While Soylent makes no official claims of its product's health benefit beyond offering balanced nutrition, others have filled message board threads with praise for Soylent as the key to fat loss, increased energy, sharper mental focus and even improved sleep. But what do the experts have to say?
"If someone wants to supplement their diet, maybe skip a meal and use instead. That could potentially be OK if it's under the supervision of a dietitian," Dr. Joy Dubost, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a registered dietitian, said during an interview.
However, the notion that Soylent can safely be the sole source of sustenance for long or interminable periods of time makes Dubost suspicious. That's because no peer-reviewed studies or clinical trials have been conducted on Soylent's long-term risks and benefits.
As a result, Dubost and other experts are skeptical that Soylent's constituent parts are adequate replacements for a healthy diet full of whole foods, that Soylent can elicit the same hormonal cues that help us govern our appetites, or that its balance of nutrients could really be an all-purpose meal for a broad range of ages, lifestyles and activity levels. (Athletes, for example, require more protein per kilogram of bodyweight than desk jockeys.) Soylent also doesn't contain the same array of nonessential nutrients in a healthy diet that have been proven to help ward off chronic disease. "They're making nutrition a one-size-fits-all approach, and nutrition doesn't work that way," Dubost said.
Skipping out on traditional meals means missing out on the experiences that surround them too, whether it's a turkey dinner at grandma's house or a Michelin-starred meal in Provence. "We don't just eat for nutrition; we eat for enjoyment and the sensory experience that food brings," Dubost said. To be clear, Rhinehart doesn't despise conventional food: "I suppose you could live on entirely, but why would you want to? Leisure food is an important part of life and culture" [source: Rhinehart].
Furthermore, Dubost said, while abstaining from food can lead to eating disorders, family dinners help strengthen children's eating habits and enhance familial relationships — and our ancestors would have shaken their heads at a society that considered cooking and eating food to be a burden. "How fast-paced has the world gotten that we can't sit down and have a meal anymore and enjoy it?"