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Nutraloaf (wikipedia.org)
21 points by batemanesque on Aug 15, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments

Soylent is not a new concept - in hospitals it is a quite common need to provide patients with most / all their nutritional needs in liquid form. Off the top of my head, famous brands in the field of "meal replacements in liquid or powdered form" are Abbott Ensure ( http://ensure.com/products/ensure-powder ) and Nestle's Boost - ( http://www.boost.com/healthcare-professionals ).

Those are more expensive though, not less.

They're made by people who know what they're doing, in clean factories, with quality ingredients.

I'm not surprised that products created by people who don't know what they're doing, in a kitchen, using god knows what ingredients, mixed in unsuitable ways, to be cheaper.

I looked it up. The Soylent guys are no longer going to make it themselves, they've outsourced the actual manufacturing to this company: http://www.rfiingredients.com/

So that much at least is being done by professionals.

Well, good. I guess there was always going to be a stage when they wouldn't be able to keep doing it in their kitchens.

Have they actually shipped any product from the factory yet? Where has all the product they've shipped so far been made?

I have no idea. The kitchen bench idea scared the shit out of me too, but given the amount that's been ordered I don't think they had any choice but to outsource.

That was always the plan, as he said from the start. Why do you think a single person preparing test batches for himself in his kitchen is an indication that he intends to prepare and ship a million dollars worth of the stuff from his kitchen?

Soylent is made by people who know what they're doing, in clean factories, with quality ingredients. You seem to have a really deep emotional investment in strawmanning soylent, why is that?

Exactly. I don't understand why there is such an outrage going on about Soylent. I mean, the guy is legitimately trying his best to achieve an idea he had which interested far more people than he thought it would. What's the matter with that?

There's nothing the matter with that.

The problem comes when they use misleading dubious claims on the fundraising page. They had no need to use those claims; as you point out in another post the initial blog-post created a lot of buzz.

Where has all the product they've shipped so far been made, and by who?

They have not shipped any product. They have shipped prototype mixtures to interested, unpaid volunteers that they have mixed in the kitchen, but no product.

They haven't shipped any product. Once again we have people spewing absolute nonsense pulled seemingly from nowhere. It is great that you hate soylent so much, but if you want to criticize it, take 15 minutes to at least do a quick google search and read a tiny bit about it.

Two replies to my comment - one saying they haven't shipped anything, and another saying they have shipped something.

The reason I dislike Soylent so much is that it is a scam, advertised using dubious (and possibly illegal) claims.

Plenty of people were interested in it as an experiment - see the interest after his initial blog post. I thought it was a stupid idea then, but at least they weren't claiming it to be anything it wasn't.

They could have released it as an experimental product and been fine.

But they didn't. They chose to make a bunch of claims that have no basis in fact.

Both replies say they haven't shipped anything. Seems odd for someone who gets intensely bitter over someone making a successful business to hang around on HN.

I'd like to think that most people on HN don't worship business so much as to exalt even those based on dishonesty & intellectual incompetence.

> Seems odd for someone who gets intensely bitter over someone making a successful business to hang around on HN.

Plenty of people on HN dislike scams. Soylent is marketed in a dishonest, scammy, way.

First, the minor dishonesties:

> Suppose we had a default meal that was the nutritional equivalent of water: cheap, healthy, convenient and ubiquitous.

Soylent tries to say it's something new; that this product doesn't exist. That's just not true.

> Soylent will be personalized for different body types and customizable based on individual goals.

This is the most interesting part of the Soylent claim. If they could make access to testing easier and cheaper they'd have a useful product.

> For anyone who struggles with allergies, heartburn, acid reflux or digestion, has trouble controlling weight or cholesterol, or simply doesn't have the means to eat well, soylent is for you.

They had to change the main source of protein because many people are lactose intolerant. Despite the disclaimer later on in the page this paragraph is making clear medical claims. They have no evidence to support those claims. They also have no need to make those claims! People would have bought Soylent if those claims were not there.

> Soylent [...] puts you in excellent health,

Another dubious unsubstantiated medical claim.

> and vastly reduces your environmental impact by eliminating much of the waste and harm coming from agriculture, livestock, and food-related trash.*

This is an important point. But, like most of the Soylent stuff, they make the claim but have no evidence to support it. I can't find any kind of ecological assessment on any of the various Soylent blogs and websites.

