterparts. The "Mother Earth News" survey found triple the vitamin E in the eggs they tested, and Pennsylvania State University research found double the vitamin E in the eggs of grass-fed hens (see References 2, pages 1 and 7).

Though I agree that beating or at least improving J6Packs' average diet wouldn't be that hard.

[1] http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/health-benefits-fr...

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This is basically what my infant does.

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Baby formula is too expensive, you would need to eat a half week worth every day!

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This reminds me of the guy that ate monkey chow

http://www.angryman.ca/monkey.html

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How is this any different from other methods of meal replacement? Maybe his is formulated better, but this is pretty much what Slim-Fast/Ensure is.

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"Young man discovers meal replacement powders and thinks he never has to eat again." - The Onion

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It intrigues me that he said he would poop a lot less.

Most of the mass in poop is actually dead bacteria living off of the food that you can't process (and whose waste we reabsorb at times). We know from studies that the intestinal flora varies quickly depending on what you eat. I also know that my mood swings depending on what I eat.

So his account of mood change (he said he felt very energetic) is very plausible.

It looks to me that he reduced the numbers of intestinal bacteria by a dramatic amount with his diet. I wonder what potential side effects (good or bad) this could have.

Scientist studying the intestine here? Something to look into I guess. :)

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This kind of thing can't make it to market as an actual product fast enough. As a lazy bachelor I constantly feel thwarted by the amount of effort required to eat a health balanced diet without it taking up several hours a day.

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If this guy is phony, there's no harm in reading a couple articles and laughing at it.

The problem starts if he is right. We could be reading about the food of the future. Normal food will be a luxury reserved for a few.

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> We could be reading about the food of the future. Normal food will be a luxury reserved for a few.

I doubt it. We have somewhat accurate idea of what's good for the body, and what's not good for the body. That "what's not" is widely in circulation. People haven't dropped their french fries for the salads; for sure they aren't going to ditch them for a monotonous diet of shakes.

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Not innovative at all... Plenty of product like that already, e.g. http://nestlehealthscience.us/products/Pages/RESOURCE%C2%AE-... usually consumed in a medical setting.

No one will take that for long unless unable to do otherwise thought. Not that the taste is unbearable, but eating is more that nutrition, it's also fulfilling desire... Not even speaking of the social aspect...

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A link to his blog: http://robrhinehart.com/

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He is "dead wrong" about fruits and vegetables. The phytonutrients in fresh food are the building blocks of our cellular infrastructure and immune systems. There are at least 30 detailed medical studies about how taking fruit and vegetable concentrate increases all sorts of markers of health, from lower stress hormones, to increased cell performance, to reduced damage to DNA, to less days of missed work (2 different studies: one on law students, one on special forces soldiers). There isn't anything else that's ever been clinically proven to reduce damage to DNA except for fruits and vegetables (specifically JuicePlus concentrate) but the finding should generalize to fruits and vegetables. Source: http://corsonwellness.com (See 30+ medical studies, videos, etc) The most researched food supplement is just simple fruit and vegetables juiced down and concentrated. This guy might be on to something with macronutrients, but it's not a recipe for good health, which requires micro-nutrients. All 10,000 different plant nutrients found in an Apple, not just one like Vitamin C.

Maybe if you add the two together, that would be a balanced diet.

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Generally speaking, one can always be correct in saying "I never have to eat again in my life."

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He is lately experimenting with nootropics? Choline, which is the de facto number number one nootropic, is an essential nutritient, and essential for your brain to function. this could explain his train of thoughts :) Also he mentions soylent from a book made from lentins and soy which contain lectins. soy contains also pythoestrogen, not good for your prostate. i'm pretty sure his omega6 amount is also too high, and there is some oxidation as he uses olive oil. the ratio of the nutrients is wrong as its based on the FDA, and is different for different ethnic groups. its very naive of him to think that his soylent is toxic free, as his ingredients are highly processed nutritients, adding new toxins to this mix. No details about monitoring his blood, so i supose he only checked the bare minimum, also not relevant after such a short time. also i think some nutritient are not ment to be consumed together because they bind to each other and create new chemical compounds, which are probably toxic. I think he should read a few more books.

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Oh yes i almost forgot, DEPENDENCY! Imagine a world with no seeds (google terminator seeds), and genetically modified and patented animals which don't breed. At best, everybody should cultivate and farm his own food. If you don't have the time to prepare a meal, you don't have time to live. I hope there is strong demand in real and natural food as long as i live.

