Turns out, actual food might be better for us than Silicon Valley’s alternative.
Los Angeles-based Soylent touts itself as the world’s “easiest nutritional food,” engineered to contain protein, carbs, lipids and micronutrients. Mixed with water, its powder becomes a thick, chalky substance that many in the tech world have used to “hack their diets” — otherwise known as a meal replacement.
Soylent has raised more than $20 million from backers like Andreessen Horowitz and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.
But some of its products — including its flagship, the Soylent powder — have been making people sick, causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Two weeks ago, Soylent issued a product recall on its newest line, Soylent Bars, after it said “a small number of our customers have experienced gastrointestinal issues.”
Life hacks are designed to be simple and quick solutions to some of life’s complex problems. Sometimes it’s a tip or another way of looking at a problem that makes it easier to address the challenge. In the case of Rob Rhinehart, serial entrepreneur, he decided to hack his food supply.
Having spent $100,000 without success from the $170,000 he and his partners had received from Y Combinator, Rhinehart stopped looking at technological advancements.
He had become fascinated with the idea of reducing his food bill and the time it took to cook and eat. Without any education in nutrition, food preparation or biology, he used the last of the money to start Soylent.
While his new company has a large fan base, the product will have difficulty living up to the hype based on the nutritional premise behind the product line and the manufacturing foundation of the product.
Although using a meal replacement may allow you slightly increased productivity, eating meals with friends and family has a distinct emotional and psychological benefit to your health.
In recent weeks their newest product line, Soylent Bar, has been recalled as consumers are suffering from hours of vomiting, dehydration and diarrhea, some requiring hospitalization. The first health issues were reported September 7, and the company is still struggling to determine the source of the problem.
Can You Drink Your Daily Nutritional Requirements?
The primary premise behind Soylent is that you can drink your complete nutritional requirements and never have to eat food again. Taking advantage of a large community of people who continually strive to find more hours in their day, Rhinehart hit upon a marketing strategy that launched his company and built a strong fan base.
Other companies have produced liquid nourishment they claim are supplements to your regular food intake, reportedly designed to improve your vitamin intake without compromising taste and quality.
However, manufactured liquid food cannot adequately replace the nutrients and micronutrients your body extracts from organic, whole foods.
Ambronite, a self-proclaimed “supermeal” in a bottle, marketed as a meal replacement drink, has a similar idea about natural food sources. Founded in 2013 and carried in 35 countries, co-founder Simo Suoheimo told International Business Times:
“The main thing with longer space voyages that we’re currently seeing, the trend in this sort of research, is stemming from the fact that we haven’t really solved nutrition science.
We’re still very much in the beginning of understanding what nutrients play a part in human survival and indeed optimizing performance.
The fact is that with the current knowledge it’s really hard to create a complete product with synthetics because we don’t even know yet what we have to include in there. Whereas products based on real actual foods solve this pretty well.”
Soylent Soy Not Soylent Green
In the 1973 science-fiction film “Soylent Green,” an overpopulated futuristic society was reduced to living on wafers, called Soylent Green. Only at the end of the film do consumers learn the wafers have been made of human flesh.
In the early months, Rhinehart was encouraged to change the name of his company, but said he liked the self-deprecating nature of the name. His idea was to poke fun:“The general ethos of natural, fresh, organic [and] bright — this is the opposite.”
The early recipes used canola oil for lipids and fats, maltodextrin (another name for sugar) and oat flour for carbohydrates, rice for protein and sucralose (key ingredient in artificial sweetener Splenda) to mask the taste of the vitamins.
It is outwardly apparent from observing dietary habits that you can survive on less than optimal nutrition. But the resulting poor health, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancers and other illnesses make it less than an ideal choice.
Scientists are not yet aware of how your body uses phytochemicals and other nutrients that have not yet been identified. Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard School of Public Health chair of the nutritional department, was quoted in The New Yorker, saying:
“It’s a little bit presumptuous to think that we actually know everything that goes into an optimally healthy diet. [You can live without plant chemicals.] But you may not live maximally, and you may not have optimal function. We’re concerned about much more than just surviving.”