> 50% of the food produced globally is wasted, and food makes for the largest component of municipal garbage. If not for this waste there would be plenty of food to adequately nourish everyone alive.

Food waste is not the reason for global malnutrition.

> 1 in 7 people globally are malnourished, and 1 in 3 in the developing world suffer from deficiency. Countless others are living hand-to-mouth, subsistence farming, hindering economic development. Even in the developed world, agriculture is the most dangerous industry to work in by occupational injuries and illnesses, and obesity is on the rise.

This is laughably ignorant. i) Soylent is very expensive when compared to the existing FRPs and FSPs used by WFP and UNICEF. (20% of the world lives on less than $1.25 per day) ii) Soylent needs clean water. About one billion people don't have access to clean water. Soylent make no mention of this, even though water is a crucial ingredient of the product. iii) Soylent appears to do nothing to increase local independence and resilience. How does Soylent help local farmers?

> By taking years to spoil,

I really need to see how they've tested that. I can't see how it's true. Especially in the context of food aid, where ideal storage conditions may not be available. Perhaps they mean "sealed packs last six months in less-than-ideal conditions" - that's a fine claim to make (if true), they don't need the untested exaggeration.

> dramatically reducing cost, and easing transportation and storage, soylent could have a dramatic effect on hunger and malnutrition.

Soylent is considerably more expensive than the products being used by WFP and UNICEF. I guess transportation and storage are similar.

> Proceeds from the purchase of soylent enable us to work with aid partners and reduce hunger and environmental impact both in the United States and the developing world.

This is great. I wish more companies would do it. Soylent don't mention who they're going to be working with. I'd have thought that with the $800,000 they've raised they would have made a few initial donations. Perhaps they're researching who to give some money to? WaterAid would be one choice. WFP would be another.

> Imagine everyone having a customized,

So far, two options. i) Male. ii) Female. It's a great idea - what do they mean by it? Do they know what they mean?

Then there are a bunch of user testimonials and quotes from the press.

They actually do a reasonable job of the risks and challenges section, better than many other crowd-funders do. They don't mention the risk of people becoming ill after using Soylent.

> there is much evidence that is considerably healthier than a typical diet.

They don't define a typical diet. There is not any evidence that Soylent is considerably healthier than any diet, because there's no evidence for Soylent at all yet.

There are many single sources of nutrition that are cheaper than Soylent.

Have a look at the WFP information here (https://www.wfp.org/nutrition/special-nutritional-products) and here (http://documents.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/co...)

And the manufacturer page for some of these products here (http://www.dsm.com/corporate/home.html)

This report from IRIN shows the extreme need to lower costs with these foods - they're aiming at $4 per kg. (http://www.irinnews.org/report/83124/malawi-cheaper-recipe-f...)

With apologies to the original...

"You tell everybody. Listen to me. Hatcher. You've gotta tell 'em! SOYLENT IS MARKETING SPIN! We gotta stop them! Somehow! Listen! Listen to me… PLEASE!!!"

I'm not judging and I wish the creators well - there's just not a lot of real new thinking in Soylent - most of its promise is just pure marketing, like most products I suppose ;-)

It is remarkably effective marketing. We've been able to walk into any drugstore and buy equivalent products for many years, so for Soylent to generate the buzz they have is amazing.

It's certainly a good thing to put on their resume.

Soylent success was not due to a Marketing campaign, but to one blog article that buzzed at the time (when Soylent was not even considered being marketed) : http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298 The Soylent compaign was launch purely because of its success, not the other way around.

There are two types of foods I find depicted in those documents : - "Emergency" foods used to prevent malnutrition - Supplements in order to balance an unhealthy diet and/or reach individual needs

It seems that these goals are completely different from the one of Soylent, which is to provide a food replacement altogether (meaning people will expect it to taste good, make them feel replenished and won't use it as part of a treatment).

Then buy a commercial MRP. There are cheap ones around.

It is my impression that Meal Replacement Plans aren't generally designed to be lived off of exclusively, but as intermittent substitutes to normal meals, or temporary replacements for them. That is a very different goal than what Soylent is trying to accomplish.

