Presented as new, Soylent appears to anyone who genuinely loves food as just another nutritional drink right down to the marketing photos: The innocuous beige liquid is seen magically poured from on high, bubbling to the surface of a gleaming glass in a spotless environment. Yet Rob Rhinehart invented Soylent, which has been described as tasting like the liquid run-off from oatmeal, with higher aspirations in mind. His simple and affordable powder that is mixed into water contains “everything the healthy body needs” and is meant to be “a more efficient approach to nutrition,” one that he hopes will “reduce the global disparity of health.”
Can those claims be backed? In a word, no. "Scores of DIYers" and the founders themselves have been living on Soylent for months (Wouldn’t that office be a joy to work in!), “and there is much evidence that is considerably healthier than a typical diet,” but no statistically-significant scientific tests have been conducted and scant information, beside the personal, is presented on the website. What’s in the powder? The list of ingredients includes maltodextrin (a type of carbohydrate), rice protein, oat flour, canola oil, fish oil, and soy. Its nutritional profile is based on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), though Rhinehart “added a couple extras and changed a few based on my testing.” The Food and Drug Administration would regulate the nutritional drink as a dietary supplement; since none of its ingredients are new to the market, it would therefore be considered both legal and safe. Could a healthy person live exclusively on Soylent and maintain his or her health? That has never been tested and proven, though for most people, the better question is: Would you really want to?
Clearly, Rhinehart is one of those rare people who finds food tedious and, presumably, lacking in pleasure. “In my own life I resented the time, money, and effort the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming,” Rhinehart wrote for his blog. So he created the powdered drink, which contains no hormones, pesticides, or preservatives, in order to simplify his world. “I almost forgot to mention, when everything going in to your body is diffused in to the bloodstream, you don't poop.” Glad you mentioned that!
Soylent should begin shipping on or around March 20 and those who pre-ordered (and anyone else) can judge for themselves whether it is a worthy replacement of regular food. For many people, the single remarkable aspect of this humble seeming drink is the fact that it has been backed by an impressive crowd-sourcing campaign in which Rhinehart managed to pull in a cool $2 million in preorders. Perhaps that should be expected from an alumnus of Y Combinator, a minimalist venture capital firm that provides seed money to start-ups. Ironically, Y Combinator’s innovation in the field was hosting a weekly event at which highly successful digital entrepreneurs (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appears on the website) speak to guests who meet potential backers… over dinner.