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From what I've read, it is better to get calcium from milk, vegetables like Spinach, Kale, Okra, Collards, or Soy or White beans, or some fish rather CaCO3. The Mayo clinic suggests taking CaCO3 with food, because stomach acid helps with the absorption: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/calcium-supplements/AN01428 Otherwise, Calcium Citrate may be a better choice.

The thing that worries me most about this diet is that, while in some ways it may be of great benefit in energy, etc., some of the side effects may not be seen for months, years, or perhaps a few decades.

It is an interesting experiment, but I think it would be a good idea if it were controlled and monitored by a doctor.

Also he said, "This is one case and it's only been a month". I ate almonds, peanuts, cheese, meat, and veggies for a few months, lost 15 lbs. But, since I've gained it all back and then some. One month at a new diet something hardly makes one an expert.

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Everyone in this thread is looking at this the wrong way. I'm surprised HN is reacting in such a negative way.

If his diet is unbalanced, it's an issue with the official daily requirements being wrong.

If he's planing on marketing his innovative product, it's a failure of marketing.

Either way he's not very liable of failure.

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Well he will soon find out that these things interact and you can't take them all together. Example: Calcium against iron http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/1600930/ It will take him 2.5 months. At least that's how much it took me to find out.

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I'm kind of the opposite of this guy, in that I'm probably a "foodie", I'm a member of slow food, etc. But I have thought about something like this. The thing is that I love food and eating, but I don't get a lot of enjoyment from meals that I eat alone at home, which are usually breakfast and lunch. I would love to just not think about them at all and that would also free up additional money for better meals and drinks with friends and dates.

I don't think the liquid approach he is going for a good one though from a mechanical anatomical view. Bulk provides important functions, especially in the colon. Not having it in the diet could mean if he did end up with a girlfriend, that first date could be spent in the bathroom.

I think my approach would be more along the lines of a porridge with some supplements added in.

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If this is real, I hope he keeps a very detailed log of his experiences. Since I doubt very much that we know everything about human nutrition, this could be a valuable data source for finding more gaps in our knowledge.

It would also be interesting to see the effect of this on gut microbes, which are seem to be increasing in importance in the formula of overall health [1,2]. I wish him the best of luck, but it's not something I'll be doing.

[1] http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ismej...

[2] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815174902.ht...

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The merit of this experiment depends highly on whether he's actually captured all his nutritive and caloric needs within his recipe. There are a lot of vitamins and minerals that we need, but that aren't found in that many things. We get them through diversity of diet. Vitamin B12 is a good example--it's found in meat and some types of seaweed and not much else, so vegetarians and vegans are usually deficient in it without supplementation.

Whenever you restrict your diet consistently over time like that, you run the risk of deficiency. So if you take it to the extreme of eating the exact same thing for every meal, you had better make sure that that one meal really does contain everything your body needs, or else you are going to develop a deficiency very quickly.

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This seems like an appropriate place to quote Knuth.

"Premature optimization is the root of all evil."

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The field of food preparation has been around for tens if not hundreds of millennia. We've been trying to optimize it for a long time.

See also: Invention of Fire.

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This optimization is premature in that he's trying to optimize for time and effort when we haven't yet nailed — in terms of fully understanding — the whole "optimal nutrition" thing.

Optimizing for performance before you have a fully working implementation is exactly what Knuth was decrying.

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This optimization is premature in that he's trying to optimize for time and effort when we haven't yet nailed — in terms of fully understanding — the whole "optimal nutrition" thing.

Yet every single chef in every single restaurant and every single cook in every single home also optimizes for performance, although not quite as exclusively as Soylent Dude. I think you haven't articulated your actual complaint here.

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> Yet every single chef in every single restaurant and every single cook in every single home also optimizes for performance,

No they don't - they often optimise for taste. Some people accidentally get adequate nutrition because they eat so much food, and some of that food is fortified with micronutrients.

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optimise for taste

...and texture, and price, and familiarity, and ethical sourcing, and religious approval, and cetera, and cetera. Maybe you don't care about halal or free-range, but some people do.

Like I said, Soylent Dude is more exclusive in his optimization, but I still contradict the proposition that, "This optimization is premature..." How could it be premature when every human food preparer has been doing it since the invention of fire?

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This optimisation is about removing everything except nutrients from food.

Thus he removes taste, texture, price, familiarity, ethical sourcing, halal-ness or kosher-ness, everything except the nutrient.

We know it's a premature optimisation because we already have liquid feeds, and use is restricted to a few niche communities. (Cancer patients; anorexics being force fed; dieters; body builders.) There's nothing stopping you walking into a shop and buying high quality liquid feed today. Very few people do it because it's a lousy way of getting nutrients. People like eating food.

