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Soylent: No Food For 30 Days 440 440

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Senior Editor of Motherboard Brian Merchant went an entire month without eating regular food. Instead, the journalist whisked up a concoction called soylent, an efficient take on the future of nourishment and nutrition. Merchant says: 'It was my second day on Soylent and my stomach felt like a coil of knotty old rope, slowly tightening. I wasn't hungry, but something was off. I was tired, light-headed, low-energy, but my heart was racing. My eyes glazed over as I stared out the window of our rental SUV as we drove over the fog-shrouded Bay Bridge to Oakland. Some of this was nerves, sure. I had twenty-eight days left of my month-long all-Soylent diet—I was attempting to live on the full food replacement longer than anyone besides its inventor—and I felt woozy already. ... By the third week of Soylent, not eating food seemed normal. I saw a doctor, who said I was healthy; I was still losing weight, but nothing serious. Yet, given that a daily mixture of Soylent contains 2,400 calories, both Rob and Dr. Engel thought it was odd that I’d shed so much. Dr. Engel said that given my weight, height, and body mass, I should only require about 1,800 calories a day. I could still be adjusting to the new diet, or I could have such a hyperactive metabolism that before Soylent, I was tearing through hundreds of extra calories per day and staying trim.'"
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Soylent: No Food For 30 Days

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  • Nope! (Score:4, Informative)

    by kamapuaa (555446) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @09:25PM (#45407983) Homepage

    Dude is over six feet tall. There's no way his maintenance calories was only 1800, 2400 sounds right. For example, if he's a mildly active 170 pounder, this calculator says he should eat 2560 calories a day to break even [bmi-calculator.net]. Sure maybe I'm guess wrong or he's not active or what have you, but 1800 isn't even in the realm of possibility.

    Surely, it's that eating measured amounts of a controlled substance forced him to measure his calories accurately...study after study show that people wildly mis-represent how many calories they consume.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @09:26PM (#45407997)

    When you eat, you are not only feeding yourself. There is an entire ecosystem of bacteria that you are feeding.

    All that stuff that is NOT calories, can becomes calories, vitamins, and various other things, depending on your gut bacteria. That is one of the reasons to eat fiber, vegetables, and similar stuff. Gut bacteria is the reason why eating too much meat causes heart disease. Etc. etc.

    If you do not feed your gut bacteria, there may be consequences that neither you nor your doctor can understand. And these consequences could be long term and maybe not even easily reversible.

    As a summary and FYI, our shit is 50% bacteria (mostly e. coli.) by mass. That bacteria is more critical to our health than almost anything else. And that is why we still eat - to feed that bacteria. Otherwise, we could just live with intravenous system without the need for stomachs and related, messy plumbing.

  • This isn't new (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @09:54PM (#45408171)

    The thing that bugs me the most about this product is that the press is acting like it's something new and unique.

    It's not. This sort of thing has been around at least 50 years or so.

    Back in the late1950s/early 1960's, scientists from NASA didn't know for sure if man could even swallow in zero-gee. So they concocted a liquid meal that could be pumped into the astronaut's stomach via a gastronasal tube. Now the astronauts didn't want to be fed by a plastic tube going up their nose and into the stomach. And after several Soviet and US flights, it was proved that you can eat and swallow just fine in zero-gee.

    The research didn't go to waste. Gastroenterologists and nutritionists became interested in the mixture for special needs patients. Patients that were born with malformed intestines, patients that had lost large parts of their intestines due to disease or injury, patients that couldn't swallow normally, stuff like that. These medical food products have been around for a long time.

    Google words like "Vivonex", "Tolerex", "Peptemine", and "elemental diet." Think Ensure, but broken down even more. Not proteins, but amino acids that can be directly absorbed by even the smallest portion of active intestine.

    It's a shame journalists today don't bother doing research. Or maybe they aren't journalists? Maybe they're actually spin doctors hoping to cash in?

  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @10:32PM (#45408423) Homepage
    That's what most people forget about dieting, and where food labels are often misleading. Sure 1 cup of sugar contains the same number of calories as 2 cups of whole wheat pasta (according to Google). But the latter requires much more energy for your body to actually process, and it's questionable if you're body could even get at 100% of that energy, where as with sugar, it would be able to process it very efficiently.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @10:36PM (#45408463)

    Due to a medical condition I've been living on a liquid food, Jevity 1.5 for over a year and a half. I take in about 1700 calories a day through a tube into my stomach, have maintained a steady 145 for the whole time.