Proud to Use Genetically Engineered Foods Despite Overwhelming Evidence of Risks
In this documentary you’ll discover some of what happens when we use genetically engineered (GE) foods. Scientists are only beginning to uncover the long-term effects of splicing the genes of one living creature into another.
However, Soylent isn’t convinced by independently funded research and has relied on information from the American Medical Association (AMA), World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission, claiming no credible evidence exists that genetically modified (GM) foods are unsafe. However, even WHO admits that:
“Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.”
Then, in 2015, 19 of the 28 countries in the European Commission decided it was in the best interest of their citizens to say “No” to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within their borders, and all 28 countries require labeling of foods containing GMO products. According to Soylent:
“All of our products use bioengineered algae as a source of lipids and essential omega fatty acids. Produced efficiently in bioreactors, rather than on farmland, these single-celled organisms require far less resources than traditional agriculture.”
Genetic Engineering Is Not Clear Cut
Although many organization claim that “GMO foods are safe,” this statement is far from the truth for two different reasons. In the first place, genetically engineering any plant or animal is not as clear cut as moving one puzzle piece from one plant or animal to another.
This is a laboratory-based technique that has produced unexpected and toxic results when scientists begin tampering with the DNA of living organisms. Manipulating the genetics of a plant or animal is very imprecise.
Pesticide-producing plants designed to increase crop yield, and an inability to adequately predict the long-term effects of GM plants and animals in the food supply chain, only increases your risk of illness and disease.
In one 90-day trial researchers were able to detect organ disruption in the kidneys and livers of laboratory animals that “could be the onset of chronic diseases.”
The researchers noted that at that time there was no time limit for studying the effects of GMO food on humans and suggested it should be made compulsory to study these effects longer than 90 days, and should include multigenerational studies to assess long-term health and fertility issues.
This is plain common sense, since no one alive today will eat GMOs for mere months unless they’re eating a wholly organic diet from birth until death.
Toxic Chemical Exposure Increases When Total Food Supply Is GMO
Soylent promises their customers that the drinks and bars they sell can meet all your nutritional needs. Some of their customers have taken this to heart and completely eliminated other food sources. This may be a very dangerous choice, as plant-based GMO products are genetically manipulated to withstand powerful pesticides allowing farmers to use higher and higher doses to kill weeds that are becoming resistant to chemical control.
This means you are exposed to greater amounts of toxic chemicals with the increased number of GMO products you consume. If your total nutrition comes from a product using mostly GMO-based nutrients, then it stands to reason that unless those ingredients are first completely cleansed of pesticide residue and pesticides bred into the plant are removed (which is currently not possible), you are increasing your toxic load with each meal.
Current Bar Recall Is Not the First Problem Soylent Has Experienced
Soylent’s new bars are being recalled due to their causing severe illness, but this isn’t the first problem this company has faced since its inception in 2013. In 2015 they introduced 2.0, their signature drink in a bottle. Whereas before customers mixed a bottle of lipids with powder and water, the 2.0 drink came premixed in a slick white plastic bottle.
Mere weeks after the product’s introduction, shipments were delayed. Amid customer complaints, the company admitted that some of their bottles were growing mold on the exterior surfaces. However, images sent to Motherboard clearly show mold growth both on the exterior and interior of their bottles.
The current problems with the Soylent bar will not disappear quickly. One Reddit user has compiled 58 reports of gastrointestinal distress since September 7. The original report in Ars Technica listed 33 reported illnesses on October 10, but the list jumped to 58 by October 16. Rosa Labs, manufacturers of the Soylent bars released this statement:
“After these reports, we have retrieved remaining bars from our consumers and have personally consumed many of the remaining bars without adverse effects. We have also sent them for further microbiological testing and all tests have come back negative. Based on this we remain very confident in the safety of the bars.”
Soylent has theorized the problem results from an intolerance or sensitivity to one of the ingredients in the bars. Although Soylent said the manufacturing facility, Betty Lou’s in McMinnville Oregon, is inspected annually, an online U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) database indicates the last inspection was done in 2014 with a “voluntary action indicated” result.
Is Artificial Sweetener to Blame?