Perhaps I just misunderstand what you mean about optimisation?

The rest of this post is just me ranting, and isn't directed at you, but HN threads about food drive me mental and I need to get this out and my "save to draft" plugin broke (and I haven't fixed it yet) so here it is.

I just have no idea why anyone thinks this guy is doing anything new or exciting.

Some people seem to think that creating a liquid food is neat. It's kind of neat, but he's clearly an idiot and his product is a ham-fisted attempt to recreate something that already exists.

Some people seem to think that living on liquid, and removing the need to eat, is neat. Well, I have a lot more sympathy for that view point because it's about their opinions and feelings and etc. If that's what they want then good on 'em. I'd gently suggest that if they want to try it they're probably better off buying something created in clean labs with known properties, rather than some guy's weird glop.

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Because his optimization is at the expense of all other considerations. He even admits to being pleasantly surprised that his glop tastes good. That means he'd have consumed it even if it didn't — taste is secondary to convenience.

He's taking what we currently believe to be true about the human body's nutritional requirements, dumping that into a blender all chemistry-set-style (it even has oligosaccharides!), and calling it good, because he thinks eating like a human takes too much time and effort.

Maybe it will work out for him. I'm certainly interested to see what happens. But if what happens turns out to be some previously unknown (because everyone else has been busy eating at least some actual food) analogue of scurvy or something, I'm not going to be the least bit surprised. I'll probably even have nontrivial schadenfreude.

Simply, we do not know enough about nutrition at this point to be making this kind of optimization. It's therefore premature.

(Edited)

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Hypothesis: "soylent" contains everything your body needs.

If consumption of "soylent" reveals some nutritional deficiency, then you should be surprised, because that means our hypothesis is incorrect! Your expectation should confirm the hypothesis, not negate it.

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But if [he gets some] analogue of scurvy or something, I... will probably even have nontrivial schadenfreude.

That is the most conservative thing I've heard in at least a year, and I live in the Midwest. With a mindset so diametrically opposed to that of the hacker, how can you stomach HN?

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Wow, thanks for the judgement, and for quoting selectively to imply actual malice on my part.

So I'm "conservative" and have "a mindset diametrically opposed to that of a hacker" because I think someone is more likely than not to get shit wrong in trying to replace the human diet, evolved over aeons, with something he makes in his blender?

I'm all for challenging convention, disruption, experimentation, growth, and such. More than a little revolution, more than merely now and then, is more than just a good thing, in my book. Frankly, I think there are more human institutions that are moribund at best — and more likely actively harmful to the human condition — and desperately in need of replacement than not.

IMO, diet — or at least a healthy diet, where one eats actual food — is not among those things. It seems pretty clear to me that eating plants, and to a lesser extent, things that eat plants, or things that eat things that eat plants... is what our bodies have evolved to do, and correlates very strongly with health and longevity. It's equally clear that eating processed things correlates incredibly highly with all kinds of malady and morbidity.

Now, along comes someone who thinks he knows better than that. I wish him luck. I really, honestly do. I just don't have high hopes for his experiment. And, yes, while I probably will have some schadenfreudey, "Well, you probably should have seen that coming" if he gets it wrong badly enough to suffer some harm, I most certainly don't actually wish that upon him.

We see on practically a weekly basis some new and exciting way in which our understanding of human nutrition has been wrong all along. "Soylent Dude" is basing his recipe on that understanding, which has been demonstrated over and over and over again to be incomplete, misguided, based on faulty information — and even deliberate misinformation — and just plain wrong.

Given all that, please tell me how he's not likely to be missing something, getting something wrong, and potentially doing serious harm to himself, because I just don't see it.

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This idea would probably be better when given to children who are just getting over formula or breastmilk, albeit with proper modifications are they grow. Babies do just fine on a liquid diet with breastmilk essentially just containing the necessary nutrients. Assuming they kept this liquid-nutrition diet (adjustingly accordingly), it sounds more viable.

However, a grown man whose body is used to solid foods probably won't be able to adapt so easily, similar to what happens to long-time vegetarians who go back to eating meat again.

I'm a little confused as to why people are so quick to turn this down. Even if nutrition interaction is complex, there's probably still a solution to make this work (different drinks at different times, etc).

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Speaking of breastmilk -- I don't know about this guy's particular formula, but I can chip in that my daughter was solely breastfed for 9 months or so, and it was pretty clearly extremely efficiently processed.

