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 [Soylent] 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 [Soylent] 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?"
Author's Note: How Soylent Works
I've been looking for ways to automate my morning routine after rolling out of bed, and settling on a simple, staple breakfast is a crucial aspect of that. While it's usually a Greek yogurt mixed with steel-cut oats, based on Soylent's nutritional profile, substituting a meal-replacement drink might be a good alternative. That said, an all-Soylent diet isn't for me: Give me take-out, or give me death.
More Great Links
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- Beck, Julie. "Soylent, Meal Replacements and the Hurdle of Boredom." The Atlantic. April 30, 2014. (March 25, 2015) http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/meal-replacements-and-the-hurdle-of-boredom/361242/
- Bradshaw, Tim. "Food 2.0: The Future of What We Eat." FT Magazine. Oct. 31, 2014. (March 26, 2015) http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/bfa6fca0-5fbb-11e4-8c27-00144feabdc0.html
- Davis, Lauren. "Could Soylent really replace all of the food in your diet?" io9. June 2, 2013. (March 26, 2015) http://io9.com/could-soylent-really-replace-all-of-the-food-in-your-di-510890007
- Dubost, Joy. Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Personal interview. March 30, 2015.
- Morin, Roc. "The Man Who Would Make Food Obsolete." The Atlantic. April 28, 2014. (March 23, 2015) http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/the-man-who-would-make-eating-obsolete/361058/
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- Rhinehart, Rob. "How I Stopped Eating Food." Mostly Harmless. Feb. 13, 2013. (April 2, 2015) http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298
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