Soylent Subterfuge: When a Bad Joke Turns into a Business

Update: Since originally posting this article, we’ve written about a monstrous meta-analysis showing that fruit and vegetable eaters live longer due to less cardiovascular failure. Our conclusions about the potential dangers of this product have become stronger over time. We may consume food, but food consumes us even more. Not …
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As a member of the Soylent team, I'm obligated to point out that the "What's in Soylent" post is from several months ago, and applies only to Rob's original prototype, not the near-final version we are working on currently. Once Soylent 1.0 is finalized, we will be releasing the ingredients and full nutritional breakdown, at which time we encourage you to take another look.

You bring up many valid points. Seriously, this is a fantastic read.

But why do you completely disregard the strengths and applicable scenarios presented by Rob and the Soylent team? While the main goal of Soylent is to bring in money (who am I to argue?), it really does offer a new direction to a large humanitarian issue, or namely, the logistics of world hunger. It isn't an encompassing solution, but it sure as heck has the potential for other companies to expand, correct?

You are completely right in the biggest weakness of Soylent is "that which we do not know". It's the gaping hole in the hot air balloon. But it's still your opinion that it is unnecessary. Space travel is looming ever closer and with that comes the daunting task of efficient foods both logistically and nutritionally during long "flights".

The fact of the matter is, this isn't perfect. While I disagree with the rhetoric hype pulled by the Soylent team, it's still a wonderful and applicable concept for the human race. No, I don't believe this is an end-all for hunger or real food. In fact, I don't even think people should use it more than once a day.

It sure beats meal replacement bars/shakes that are already widely accepted, no?

Thanks Joshua.

We're a site focused mainly on nutrition and supplementation. It's not our duty -- nor our expertise -- to comment on their civics or any humanitarian issues.

I'm a business owner and I see another business taking a dump in my backyard. I don't care if you're trying to fertilize it - it still stinks.

Either bring me something good or stop making ridiculous claims like "we've nailed nutrition" and I'll flip the script. In every aspect (marketing, technology, nutrition), we're not upset about the goals. We're upset about the execution.

Regarding your meal replacement bars/shakes comment - you're mostly right. There's a few good products out there, but they're just expensive (as they should be), and aren't used for a total nutrition solution.

In our soon-to-be-updated price comparison system, anything we really disagree with strongly will get bumped to the bottom of the list - trust me, we won't discriminate.

Also, this won't have much to do with space travel as is. It's a cool shot though (I'm all for privatizing space travel and have personally worked extensively with SpaceX).
NASA's gone far beyond any of this stuff, and have much more dense solutions that work surprisingly well. One interesting one we've stumbled upon is known as triacetin - check it out. We found it because it was recently put into a pre workout supplement (and labeled quite improperly)... *sigh*

I will be checking out Triacetin. Thanks for the info!

I agree with you, Soylent will forever require scrutiny and skepticism.

But until they publicly release a product, I don't think it's fair to pick anything of theirs apart because we only have rhetoric and tidbits of information.

They were a garage-rank start-up. As much as I hate to admit this, and don't get me wrong, it isn't how it should work, but the hype they created, look what it's done for them. They went from a personally funded interest hobby into the early formation of a decent start-up company. They will be able to fund the research, the testing, and take the correct route as a newly found nutritional company (if they choose and that remains to be seen but I always give the benefit of doubt).

Let's face it, the goals they have are ambitious, logical, and quite applicable to many folks in all societies. They are nothing short of lofty. Aside from NASA and some private companies, I don't see anyone else pursuing efficiency and miniaturization of nutritional logistics.

Thanks for replying, by they way!
(I've also bookmarked this site, is currently my source for nutrition studies and research, I honestly haven't heard of this until today :) )

Thank you sir! Your comment is valid - they haven't truly SHIPPED anything yet. Glad we can agree.

Regarding this site.. yeah we've been flying under the radar because I got carried away working on some other side projects for over 2 years (bad entrepreneur!) The projects were successful, but now it's time to focus on the brand.

