Scientists Discovered Serious Problems With the Food Alternative Everyone's Talking About

Scientists Discovered Serious Problems With the Food Alternative Everyone's Talking About

The news: Just like those Vibram FiveFingers shoes, Soylent is the type of ludicrous-sounding, yet "disruptive" product that's enjoying surprisingly considerable success in Silicon Valley. In case you missed the buzz, Soylent is that chalky, somewhat flavorless paste designed to entirely replace most of a normal human diet and free us from the tyranny of eating. Inventor Rob Rhinehart claims it has significant health benefits and says he lost weight and exercised more after switching to Soylent.

But much like FiveFingers was found to have misled customers about the health benefits of their shoes, it might yet turn out that a Soylent diet could be straight-up bad for you. Newly published research from Japan's Tohoku University found that mice subsisting entirely on powdered food developed serious health issues. 

What kind of health issues? "Hyperglycemia and related systemic signs of illness, including increases in serum adrenaline, noradrenaline and corticosterone, higher blood pressures (especially diastolic) and increased social interaction behaviors."

Wow. To be clear, the mice weren't fed Soylent specifically, and the effects might be very different in humans. But because the nutrient content of the pellet-fed control group was exactly the same, the researchers are pretty confident that the health effects were directly tied to mastication (chewing, or lack thereof). Powdered food was ultimately more easily digested and absorbed. Just 17 weeks was enough for the rats to develop real health problems that could have compounded over time. It's worth noting that both sets of rats still maintained steady blood sugar levels, were similar weights and had the same heart rates.

As Popular Science's Francie Diep writes, this is limited evidence. There's no real long-term scientific research on the effects of powdered foodstuffs as the mainstay of a diet, and it's possible that Soylent could have the same effects as real food. But it could also theoretically make you sick or weaker, which is why the best bet for being healthy is still to stick with a diet of real, healthy food, for now at least. 


Soylent is a real, ACTUAL product, but this commercial is fake. Mashable.com has no affiliation with Soylent or its creators.

Why you should care: The fact of the matter is that Soylent is not yet a proven product. All its creators have demonstrated so far is that it probably won't kill you.

Despite that, Rhinehart's company claims that Soylent is nutritionally complete, that it makes you more alert, it helps people cut fat and lose weight and that it isn't dangerous. But it's not at all clear that Soylent does any of that. At best, it's a "tasteless, bland, nutrient shake that saps any pleasure of eating" and that might give you bloating and gas.

If you do decide to go on Soylent, keep in mind that peppy reviews aren't a replacement for scientific research.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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