I wasn't eager for her to start eating solid foods, actually, because I did most of the diaper changes, and while she was still on a breastmilk-only diet (and once her digestive system was developed enough, after 6 months or so), she wasn't constipated, but would simply only poop once or twice a week (and it wasn't even unpleasant-smelling).

I haven't researched the subject, but anecdotally other parents who nursed their children for more than a few months have similar accounts.

My concerns about a similar diet for adults, though, is that it's a serious tangent from the eating habits humans have evolved with.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that people switching to a liquid-only diet like this saw a jump in colon cancer, or something like that.

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Previous discussion on the creator's blog: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5215223

Generally accepted ad a hoax or ruse of some kind.

My opinion: Food is good. I don't want to replace food.

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I don't think it's a hoax - he's sending me a batch and I can't wait to try it. I enjoy food occasionally, but most of the time it's just a giant pain in the ass.

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If I had to hazard a guess at why the gut reaction is to call it a joke, it would be that (1) meal replacement shakes have been around for at least two decades and (2) it's not a weight loss suggestion (although he mentions it may be useful for that).

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I was wondering why while there is "dog food" there's no "people food". Only reason I came up with that if they got anything wrong and person who would eat only "people food" had anything wrong with his health he would sue the company for millions.

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I don't understand why everyone on this thread is making it seem like this impossible. I feed my dog the same food and portion every single day. He is lean, muscular, and full of energy all day. We're both mammals, how different could it be?

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Why are people are having such a visceral reaction to this idea? Finding alternatives to solid, "fresh" food is an issue we will have address in the near future, if not right now. With forecasts about population growth rapidly rising (We said it would reach 10 billion by 2100. It only took 13 years to jump from 6-7 billion.)

This could be implemented not only for hunger in impoverished nations, but for world overpopulation and depletion of resources including livestock and agriculture.

People are commenting this guy is crazy. But in the next few decades I'd rather there was 100 crazy guys trying this for every McDonald's junkie.

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You're right, but sadly this innovation, if it works, has the potential to make the problem worse. Human population, like any population of any organism, will grow logistically approaching some limiting factor. If we don't like a world in which 10B people are limited by agricultural capacity, we'd like a world in which 100B people are limited by something else even less.

The solution is to find cultural limits lower than our agricultural limits. It's possible that we've already done this, and we won't know it until all of Africa undergoes the demographic transition. (Please note: by cultural limits I mean things like changing family norms rather than forced sterilization, resource-motivated warfare, and other such monstrous practices.)

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Where have I heard this before? Oh that is right! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Robert_Malthus

Anyway, world hunger right now is not a problem of there not being enough food, it is a problem of food distribution. There is enough arable land in the Democratic Republic of Congo to feed all of Africa, but wars, greed, and other things stop it from happening.

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The solving world hunger aspect of this post is laughable. This highly processed shake can be made from local agriculture. Great! Why not just eat the local agriculture itself? You wouldn't have to build the infrastructure to process real food down into a powder. You also benefit from all the nutrients we haven't discovered yet. We're just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we know about nutrition. So far we know a lot about nutrients in isolation, not as whole foods. Maybe that's why this seems like a good idea to this guy. I'm glad he's doing at least two real meals a week. That should keep him alive.

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A few months ago, I had the realization that on most days I only ate because I HAD TO. I find it extremely frustrating having to spend lots of time thinking about what to eat e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y.

On average, I might like only 20-40% of what I eat. Mainly because good/tasty food is expensive, hard to find, and/or prone to change in taste due to various elements. I really believe if there was balanced nutritious drink out there that gives me what my body needs, tastes ok, and costs relatively cheap, I would be one happy customer.

I'm keeping my eye on news like these from now on.

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I don't know how effective his particular recipe is, but this is a pretty important concept (and not a new one). He nails it when he says that eating is a social activity like going to the movies, but you might not want to do it 3 times a day. People are resisting it now because it doesn't sound "natural" but it will definitely be the new normal.

If we do end up developing a meal substitute it could also provide a solution to world hunger. I remember reading about a gel that is distributed to Africa in cans which was helping the food problem there (can't find it via Google now).

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I think this will work just fine temporarily, and should be looked into for widespread distribution during emergency situations like famines. But doctors first recommended the amazing powdered baby formula in the 50's and 60's and then switched their recommendations back to mothers' milk for most of the population in the 90s. Of course we should continue to experiment and understand nutrition, and powders, potions, and pills can supplement a diet, but I don't think it's anywhere near or ever will be a complete substitute for real food. Real food being healthy, whole foods.