So we're not going to be marketing heavily until the redesign is up and technology is a bit more sound.

Our writing team is expanding, and we're building up some good content on our favorite products and categories (the new site has over 900 product categories and growing).

Examine is incredible, no doubt, and we hope that someday they can use our engine to make a bit of money in an ethical way by showing people where the best deals are on the good stuff.

Some of our new pages are similar to Examine's, but geared more towards human readability / searchability and are slightly less scientifically intense.

All coming soon, so thanks for the bookmark.

it's ironic you misspell "Rhinehart" in a sentence where you are talking about his ignorance.

Fixed. Thank you.

Rather than tear it apart, perhaps you could suggest some additional components for the formula? Personally, I haven't tried it or put much time into researching its nutritional completeness, but I'd love to see it become a viable single food source one day.

To a better future, cheers! George.

No, I really can't because we're all different people doing different things and our body of knowledge is too small.

Even my personal nutrition depends on what I'm doing. Am I training for a long distance swim race, am I doing some winter bulking up for fun, or am I leaning out for volleyball season? All different situations that demand different macronutrient breakdowns. Note that the site you're on mainly deals with sports nutrition, so we see things differently than a lot of people.

What I can say is that I'd remove the maltodextrin and opt for something based on yams. The mere sight of malto makes me put on fat, but I know some guys who get yoked beyond belief eating that garbage. So what do I really know?

I'd also multiply the protein by at least 2.5X, and get a more diverse array of sources, which of course becomes expensive (and unprofitable). But what to do with the vegetables.... there's a good saying: "If your food can go bad, it's good for you. If your food can't go bad, it's not good for you." Oversimplified, but not too far from what I personally believe is true.

But there's no way I'd "perjure" myself and say I've got the magic formula, only to find out in 5 years that XYZ dosage was completely wrong or missing because we had absolutely no clue about the existence of some crazy metabolic pathway.

The best we can do with our current nutritional knowledge is to make seriously controlled studies on statistically significant numbers of individuals and keep all things equal, then change variables and assess. That's basically how we know that getting 1g+ of protein per pound of bodyweight will result in more lean muscle mass (which may or may not be your goal). But even then, the community won't agree on what type of protein is best.

We are simultaneously far too stupid and too complex to think that one size fits all will work anytime soon.

But we are getting better, and if something is learned from this and nobody is seriously harmed, I'll consider that a victory.

Some info on formula changes.

Sure, you have the right to say you're better than your competitors, but your hatchet-job language really undermines the article.

I don't like the alarmist tone of this article, nor the fact that it's spurred by the commercial interests of the author, if he were a neutral third party, I wouldn't have the reservations I do for listening.

In addition, Mike doesn't seem to get that individual ingredients of a mix like this are not supposed to offer "nutrition" beyond the reasons they're included, Oat Powder is a great source of empty and sustained energy, and doesn't need nutrition because that's what the rest of the system is for.

Totally agree!

And you think a western diet of fast food, poisoned meat (example: arsenic in chicken), and highly processed EVERYTHING will yield a healthier body? Your diet must be perfect. Or you must be an overweight ignorant fool.

This reads like nothing but an attack from a worried competitor. If you want people to take you seriously, act like an adult. At least wait until the product is finished and shipped. You should be ashamed of yourself for this fear mongering.

This article is ridiculous. I can't believe you took the time to write it in a country where what is served at McDonald's is considered "food".

That's not ironic, or even interesting. It's more of a typo.

Wow, an article that aims to debunk the errors in Soylent's pitch also claims that maltodextrin is literally not a nutrient!

I appreciate the thoroughness of your article, but I will have to echo others here -- soylent, whatever its shortcomings, is bound to be far healthier than the *average* person's diet.

My question for you is, if you are unable to give any suggestions for how to improve soylent because we are all different, how is it that you feel fine suggesting a diet of brown rice, chicken and vegetables? Why is a cookie-cutter soylent solution not possible the meet the needs of various individuals, while that diet is?