BuzzFeed quotes sources close to Soylent’s production who believe the gastrointestinal problems may be related to the amount of sucralose in the bar, but the company has no current plans to reduce the amount. Each bar contains 30 milligrams (mg) of sucralose, the key ingredient in the artificial sweetener Splenda.
Despite the company’s interest in laying responsibility for the vomiting and diarrhea at the doorstep of sucralose, Diet Coke and Pepsi One both have 40 mg of sucralose in one can of soda, 10 mg more than a Soylent bar.
That said, sucralose does come with other health concerns. In 2013, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) downgraded sucralose from “safe” to “caution” after preliminary findings suggested sucralose consumption caused leukemia in mice. The study was finally published in early 2016, demonstrating male mice who consumed sucralose had a greater potential of developing leukemia and malignant tumors in their lifetime than did the female mice. The researchers concluded:
“These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats. Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent.”
Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist at CSPI, addressed concerns that in this study mice received doses of sucralose higher than currently recommended by the FDA. She was quoted by EatClean.com saying:
“[E]ven if you consume less, that doesn’t mean there’s no problem. When something causes cancer at high doses, it generally causes cancer at lower doses, the risk is just smaller.”
SAD NEWS: House Passes DARK Act Compromise
The House passed a compromise to the DARK Act that will force food distributors to disclose the presence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients with a smartphone scan code. President Obama has signed the bill that removes states’ rights for labeling GMOs. The bill is full of loopholes, which may allow genetically modified ingredients to slip through unannounced.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), aka GE foods, are live organisms whose genetic components have been artificially manipulated in a laboratory setting through creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and even viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I’ve stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.
The FDA cleared the way for GE Atlantic salmon to be farmed for human consumption. Thanks to added language in the federal spending bill, the product will require special labeling so at least consumers will have the ability to identify the GE salmon in stores. However, it’s imperative ALL GE foods be labeled clearly without a smartphone scan code because not everyone owns a smartphone.
The FDA is threatening the existence of our food supply. We have to start taking action now. I urge you to share this article with friends and family. If we act together, we can make a difference and put an end to the absurdity.
Boycott Smart Labels Today
When you see the QR code or so-called Smart Label on a food product, pass it by. Products bearing the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association’s (GMA) Smart Label mark are in all likelihood filled with pesticides and/or GMO ingredients.
The GMA’s 300-plus members include chemical technology companies, GE seed and food and beverage companies. Monsanto, Dow and Coca-Cola are just some of the heavy-hitters in this powerful industry group, which has showed no qualms about doing whatever it takes to protect the interest of its members.
Don’t waste your time searching through their website, which may or may not contain the information you’re looking for. If they insist on wasting your time and making your shopping difficult, why reward them with a purchase?
A little known fact is that the GMA actually owns the “Smart Label” trademark that Congress has accepted as a so-called “compromise” to on-package GMO labeling, and that’s another reason why I believe the Smart Label mark is the mark of those with something to hide, such as Monsanto.
Will you financially support a corrupt, toxic and unsustainable food system, or a healthy, regenerative one? There are many options available besides big-brand processed foods that are part of the “GMA’s verified ring of deception.” You can:
- Shop at local farms and farmers markets
- Only buy products marked either “USDA 100 percent Organic” (which by law cannot contain GMOs), “100 percent Grass-Fed” or “Non-GMO Verified”
- If you have a smartphone and you don’t mind using it, download the OCA’s Buycott app to quickly and easily identify the thousands of proprietary brands belonging to GMA members, so you can avoid them, as well as identify the names of ethical brands that deserve your patronage
Last but not least, encourage good companies to reject QR codes and to be transparent and clear with their labeling. This will eventually ensure that all GMO foods can easily be identified by the GMA’s “verified ring of deception” mark that is the Smart Label.
Campbell’s, Mars, Kellogg’s, ConAgra and General Mills all vowed to voluntarily comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling law by labeling all of their foods sold across the U.S. Will their plans change now that the law has been passed by Congress and signed by the President? That remains to be seen, but if you like these companies, I would encourage you to reach out to them and ask them to remain steadfast in their promise.
Non-GMO Food Resources by Country
If you are searching for non-GMO foods, here is a list of trusted sites you can visit.
*Article originally appeared at Mercola.