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>> " I read a textbook on physiological chemistry"

>> "I'd been reading a lot of books on biology"

Well award this man a degree already. Am I the only one who doesn't trust these kinds of qualifications? A software engineer who is a hobbyist bio-chemist is telling me about a system that "costs 150 a month, cures skin diseases in 9 days, will get you in the best shape of your life, and tastes great." (per his blog)

Really? I mean... really, really? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And in this case, it's probably very dangerous as well.

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Maybe not as dangerous as a stead diet of McD's. See it in persepective. He's at least trying, not just stuffing his mouthhole with salt-sugar-fat crap.

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A steady diet of McDonald's (or any equivalent fast food) isn't nearly as inherently dangerous as things like "Super Size Me" would have you believe. Morgan Spurlock was eating 5000 calories of McDonald's a day, with most of it coming from the milkshakes, not the solid food. If you force-feed yourself 5000 calories of anything every day for a month, you're going to have health problems.

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Right. Human physiology is incredibly resilient. Populations around the world have subsisted on the most amazing limited diets with fair success.

Fast food won't kill you. At least not right away. This stuff won't kill you. At least not right away. The alarmists are as wrong as the op.

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The "Fat Head" movie is good response to the "Super Size Me". It proves that eating at McDonald's isn't as bad as one might think and it also presents a lot of other interesting stuff.

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Nobody is claiming steady McD's is healthy. There are actually people on the OP link and this thread who are posting that they want to try his system. That's what is scary.

This paragraph from his blog:

"I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker and my dandruff gone. My resting heart rate is lower, I haven't felt the least bit sickly, rare for me this time of year. I've had a common skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris since birth. That was gone by day 9. I used to run less than a mile at the gym, now I can run 7. I have more energy than I know what to do with. On day 4 I caught myself balancing on the curb and jumping on and off the sidewalk when crossing the street like I used to do when I was a kid. People gave me strange looks but I just smiled back. Even my scars look better."

Do you really trust this? Sensationalist at best. He's claiming that the diet helped him read a geometry book in one weekend and a string theory book in one sitting and a bunch of other mental heroics. How on Earth do people not see this as too good to be true?

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Being that he didn't actually tell us what was in his formula, I smell an amateur (or not-so) marketing campaign.

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He actually specifies exactly what's in his formula on his blog:

http://robrhinehart.com/?p=424

He's apparently even willing to ship you a batch of his own concoction for free if you agree to try it out for a week with blood tests before and after.

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How else would you suggest he gets qualified to try something new?

Because saying you need a masters in biology is short sighted like you can onyl develop the necessary skills in a singular environment.

Reading is the most effective information transfer methodology we have besides hands on engagement learning, and I don't see many circumstances where you can get hands on experience brewing nutrient sludge.

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Read the claims he's making on his blog and tell me they're not sensationalist. We're expected to believe he's become some sort of a super human because of a 900 calorie liquid synthetic diet that he invented with no formal training what-so-ever.

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

Under Results -> Qualitative.

And yes, reading is effective learning. I'll put it in perspective though: A biologist who dabbles in comp sci during his free time tells you he's invented a new sorting algorithm. This algorithm performs in O(1) in best, worst, and average case, shattering any proofs to the contrary. Here's the catch though: he's the only one using the sort. Every biologist who knows anything about computer scientist posts: I want to try this! But they can't because he is only using it for himself for now. Now... the biologists on their forums are looking at this and going, 'Wow! He's revolutionized Computer Science!'

Sounds legit, though.

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  But on day 3 I noticed my heart was racing and my energy 
  level was suddenly dropping. Hemoglobin! I think, my 
  heart is having trouble getting enough oxygen to all my 
  organs. I check my formula and realize iron is 
  completely absent. 
That part strikes me as odd. I'm prone to iron deficient anemia, but a few fasting days doesn't cause any major issues for me. Something else was going on that day, or he has some other health issue. But yes, very sensationalized story telling.

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The difference being that basic computer science algorithms are very very well studied and understood, while human nutrition is not at all. In your example, computer scientists would argue against the conclusion based on knowledge, while biologists are arguing against this based on not knowing what will happen and assuming (likely correctly) that the results will be harmful. It's a far less powerful position to be in.

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Looks like Scott Adam's Dilberito returns: «With the mantra “We Make it Easy to Eat,” Scott Adams Food, Inc. condenses the gastronomy, convenience, and economy (the would-be price in 2008, adjusted to inflation, is $3.31) into one object, eliminating the need for contemplation and decision.» http://dankbuilders.blogspot.dk/2008/03/dilberito.html

Like Dilbert, the animated series (second season wasn't actually that bad), Dilberito has not caught on.

