Soylent: 'Future of Food' or Nutritionist's Nightmare?
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, August 06, 2014 07:50 AM

It's a product that seems unassuming enough: a thick, beige, bland liquid reminiscent of pancake batter. But, in fact, the aspirations of Soylent.   -- a product billed as a complete meal replacement.  But don't expect the stuff to win over many nutritionists any time soon.  Several nutritionists are baffled that people would want to go without normal food and reiterated that nutritional science is limited by many unknowns.

Soylent started shipping earlier this year after a period of experimentation with help from a committed do-it-yourself group of followers. So as to dispel any doubt about the intent of Soylent, visitors to the company's website are greeted with the words "What if you never had to worry about food again?"  Its name comes from a 1973 sci-fi film starring Charlton Heston, Soylent Green, in which humanity subsists on artificial food pills that turn out to be made from human flesh, the Soylent formula (which, for the record, includes no human flesh) fulfills all human nutritional requirements, such that a person can live on it exclusively.  The created himself ate nothing but Soylent for 5 months.

The taste of Soylent has been described as similar to a mild pancake batter or Cream of Wheat, a little sweet and a little salty. The goal was to make it as bland and inoffensive as possible.  

"Soylent is about sustenance and survival, not the experience of eating," one nutritionist noted.  The nutritionists also pointed out that there's much we don't know about nutrition, and this could prove detrimental when consuming only Soylent.  "This formula contains what we know we need but not what we might need and don't know how to measure or quantify yet. There are hundreds of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, for example, that we're still learning about."

 A one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition might not be best.  "He based these on the very basic Institute of Medicine recommendations, and a lot of those are really just based on minimal requirements, so it doesn't take any individualization or personal context into account."