There are plenty of meal replacement products that can be used as a sole source of nutrition.

The manufacturers don't heavily promote that aspect because they are cautious and careful.

given that we don't yet know the full range of nutrients the human body needs to function, it'll be completely impossible to live off Soylent & stay healthy in the long term. it's really that simple.

Most of the MRP I found are ultra-high on protein and overall aimed toward muscle development. A comparison with Soylent (once its out) could be very interesting though.

If you're eating at a deficit, high protein is good idea, actually. It helps preserve lean mass, which has important downstream health effects.

I'm not eating about any deficit eating, but normal eating. And high protein is not always a good idea. Everybody doesnt have the same needs. Also there can be long term effect, some of which are still being studied. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-protein-diets/AN00847

There are a wide variety of meal replacement products. Some have high protein, others don't. Some have high calories, some have even higher calories, some don't.

There is plenty of variety in the meal replacement product marketplace.

Here are the brands made by one company (http://abbottnutrition.com/brands/abbott-brands) - they cover just about anything you'd need.

Why does everyone insist on recommending people consume completely inappropriate "alternatives" to soylent that will cause health problems with 100% certainty?

Wait, what?

Commercial providers have been making and supplying these foods for many years, and they've been used in a variety of settings for a long time.

How are these worse than Soylent, a product created by people who don't know what they're doing in their kitchens and advertised with a variety of probably illegal claims used with no medical supervision?

They have been making and supplying them for many years, but they are not designed as a replacement for food, and do not contain 100% of known essential nutrients. Recommending something that we absolutely know for certain is not complete because you have an irrational hate-boner for soylent is absurd. Your claims about soylent are false by the way, which really doesn't help your case at all.

> but they are not designed as a replacement for food, and do not contain 100% of known essential nutrients.

This is wrong. I'm not sure what products you're talking about. But there are products that are designed to be used as a sole source of nutrition.

> Recommending something that we absolutely know for certain is not complete because you have an irrational hate-boner for soylent is absurd.

> Your claims about soylent are false by the way, which really doesn't help your case at all.

Feel free to rebut anything I've said with links.

Soylent have no dieticians on staff, or anyone with any nutrition qualifications. So far all product has been produced in their kitchen. Several mistakes in formulation have been made. Errors in mixing (not taking fineness of powers into account, for example) have been shown.

>I'm not sure what products you're talking about

The ones referenced in the post I replied to.

>Soylent have no dieticians on staff

Yes they do.

>So far all product has been produced in their kitchen

No, it hasn't.

>Several mistakes in formulation have been made

And you seem to be under the misconception that it is still some guy tossing stuff together in his kitchen. That is not the case.

> The ones referenced in the post I replied to.

The FBFs are complete foods. The others are supplements designed to help in cases of extreme malnutrition, or in cases of mild malnutrition.

>> Soylent have no dieticians on staff > > Yes they do.


Rob Rhinehart - CEO

Matt Cauble - COO

John Coogan - CTO

David Renteln - VP Business Development/Sales

Julio Miles - VP Customer Success

You'd have thought they'd list the dieticians.

I get no results when I search the Soylent blog. (http://blog.soylent.me/search/dietitian)(http://blog.soylent...

Please, help me out. Who are the dietitians on the Soylent staff?

Why do you think they would list every single employee and contractor in their funding campaign? Why do you think I know their names? They say those people exist, there is no reason to believe otherwise, you contradict them with no evidence.


> Why do you think they would list every single employee

When you're selling a food replacement the dietitian isn't a minor role. It's a key role in the company. Combine that with the criticism that Soylent has received from registered dietitians and it's important to list some dietitian, if only to counter the negative results when I type [soylent dietitian] into a search engine.

Reading the article you point me to I see ...

> Once we got some professional dietitians and food scientists to collaborate with us it got much tastier and more filling

... which is a little bit different from your claim that dietitians are on staff. Maybe that's for the future, with Soylent v2 or v3, when they move to more individualisation?

EDIT: Note that this is a blatant lie:

> A lot of things will give you calories, but nothing so far has been designed to be something you can live off. There are no food replacements on the market.

There are plenty of food replacement products, products that are designed for people to live off, in the market. It's not easy to get hold of them because other sellers have some sense of responsibility to their customers.