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This guy just reminds me of the book by Claude Lévi-Strauss called the culture code. The US (and northern european) code for food is fuel, while in southern Europe it's pleasure. The fact that he looks at drinking soylent as a way to save hundreds of dollars a month in food and energy probably means he views food as a fuel and an inconvenience instead of pleasurable highlight of the day.

I find it amusing but not for me. I for one consider food pleasure and even bigger pleasure when eaten with friends and family.

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Reading this guy's blog reminded me very much of personal experiences of people suffering a significantly damaging eating disorder (ED) such as anorexia -

ED sufferers also report euphoria, and a keen focus on key metrics such as weight loss and exercise allows them to ignore negative health effects.

I would suggest this guy's experience is textbook typical of very low calorie diets (VLCD). That doesn't mean it will be healthy in the long-term - according to wikipedia, he might expect gallstones.

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Discussions about how to save time on eating and cooking -- essentially the ultimate life hacking -- always make me think about early man and his lifestyle that must have consisted mostly of hunting trips that may well have taken up days at a time, and then returning home with the prey and enjoying every bit of the reward. I wonder if they ever contemplated on how they could minimise all this time they spent on keeping themselves alive to make room for .. ehm, what else was there to do anyway?

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What makes me a bit skeptical about this is that this guy is apparently 24 and was in generally good health before he did all of this. I think most of us have experienced that when you're that young, you can eat pretty much whatever you want without much adverse consequences. There's plenty of college students only a little younger in basically good health whose diet is mostly alcohol and fast food. What happens when you feed this stuff to an overweight 45-year old?

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Let's see how well he's doing after a year of living off the stuff. There's probably more complexity to food than breaking it up into vitamins, minerals, and calories.

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"There's probably more complexity to food than breaking it up into vitamins, minerals, and calories."

A picture perfect display of modern belief in vitalism theory.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitalism

A fairly stereotypical way to being an organic chemistry class is to start out with traditional vitalism and pivot into the historical first complete synthesis of urea, of all things...

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I wasn't referring to vitalism so much as our ability to capture all of the components of food (given that we don't fully understand the effects of micro-levels of nutrients in our body) and determine exactly what we need (given that people vary and not everyone needs the same things in the same proportions).

So, instead of saying the complexity of food, I should have said the complexity of the entire system.

There's a certain arrogance within scientific/rational thinking that everything can be broken up in to parts and understood that way. Life is more complex than that.

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> I started wondering why something as simple and important as food was still so inefficient

It's inefficient because it's important. The production and consumption of food is one of the most ritualized aspects of humanity, and most cultures define themselves in no small part by their culinary traditions.

To humans, food is far, far more than simply the output of some nutritional optimization technique.

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I wonder how it tastes with rum?

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Especially striking and inspiring was how he thinks of food as an "old technology":

> I don't miss the rotary telephone and I don't miss food.

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LIfe being reduced to 1's and 0's, this is the worst thing I've read in a long time. Eating fresh tasty food is one of the joys of life, why on earth would you want to cut that out of your life. What's next, a way of reproducing without having to have sex? What's better than a home made burger, English breakfast, pasta with sauce from fresh tomatoes and basil, seafood fried rice?

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If it were possible to remain healthy long term, I'd totally sign up for a pill or drink that took a minute or two to consume and contained everything that we need to survive. I might not do it every day because there are some foods that I really like, but generally I don't enjoy eating and find it irritating that I have to spend so much of my life doing it.

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Interesting an I've seen it discussed a lot in sci-fi and on reddit too.

But I wonder if his throat will start to constrict from lack of bulk going down it, he probably needs some bulk or at least the option of liquid and solid.

Plus his teeth and gums will probably suffer from lack of stimulation.

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I've always wanted to do this, and actually have talked to some GI's making this happen. They always said you can do it for a couple of months, but the stomach is designed to handle solid food. I definitely plan to become a beta tester for him though. For a college student, this is a dream.

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> Mental performance is harder to quantify, but I feel much sharper.

A friend of mine frequently goes on crash diets and fasts and always reports that he feels sharper in the beginning. I'd guess (unscientifically) this is actually evidence that he is missing a few important nutrients.

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I think this is one of those "Whatever floats your boat" kind of things. For me, as with others, eating is something I enjoy, not a chore, and I look forward to food. Also, I'm not sure how one's social interactions work in this world, especially since so much that is tied around food.

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I look forward to food, but not paying $8 a day to eat lunch from one of two crappy places I can easily get to from work. Nor the weight gain that comes from them. Obviously I could pack a lunch, but I hate that shit. If this could actually sustain me I would consider it for breakfast/lunch with a real dinner. Clearly I could probably get away with an off the shelf replacement for those meals though...

