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How close are we to a meal pill?

You'd probably need to ingest more than one pill to get your daily dose of calories and nutrients.
You'd probably need to ingest more than one pill to get your daily dose of calories and nutrients.

Here's the thing: The phrasing of the question "How close are we to a meal pill?" makes it sound like meal pills are something we're all itching to get our hands on. Who wants braised pork belly or Nonna's lasagna when you can swallow a nutrition pill?

Uh, I'll take the food, please. Because while it might be less convenient to stuff our faces with the right amounts of iron and folic acid every day forever, many of us would happily trade efficiency for the strings of mozzarella that drip off a pizza slice. Of course, we can't forget that nutrition -- and food -- is not always plentiful. Meal pills might be an easy, cheap solution to international food shortage or hunger.

So we enter the world of the meal pill: Some want it for ease, some want it to eradicate global conflicts. And in a way, we're actually already at a meal-in-a-pill form, so long as you're willing to be a little flexible on the "pill" part. Soylent is the brand name of a drink that contains lipids, carbs, proteins, essential vitamins and minerals. While the taste and texture is reported as a thick, creamy, batter-type fluid, it does supply the necessary "meal" a body needs [source: Widdicombe].

But that's not the pill we all imagine in our 22nd century fever dreams -- the one that might even let us "taste" an appetizer, entrée and dessert with one swallow. How close are we? Let's put it this way: we're as close to meal pills as we are to changing the laws of the universe -- which we might have to do to get the darn things to work.

The bottom line is that getting 2,000 calories' worth of energy and nutrition from pills is going to involve a lot of pills. Lard, for instance, is a great way to get calories in as dense a method as possible ... and you'd still need half a pound of it to get close to your daily requirement [source: Friedman]. And then you're not getting the rest of your nutritional needs met, so you'd have to add in room for that, too.

Essentially, it's going to be hard to pack enough of anything into one pill to make a meal. We might have to settle for something like Soylent, or high-nutrition peanut butter paste (often part of global aid to famine areas) to pack in the calories without a knife or fork [source: Dobbs].