> FDA-approved,

Another lie!

You do understand that just saying "that's a lie" over and over doesn't do anything right? You have absolutely no credibility, you have no evidence to support your claims, and you have an obvious emotional investment in trashing the project. If you want to convince other people to hate soylent with you, start using evidence.

So there are no dietitians listed anywhere, in any form, but you feel there must be a secret dietitian somewhere because the Soylent boys are such swells?

Here's a cheap alternative from an actual dietian:


Spoiler: he doesn't think highly of either Soylent or its creator.

This snippet from that thread is particularly enlightening if true.

When I told him months ago that his product was incredibly stupid and he didn't have enough stuff in there to be a healthy alternative to eating, he pretty much ignored me.

A couple of weeks later, he found out the underlying cause of his arrhythmia was iron deficiency (in addition to hypermagnesia and hyperkalemia), he decided to put iron in it. This was of course after I had already told him to do it, and he ignored my advice.

I also told him his weight loss was likely a large degree of lean mass when he was only taking 50g/day of protein because that's what the RDA was. He essentially ignored me, continued to shed lean mass while exercising and not getting enough calories. But a little while later he added more protein in.

The lack of boron was also something I told him about, and then he added it (fairly quickly, actually).

I also mentioned lack of semi-essential/conditionally essential nutrients (GLA). The formulation still doesn't have Carnitine or Taurine in it. Because "they're not essential", even though a decent amount of the population lacks the ability to synthesize carnitine.

What kind of folate is he using? Because about 5-10% of the population doesn't have the gene to convert the commonly used (and cheaper) form of synthetic folate to it's physiologically active form tetrahydrofolate.

I said he needed fiber, he added a tiny bit of fiber and believes "the body doesn't really need that much fiber and it might be bad for your gut" (lolno).

Edit: ...there are companies that have been doing for a lot longer than he has, with smarter people, more resources, and are better in every way. They still haven't quite figured it out yet, but this guy has been living off his formula and accidentally almost killing himself at nearly every turn.

I don't think it's actually a safer alternative to base your diet on a reddit comment. Just saying.

I don't think it's actually a safer alternative to base your diet on a powdered formulation of anything. Just saying.

... as opposed to a random blog post?

I don't think it can be considered as random once a whole million dollar compaign was launched around it (compared to a reddit comment I mean, whatever is written still means nothing till you have a product). And I kind of find Rhinehart post a little more detailed : http://robrhinehart.com/?p=424

> I don't think it can be considered as random once a whole million dollar compaign was launched around it.

This is an argument for relying on existing products, which have development budgets in the tens of millions, decades of research and experience and dozens of dietitians and scientists working on perfecting them.

Slightly off topic. On the soylent funding-website it says you can 'buy' one weeks worth of soylent for $65, that's $260 for a month. Is this not an insanely high cost for a months worth of food? When I was living by myself I spend waaay less than this (although I was in Sweden if that matters)

Or am I missing something.

I spend about 700-1000$ on food a month because I don't like to cook or eat low quality food. If I swapped to a meal replacement a few days a week I would save quite a bit even at those prices.

IMO, There may be a lot of ready to eat foods out there from soup to frozen food etc, but if you actually consider how much salt and preservatives are in most of them there really not healthy. Existing meal replacement shakes etc are heather, but tend to be focused on dieters vs direct meal replacement. So, IMO there is plenty of room for Soylent, but I fear there going to get the taste or nutrition wrong as it's a vary hard problem.

What do you eat that costs that much? I spend ~¥25,000 ($250) a month on food for two people (not including eating out once a week or so) and that's making no special attempt to save money on food. We eat a lot of fresh veges, fish and meat.

Given that you eat out only once a week and buy lots of fresh veg and fish I take it you like to cook, which is exactly what the original poster claimed he wanted to avoid. How much do you think it would cost you to eat as well as you do now, but with almost all meals eaten at restaurants? I imagine that $1000 a month isn't too unreasonable.

Well if you're eating out a lot, you're getting bombarded with salt anyhow.

Cooking is pretty simple, FWIW. With a slow cooker and a rice cooker you can pretty much eat as much as you want with 10 minutes of actual prep a day.