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Eh, see, I don't mind that, and I actually enjoy cooking and experimenting in my spare time. Its not something that I want to replace, you know?

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This guy is getting a boat load of attention for doing something mildly interesting at best. He's using whey protein, olive oil, and some kind of starch. That's food. Nothing more, nothing less. You can't just suck down CHON and call it good, or all we'd have to do is breathe.

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One thing experiments like this often seem to forget is that our bodies have evolved to eat. Even something as simple as your stomach physically expanding to hold large quantities of less nutrient-dense whole foods has been shown to have an effect on the body and brain.

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Aren't a lot of people already doing exactly this because they have a disease or disability that makes them unable to chew and swallow food? Roger Ebert hasn't been able to eat solid food in years and is still kicking, so what's in the stuff that's keeping him alive?

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"No groceries, dishes, deciding what to eat, no endless conversations weighing the relative merits of gluten-free, keto, paleo or vegan."

Is this a predominantly American thing? I've never even heard of these things used to describe food before I came to the USA.

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I think the technical term for what Rob Rhinehart has is "eating disorder". He will get sick eventually, as all people who do stuff like this do, and if he's lucky, the damage he is doing to his health will be reversible because he's young.

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I think what makes me the most sad is that this method removes the joy and cultural bonds when one cooks and breaks bread with others.

Eating a meal and talking about life with others are things I consdier the most precious of them all.

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Eating is not only for sustenance.

Here's a book recommendation: http://www.amazon.com/Never-Eat-Alone-Relationship-ebook/dp/...

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What bizarre, emotionally-stunted, inner life must one possess to want to eradicate one of life's most reliable pleasures.

I as deep a distrust of people that don't love food as I do of people that don't love music.

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Based on his recipe I don't see how this is being perceived as novel or revolutionary. Surely many HNers have endeavored to make "bachelor chow" (or more appropriately slurry) in the past.

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Doesn't make sense to me at all. Yes, it is really good thing to be really busy with something in life. But are you really that busy that you dont have time to enjoy a good healthy meal? What abut sex ? What about girlfriend or wife ? Hey and is sleeping is also waste of time ?

Well, there are always pathological cases like this particular man in question but I dont think anyone else should even try this sort of stuff.

Secondly, our body has evolved not just to digest nutrients but also normal food which may contain many other essential things science is not yet fully aware of. So this sort of artificial diet is risky and it might cut your life by few years. Is it worth it ?

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You don't need sex to stay alive. As for sleeping there are attempts to hack that too. [0] Not everyone thinks that spending 30 minutes or more to prepare a meal is worth their time so they time to minimize it: from take-outs to microwave food. As many already said in this thread, this would be a step-up for many.

You can't blame him for trying. That's more than most of us are doing.

There are also many people who would try this, including me. We don't know what we don't know and this might be a way to find out. Is cutting your life by a few years worth prolonging the lifes of billions of others?

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphasic_sleep

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You are missing my point. My problem with this approach is that he thinks that food is only for "staying alive". Like many others here, even I love my work and I too constantly figure out ways to make myself lot more productive.

But giving up a regular meal for a formula sounds like over optimization for me.

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I got fat, unattractive, and out of shape by overeating. Food is a visceral experience that it's not healthy for me to be too attached to, and I'm more than willing to sacrifice it in return for more of all the others. I'm already alternating between small meals and protein shakes (plus fiber) to dull my carb cravings and lose weight.

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> Hey and is sleeping is also waste of time ?

Sleeping is a waste of time.

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A bit of topic, but is it really required to have _that_ much tracking scripts on your site?

Ghostery is showing up 14 blocked trackers, which is a way too much I think.

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Here's a good food idea:

Don't eat sugar, any fruits which don't have a Greek or Hebrew name or any liquid which is less than 1,000 years old. (Taleb) ;-)

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He'll be fine as long as he drinks that in addition to eating steamed kale and sweet potatoes, broccoli, brown rice and a variety of beans and sprouts.

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"I was a little worried it was going to kill me, but decided it was for science and quickly downed the whole thing." sounds familiar ;)

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If I were still single, I would be all over this.

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> Revolutionizes eating

> Doesn't let anyone know ingredients

Besides the disturbing nature of this guy, I always like the idea of the matrix glop food.

Someone should really open source working on this, I understand it is a hard thing to get right but enough people working on this and using strictly whole foods as base ingredients would probably lessen any negative outcomes.

And really, it can't be much worse than my nightly chow down on fast food.

