Why Soylent is the Future of Medicine

Why Soylent is the Future of Medicine

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For me, Soylent is one of the most interesting startups in the world, right now. It is a Silicon Valley food company, looking to revolutionise the global food industry. Their mission is to provide maximum nutrition with minimum effort.

The first generation of Soylent’s products launched commercially in May last year, as a powdered meal replacement drink. It has provided several newly-improved iterations since then, and version number 6 has just launched as a ready-mixed drink.

Currently, you can eat all that your body nutritionally needs for $12 per day, in the time it takes to drink 5 glasses of water.

Soylent is by no means the finished article – the perfect food. Anyone who knows anything about nutrition would tell you that. What makes the company interesting is their moonshot approach to disrupting the current cost and speed of good nutrition, as well as the fact that they are shaped more like a tech company than a food company.

As an organisation, they are evolving at lightning speed, and if that speed of progress continues, they will have a huge impact on the planet. If the fastest, cheapest food also keeps you in good health, it will cause a lot of disruption to the current food and health industries around the world. Not only that, but it will reduce much of the damage our food industry does to the planet.

At first glance, a company like Soylent could be confused with being just another provider of the meal replacement products. But the latest version of Soylent comes in a ready-to-drink bottle, containing ingredients produced from algae – also hinting at the direction of food production in the future. It is conceivable that algal bioreactors could soon feature in every home, creating personalised nutrition on demand. This algal community could evolve to meet your needs, based on live data from your body. This is the path that organisations like Soylent are taking. That is what makes them very different to the old players in the meal replacement sector.

Soylent is not competing with the best quality food. Soylent is competing against the worst quality food, and the fast convenience of that terrible food. The convenience food industry has us cornered into bad health at the moment. Unless you grow your own food, it requires a lot of money and willpower to stay in good health. For many people, those two resources are in short supply. But Soylent is also about disrupting the link between bad health and poverty. The food and healthcare deserts of America could be infiltrated with good nutrition, just as well as some of the poorest places in the world. Wherever Coca-Cola is now, Soylent could be in the future. And for me, that is a game changer.

With such innovative food available, a baseline of good nutrition will be cheaper and more convenient than any other form of food. The maintenance of good health will not require a great investment of money and willpower in the future. And that is why it will help to tip the balance.

I would be the first to say that returning to local organic food is what we really need to do as a human race, and I do actively work on that, on a day-to-day basis. But as a singular solution, feeding 7 billion people with busy lives may be hard to achieve that way, in the short term.

I do know that long-term malnutrition is the foundation of most diseases in our western lifestyle. There is an explosion of evidence that diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cancer and mental health problems are linked to poor nutrition. Look at the Functional Medicine movement now, in which doctors have discovered that most of these lifestyle diseases can be avoided and even reversed with good nutrition – and you can see how something like the Soylent approach can revolutionise healthcare.

Given the cost of healthcare, I genuinely believe that governments will start to work out that free base nutrition will be the cheapest way to keep the population in good health. And since food and healthcare are two of the biggest costs associated with ageing, it will also be the cheapest way to reduce spiralling cost of ageing in the long term. We are not too far away from seeing that happen.

Certainly, we will see disaster zones and refugee camps start adopting nutrition-based approaches to healthcare using the resources they currently spend on bad nutrition. It is not much of a leap to suggest that countries under severe financial restraints will have to innovate to keep their populations happy and in good health. Nutrition is a good place to start.

At the Dandelion Project, we aim have moonshot aims to reduce the cost of living to zero in the island nation of Guernsey, whilst increasing life expectancy to over 100.

To achieve this, we understand that the provision of food is, first and foremost, a health system. And Soylent’s mission and approach shows a way to reduce the cost of that health system to a fraction of what it is now.

To turning the tide.

Marc

p.s. This is a provocative subject that will no doubt create some heated debate. Share your insights in the comments section below.

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  1. As you say, Soylent is not the finished article, reviews are generally terrible and in their rush to efficiency they have forgotten that eating is a multi-sensory experience. Taste, temperature, texture etc. Having a meal with friends, the enjoyment of creating a meal. The pleasure of seeing food you’ve grown end up on your plate. Soylent attracted a lot of attention because they raised a lot of cash through crowd funding. I wouldn’t want to see a world where everyone is drinking a powdered meal replacement. I can see the benefit of this type of thing in supplement form but as a life experience where every meal is a powered shake? It sounds like hell. That’s before we even get on to the issues and dangers connected with soy both to the planet and people who consume it. I’ve looked at their website and decree that in its current form Soylent can F off.

    • Television is terrible. It just can’t compare to the experience of watching your friends perform a play you wrote and directed yourself, in a theater built from local lumber and masonry, with your own sweat and tears.

      Whoops, wrong site.

      Soylent is terrible. Etc, etc, etc.

  2. On a related topic, examples of using “fake food” to fight malnutrition :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumpy'nut

    Obvious concerns to the paranoïd inside me :

    – The legal issues involved, in having the very “concept” of what you eat being the intellectual property of a corporation
    – The potential long-term health issues (would FDA-like regulations be enough ? applicable ? irrelevant ?)
    – The fact that *everyone* knows what “Soylent” will be made of, at the end of the movie… (seriously, given the opportunity, how long before someone tries ? )

    That being said, certainly worth a shot.

    • To allay your concerns:

      “The legal issues involved, in having the very “concept” of what you eat being the intellectual property of a corporation”

      Soylent (and some of its knock-off competitors who have sprung up) use an open-source formula. The list of ingredients and proportions are freely available to anyone and they even encourage DIY through their diy.soylent.com initiative.

      “The potential long-term health issues (would FDA-like regulations be enough ? applicable ? irrelevant ?)”

      A couple of things here: One, Soylent can much more easily change their formula to include any deficiencies that science discovers in the future compared to other foods. Second, according to all blood and other tests that have been conducted so far (it is early yet), all indicators are that people who begin incorporating Soylent into their diet become much healthier from their previous diet. (Obviously, this is in addition to any money or time savings benefits that are seen.)

      “The fact that *everyone* knows what “Soylent” will be made of, at the end of the movie… (seriously, given the opportunity, how long before someone tries ? )”

      The name “Soylent” actually originally comes from the book that the movie was based on. (Called “Take Room, Take Room”) In it, Soylent was made of soy and lentils, not people!

  3. I’m in two minds about this. It would be interesting to see how it feels to use it, the body/mind is wired to seek and consume in large quantities calorie dense food (fat/sugar/carbs), if obtainable, which until recent history were rare. I wonder if folk would use this then ‘top up’ on unhealthy food to meet the mouth-feel/satiety element of eating, and thus lead to further obesity.?

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