Yes, I also find this expensive (but not insanely given that I probably pay around 300 EU a month for now). I guess the high price could be explained that you are not only paying for the food but also to fund the Soylent campaign (with all the R&D, industrial process behind it). I surely hope it gets cheaper though.

Is this not an insanely high cost for a months worth of food?

Depends on what you like. When I was a student I spent a lot less than that, now I send a lot more. $260 is a reasonably nice dinner for two at a restaurant here in Sweden.

Soylent is amusing, but it ignores the fact that people take pleasure from eating food, a payoff which is hard-wired in our brains.

No supplement, whatever its nutritional value, is going to be able to fill that need.

The creator of Soylent addresses this. He says he now treats eating 'real food' like he does drinking alcohol -- an enhancement for social activity.

I am curious to try Soylent or something like it just for that 'Oh, this is unusual! What a pleasure!' kind of effect when eating regular food.

Another way to achieve this is to try different foods.

You might also be interested in reading about "Mindfulness-Based Eating". It seems a bit woo-y to me but psych friends of my acquaintance say it shows promise.

I am lucky enough to live in a city with a large variety of food both from grocery stores and restaurants and I take advantage of that, perhaps too much.

Even with all of that variety the closest I seem to come to mindfulness while eating is when I pay a lot or go out to eat with foodie friends (but I repeat myself).

It comes from a very utilitarian approach to food that I've (perhaps foolishly) taken my whole life. Eat fast and get on with important work. That's probably another reason a Soylent type product appeals to me.

I am curious about the book but trying to maintain mindfulness while eating every meal, frankly, seems like an extravagance. Of course, that is just a guess on the advice it contains based on the title.

Oh, is there a book by that title? She just told me about the idea at some point; apparently it's an up and comer in the food / eating psychology world. Her research and therapeutic work is focused on eating disorders.

I understand the utilitarian approach. I've done it myself.

My current diet is goal-directed.

But that doesn't mean I think I'm smarter or better than dietitians who read more than the abstracts on pubmed. I haven't entirely replaced food. I just have a dozen or so meals that I can make quickly, scale up or down, which have known macronutrient breakdowns and which I can rotate according to my daily whims and tastes.

Please consider whether your "woo radar" is maybe not something to take entirely seriously when evaluating stuff. Sometimes it's just an emotional reaction. It's something to be mindful of...

Also, just going away from processed food can be an interesting experience. The taste, texture, perfume of raw salad for instance is quite surprising, it's almost candy.

Learn cooking ! Its a great way to unwind and take your mind off things. Get a COSCTO membership and a Pasta/Rice cooker. You will eat healthy, impress your dates.

Nobody will remember or care about how you sacrificed your well-being/health to put in extra effort at work. Except your body and it will remind you of this as you grow older.

Cooking is a stressor for many people. Sorry, can't go to the movies tonight, have to make lunch for tomorrow. No time to read books, have to shop, prep, cook and clean every evening after work. Food enthusiasts love it and are good at it and paint this idyllic picture of it all that's not really in sync with the daily reality for many people who work full time jobs and aren't particularly interested in cooking. Me, I do like to cook, but it takes a LOT of time, and I would love to have more time for other stuff without paying a fortune to eat out.

My question is why don't prisons ONLY serve nutraloaf? Probably healthier than the pink slime stuff they serve in public schools.

The prisoners would go crazy from the lack of variety. Nutraloaf sucks, and as bad as prison food is the same bland loaf of crap day in and day out will just make everyone angry. People aren't robots, and putting at least a little effort towards keeping prisoners from causing trouble is well worth it.

Plus, if it's the baseline, how do you use it for punishment?

"Pink slime" isn't served straight up. It's used as an extra-lean filler and generally isn't more than 25% of the food. It's made by extracting lean meat from low-grade trimmings like cartilege, and treated with citric acid or ammonia to kill bacteria.

I saw that article a while back, it explains why : http://www.ireallylikefood.com/760978972/is-prison-food-tort...

loving that some mod changed the headline from "A cheaper alternative to Soylent?" to "Nutraloaf", thereby removing the satire - wouldn't want to offend our investor overlords.

of course, there's no record of the edit, & my name is still attached to the article. nice to see Paul Graham's as ethical & self-aware as ever.

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