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Here's the story in his own words: http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298

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Let's say he is right. Maybe, right? Am I the only one who likes to eat? Eating actually gives me a break from other things.

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A buried quote worth repeating on Pi Day: * this day I ran 3.14 miles non-stop. This is an irrational improvement

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Please don't use this as an excuse to let the world's population hit eleven digits.

Stop fucking, for fuck's sake!

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When you get tired of food, wine, women/men/{other object of attraction}, song, and sleep, you are tired of life.

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I would love to see how he does lifting some weight on this diet vs. just sitting in front of a computer.

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According to his blog he is running on a regular basis.

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As I blog about cheap meals, I'm wondering what the per-meal price is for this concoction. Any ideas?

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I'm on this. I'm not even going to read any comments pertaining. All my life I prayed for this day.

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Mhh I could try this with Guinness, on second thougth ... its still a good idea.

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This is disgusting, and this man-boy is obviously mentally unstable.

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As a hardcore gamer I'm interested, but... it would be too bad x_x

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Rob is also a YC alum. He has dropped noticeable weight.

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They will take the soylent from his cold, dead hands! :-)

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He's going to poop liquid for the rest of his life.

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I would be _so_ interested in something like this.

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This man never wants to take a solid shit again.

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I'm not a doctor, but I suspect his digestive system won't be happy in a long term.

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Wonder why the downvotes. Did I wrote something irrelevant to discussion or obviously factually incorrect?

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[deleted]

Just 5 grams of fibers, from what I've read.

AFAIK, dietary fibers are required to properly properly expel wastes and to maintain a healthy gut flora (which is not only used for digestion, but cooperates with immune system). And from what I've read, a normal amount is considered somewhere between 20-35g (daily).

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Someone should tell him there is a reason babies and cubs don't drink milk when they grow up.

He probably discovered milk, but it seems to me that milk tastes better.

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Wasn't this shown to be a hoax a while back?

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Water bills are lower.

Wow, how much is he spending on water for this to be a tangible benefit?

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One question I have is where he acquires these materials, if not through some form of agriculture.

I mean, harvesting wheat isn't exactly what I would call "inefficient"

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There's no evidence organic food is healthier than conventional food

Isn't it well known that chemical fertilizers, pesticides, preservatives, heavy metals and other nasties do affect foods supplies through the conventional food chain? I think people who enjoy naturally grown food do so with the knowledge that they are avoiding all of this. Sure, it's not going to make a great difference over a few meals, but if you spend your life eating well rounded meals grown naturally your body is certainly going to benefit.

Secondly, I am currently under the impression that evidence of bioavailability for many supplements is pathetic to zero.

Finally, the damage that extracting, packing, shipping, storing, ordering and measuring these artificial food replacements causes to the environment (ie. the real ecosystems they are ultimately sourced from) is vastly greater than that of simply plucking a fresh tomato from the vine.

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> I started wondering why something as simple and important as food was still so inefficient, given how streamlined and optimised other modern things are.

Things must be really different in Atlanta....

EDIT:

Downvotes? Really? On a site presumably full of hackers, you are gonna tell me "modern things" are really streamlined and efficient? Software for the most part isn't. Cars aren't. Houses, apartments, restaurants, workplaces, none of it is. Come on. It's a pretty absurd statement.

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I love how all the arm chair biochemists here jump on this as being so dangerous because in theory there could be something he needs and isn't getting. Yet most of them are eating a diet that is deficient in things we know you need. This guy's gross sludge is a hell of a lot healthier than what most people are eating, go bitch at them instead.

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I agree with you, but I think the main sentiment is that after just 6 weeks you can't come to any conclusions.

For example smoking is probably one of the worst things you can do for your health long term. I can smoke two packs a day and have absolutely no issues after only six weeks. Eating crap food is bad for you, and it might kill you after 40 or 50 years.

Looking at some of the issues he has having (heart racing) due to lack of iron. What if the symptoms weren't as obvious? He'd have never looked to see why he was experiencing them. It's really hard to get excited about something when he's only been doing it for such a short time and it's fairly obvious he doesn't really know what he's doing.

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No matter what you think of this guy or his product, you have to give him props for being his own guinea pig.

I, for one, hope that he proves everyone wrong, and a year from now, I'm mixing up my own Soylent, because though I do love a good meal, I'm a busy person, and I often find myself eating simply to sate hunger. If I could replace that footlong sub with a glass of soylent, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

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Linkbait. Indeed, he eats. It's just really awful food.

I am glad I still have the freedom to eat what I choose. I hope that never changes.

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