#1 By: Kjell Hansen, April 12th, 2013 22:36
What appreciable difference is there between Soylent and other commercial synthetic products designed to deliver complete long-term adult liquid nutrition (e.g. Nutren®, Ensure®, and Jevity®)?
Peruse Abbott Nutrition or Nestlé Nutrition's product ranges. It seems there are a wide variety of products already in this market niche, medical in nature, designed for patients that require feeding tubes or oral dietary supplements.
#2 By: Ante Finem, April 13th, 2013 10:40
I believe soylent offers a truly complete solution instead of something to help you along. Plus, the true ingredients are known to you and you have nothing else in it.
#3 By: somesomeguy, April 14th, 2013 02:15
Soylent is aimed at people who don't WANT to eat normal food; those products are aimed at people who CAN'T.
I did a comparison between Soylent and the products you mentioned. Soylent adds the additional "not necessary" things Rob mentioned on his blog: Lycopene, Omega-3s, Ginseng, Gingko Biloba, Lutein, Alpha Carotene, and Vanadium.
Soylent is missing Taurine and Carnitine- opinions on that from someone who knows more than I?
#4 By: Derryl, April 18th, 2013 01:14
Soylent differs from the products you mentioned primarily in terms of the depth and proportions of ingredients it contains.
Ensure is composed mainly of water, corn syrup, sugar, maltodextrin, and milk protein concentrate, with trace amounts of other chemicals. In other words, it's essentially sugar water with flavoring and preservatives added.
Soylent also has a sizable quantity of carbohydrates and milk-derived protein, but the list of essential nutrients that it provides goes far deeper than that of Ensure (et al).
It remains to be seen whether or not one could actually survive on Soylent for an entire lifetime – but I can say with absolute certainty that you won't hold up very well if you attempt to subsist entirely on Ensure.
Taurine and carnitine are non-essential chemicals (meaning that our body can synthesize them from other substances).
Carnitine, for example, is synthesized from lysine and methionine, which are themselves essential amino acids. Presumably, they're included in the whey protein Rob uses in his mix.
#5 By: Stephane Beaudin, April 18th, 2013 04:44
Both taurine and carnitine are synthesized but the human body.
#6 By: David Steinberg, April 21st, 2013 23:09
This thread deserves attention from @rob considering he has applied for a patent. He is going to have to describe specifically what constitutes the difference from existing products as part of his application.
These food items have been approved and field tested for tube feeding. They are trusted by doctors. Although the choice of sugar source (corn) seems like an obvious difference does it constitute fundamentally different intellectual property?
If the primary addition from existing total nutrition products is the addition of non-FDA approved "nootropics," I have concerns about soylent's future.
Let's assume the patent is approved and he is able to deliver soylent at a fraction of a cost of these reconstituted products. Maybe someone can shed more light onto this but it seems like in the end he will be going toe to toe with Nestle, and that the license is not open source!
Looking forward to thoughtful responses!
#7 By: Rob Rhinehart, April 24th, 2013 18:21
Soylent is not the first drink with calories in it, nor was Google the first search engine. There are many liquid diets. You'd probably be surprised how long you can survive on just cow's milk. No one says 'solid diets exist already' when someone makes a new food. I don't see how the viscosity makes up an entire category. I considered Ensure but found it much too expensive, low calorie, unpalatable, and an ingredient make up that was far from complete or optimal.
The goal of soylent is to make something ideal, not just a quick shot that will get rid of hunger for a few hours. I need something that allows me to run and lift and think, not just survive, and something considerably cheaper than normal food. A big part of soylent is its personalization as well. There is no 2000 calorie human. If you want an ideal diet you have to personalize it.
I do not plan to patent soylent as the patenting of "plumpy nut" interfered with its capacity to help the hungry, which is a big focus of soylent.
#8 By: Ante Finem, April 24th, 2013 20:52
Rob, I would patent Soylent. If only for the reason of helping the hungry. If you don't, someone else will, and then they will control how the product is delivered, priced, etc. I know that isn't why you should normally patent something, but in the state of our society, Patenting a product is necessary to protect it from the greedy people in the world.
#9 By: Tim, April 25th, 2013 10:40
He doesn't need to patent it. He could release it into the public domain, or with an open source license of some kind, thus making it unpatentable.
#10 By: Rob Rhinehart, April 26th, 2013 21:08
I don't think someone could stop me from making it, they could only try to compete by producing it better and cheaper, which would still be a win for humanity.
#11 By: Kjell Hansen, May 8th, 2013 18:00
@rob, I applaud your vision for Soylent and continue to follow its development with interest.
My point in urging comparison of Soylent to certain other engineered foods with R&D-intensive nutritional design histories isn't to discourage further development, but rather to suggest that past efforts be learned from. We'd do well to focus more on differences in actual compositions and health effects and be less dismissive about differences in intended uses and/or marketing.
What's worth mentioning in comparison to Soylent? I'd agree that Plumpy'nut®—a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) for treatment of malnutrition in famine situations—is indeed instructive. Moreso than considerations about how long one might survive on just cow's milk, human breast milk, the exclusive source of nutrition for newborns for the first 6 months of life (or longer), spurs important questions about changing nutritional needs over a human lifetime.
Or consider the extreme requisites of food for prolonged spaceflight and NASA's Advanced Food Technology Project, with its eyes toward a mission to Mars. Ask why their visible efforts appear nothing like dehydrated Soylent. Is NASA on the wrong track or is their different approach all due to the additional constraints of low weight, high shelf-life and psychological appeal?
Six years ago, my father's surgery for throat cancer resulted in losing his ability to speak and needing to intake his food through a PEG tube (his epiglottis was damaged by radiation and he'd repeatedly contracted pneumonia from food particles entering his trachea). He was on Jevity® 1.5 for a brief time. Later, he had a surgery to separate his esophagus and trachea completely, such that he now breathes through a stoma and has regained his ability to intake liquified food orally. Today, he continues to rely on carefully considered homemade formulas and meals that my mother blends for him.
It's because I take the potential of Soylent seriously that I'd be concerned if those enthusiastic about it seem to overstate its novelty, or fail to see that a different vision for a product does not necessarily make a product different.
#12 By: Bryan Do, May 14th, 2013 19:04
I agree with Kjell, working in a burn ICU a lot of our patients are given tube feedings based on their status whether they are still sedated/vented, trached, or being supplemented on top of a regular diet if strong enough to tolerate swallow studies. These feeds include Pivot 1.2, Peptamen AF, 2CAL etc and when I look at the ingredients, aside from some micronutrients available in a multivitamin already, it is VERY similar. I think the point that needs to get across is the PRICE. These feeds are very expensive in the acute setting, when dietary kitchen is closed overnight we hide and hoard our feeds so it will not get swooped up by other units since our patients are on a much more strict nutrient management regime than other units. Note these are not considered supplements, which many here may assume- I have considered snatching up these feeds and chugging it down when there's no time to eat at work before my roommate introduced me to Soylent.
I think it would be very informative for the general public for a proper breakdown of available complete medical products vs medical supplements vs soylent itself for overall need.
#13 By: Josh Jones, May 17th, 2013 20:09
I came across these "10%" shots today and thought they might be worth adding to the list to compare here.
Thanks for making this topic; this is good critical thinking.
#14 By: da_vid, May 19th, 2013 18:37
I believe this is true in the US, but I believe many other countries have a first-to-file patent system... just something to keep in mind if you come up with something truly novel in your product development process.
#15 By: Pierre_Martinow, May 30th, 2013 04:18
but how can I personalize it?