    Not having food or drink was very hard at first, a form of torture almost. Be gradually I accepted it. I still spend a good bit of time watching cooking videos. Used to watch the Food Channel for hours a day, something I NEVER did before all food was denied to me.

    There are actually some benefits here. My entire food shopping, preparation, intake, and clean up takes about 1/2 hour per day. So I have more time for other things, including watching cooking videos.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:11PM (#45408709) Homepage Journal

    It's not a dimensionless constant, it's M / L^2.

    Once you multiply the mass by gravity to get weight, you end up with F / L^2, or pressure units. Assuming the length and width of your feet are proportional to the rest of your body, BMI is proportional to the pressure between the ground and your feet. (Unless, of course, you have no feet [youtube.com].)

  • by dwywit (1109409) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:25PM (#45408833)

    I was wondering about that - doesn't lack of fibre lead to an increase in colon cancers?

    I don't think the "inventor" has given enough thought to the complex dance of gut flora (good and bad), macro and micro-nutrients, and the sheer diversity of humans. One size does NOT fit all. For example, if you're somewhat prone to colon cancer (genetically), a healthy diet of conventional food with lots of fibre may be all that's keeping that cancer from developing.

    What about the decrease in effort for the digestive system to process "soylent". Wouldn't your digestive tract eventually weaken and degrade from not having enough work to do?

    At least he doesn't advocate giving up conventional food completely.

  • Re:Or... (Score:5, Informative)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @11:47PM (#45409007)

    The blood work tells you pretty well what is and isn't supposed to be in your body (if a given nutrient isn't carried in your blood serum, then nothing gets it)

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Reference_ranges_for_blood_tests_-_by_mass.svg [wikimedia.org]

    The only problem his had was being D deficient. I think D is one of the most expensive ones to test for (I heard it costs around $500) so I think if they included that in his blood work panel then they were probably very comprehensive in their testing.

    With that being the case, it probably is that this isn't (fully) healthy for you in that it doesn't satisfy your D requirements, but that is actually easy to address.

    There exists the possibility that this wouldn't satisfy every persons metabolic requirements as well (for example, some people need different amounts of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium than other people, which genetics are known to play a heavy role in) so if/when they do clinical tests they should also isolate based on race and do the same regular blood work throughout the trials.

  • Thanks to NASA (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @12:03AM (#45409087) Journal

    Exactly -- NASA created the first complete liquid diet (called Vivonex 100) way back in the late 1950s for astronauts. It became a core treatment for infants &kids in a dangerous "failure to thrive" state due to malabsorption or malnutrition (often due to GI defects) and prodded companies to start producing commercial nutrition-replacement beverages. IMHO it's a good example of how NASA's research has helped everyday regular people and even (as in my case)saved lives.

  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @01:21AM (#45409585)

    Once you multiply the mass by gravity to get weight, you end up with F / L^2, or pressure units. Assuming the length and width of your feet are proportional to the rest of your body, BMI is proportional to the pressure between the ground and your feet.

    Absolutely right. Which means BMI might be a good measure of potential for diseases and disorders highly correlated with excess downward "pressure" within the body -- joint problems in the legs, back problems, foot issues, perhaps some circulation issues, etc.

    But it's not used for that generally: instead, it's compared to how much bodyfat one has to determine things like "obesity." Except obesity is usually correlated with a three-dimensional addition of fat onto the body frame, not a two-dimensional one. That leads to the obvious conclusion that the formula will overestimate adiposity (fatness) for tall people, while underestimating it for short people.

    My theory has been that the ONLY reason this formula ever got any attention at all is because that very defect makes it applicable for both average men and average women. Women naturally tend to have slightly higher bodyfat than men, and they also are shorter on average. That means that the formula will give similar results in predicting adiposity for women and men of average height. But it will be TERRIBLE for predicting it correctly for men who are short and as tall as the average woman, or women who are as tall or taller than the average man.

    All of this does come from basic unit analysis.

  • Re:Calories (Score:4, Informative)

    by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @01:27AM (#45409643)

    Unit analysis on miles per gallon works out to an area (inverse area, actually), but that doesn't mean its a bullshit figure.

    That's because MPG is still related to a physical metric. You can see this better if you think of gallons per mile, whose units are (as you note) an area. Yes -- it would actually be an area precisely equivalent to a cross section of a long thin tube of gasoline stretched out to cover the distance your car goes on that amount of gas. MPG is just the reciprocal of that area. Just because you can't figure out how the units are physically meaningful doesn't mean that they don't actually have a physical representation or correlation to the measurement.

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