Soylent good or bad?

I have been working on this blog post for a long time, but now that there is a guest post by Shane Snow on Tim’s Four Hour blog I will finally get this published. Soylent has been a huge buzz lately in the ‘hacker’ and ‘quantitative self circles’. It also seems to have picked up some main stream news buzz as well on sites like Gawker, Bloomberg Businessweek, The LA Times, BRW, The Register and the Telegraph. I first heard about it on hacker news a few months ago and was intrigued and optimistic, but at the same time disappointed. First off, what in the world is soylent? Soylent is a meal replacement, but it is more than what we currently call a food substitute. It is meant to fill 100% of your nutrients and have the ability to completely replace all nutritional needs from food. The creator’s basis was that of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Recommended Daily Intake (RDA), plus some additions that he based out of his own research. The creator is a software developer that was part of a ycombinator startup working a wireless product. His original reason for creating it was to make eating, or in this case nutrient intake, more efficient. No only the shopping, preparing and cooking part but especially the eating part. To the 4-Hour Body crowd this part will resonate, as it would save us all a lot of time. But there are many parts about this that worry me. I have wanted to write about it for a while now but there are so many moving pieces that took me a while to write. I finally have some time for this now while I am on a 6-hour flight to and from my vacation to Hawaii. As I read through his various post about it and the subsequent new article, a lot of concerns popped into my head. There are a lot and I think it is important to cover them all in some detail, so I will have to do that in point form.

  • My first reaction was what would happen to our teeth? Our teeth have developed and evolved to rip and chew. A recent article even referenced that our mouth structure changed due to the ‘technology’ of forks and chopsticks. If using a utensil to eat caused this much of a change how much change would happen if we didn’t use our teeth at all. With the human body the cliche of ‘use it or lose it’ does actually hold true for a lot.
  • There is also a lack of ‘bulk forming’. I read this in a comment on the gawker article “I’m curious as to how his digestive function is after so long on only that liquid. I mean, there’s no bulk forming anything and that can have present term problems with the colon.” I think that could be a real issue as well but I do not know enough of the details of how a liquid diet affects the colon to comment much. It is even likely there could be some benefit to this.
  • The other issues that I have with this are the actually nutrient breakdown. The formula seem to follow the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the FDA recommendations, including high carbohydrate intake, low fat intake and NO CHOLESTEROL. The creator already found this out the hard way when he started having joint pain due to the lack of sulphur in his diet, a nutrient that the FDA/USDA leaves out of its RDA due to the fact it is so abundant in the food we eat.  This is well covered in one of the comments on Tim’s blog here
  • No cholesterol is in caps because this is a major issue for me. It is the first thing that alerted me to the creators lack of knowledge and research into bio chemistry. Dietary cholesterol is not bad for you, unless you have a rare disorder called familiar hypercholesterolemia. A simple read of the wikipedia page you will see that cholesterol is the basic building block of all hormones. And if we do not consume it then our body will create it.
  • There is also the assumption that we are able to measure and track everything that is required. Currently he is tracking weight, bone density, body fat percentage, muscle mass, water, and blood tests.
  • The staff of the ‘company’ that is creating the product is also a bit of an issue for me. This company is essentially some tech guys that were doing a wireless startup and ‘pivoting’ to a supplement company. Non of them have any experience or education in the nutrition, biology, bio chemistry field from what I can tell. The creator of the product seems to be quite a smart guy and very well read in terms of biology but as mentioned previously there is non attention paid to any evolutionary biology principals.
Here are some of his comments that I take issue with
  • Most of the world finds it weird that adults in the United States drink milk
    • I doubt this is true, milk is a staple in india and many other countries, I am sure there are smaller countries that think this but I hight doubt it is most of the world.
  • I wish eating organ meats were more common in the United States.
    • He states he thinks they are delicious but does not state the important fact that they are the MOST NUTRIENT DESNSE source of food available that we know of.
  • Technological innovations should be thoroughly tested and verified to be safe, and they are.
    • Actually they are not.  An example is wheat.  Take a look at the book Wheat Belly and all the other GMO issues that monsanto uses. They are definitely not safe or tested without bias.
  • Besides being an arbitrary distinction, being “natural” is absolutely no guarantee of safety, usefulness, or practicality.
    • This is very true and comes up a lot in the paleosphere. Many people make assumptions that natural or raw is better, but that is not always the case.  But the opposite is also true, meaning that we can not assume that we know everything the makes up a natural food source and what benefits its macro and micro nutrient synergies provide.  For example Vitamin K2, and its benefit on calcium absorption, discovery was fairly recent
  • I am glad to drink fluoridated water for the same reason I prefer the natural sky. It’s healthier.
  • Michael Pollan’s “real foods” are like Sarah Palin’s “real americans”.
    • This is a disappointing statement to me.  I would like to see some explanation of what he means here.
  • More practically, our old foods can’t really compete today.
    • I am wondering what his definition of old foods are.  To me there are not many ‘old foods’ around any more.
  • I am not a doctor, biologist, or nutritionist.
    • This is obvious, along with the abundance of assumptions that he has made using current conventional wisdom is scary. The other issue is that you are combining book smart with experience, as someone that has a degree and has been working in the real world for a while I have a strong opinion that you can not learn enough from a book (ie someone else’s experiences). You need to be in the trenches making mistakes and learning from them, I don’t want to be one of his mistakes.
  • The act of food processing does not destroy nutrition
    • This is a blanket statement that is only sometimes true, and is false most of the time.
  • Demand for Omniscience: Some say this experiment makes no sense because we do not understand everything about the body. I think this is backwards thinking. If we do not understand something that is all the more reason to experiment with it in the pursuit of greater understanding.
    • I think he is missing the point.  The scary part is that he is basing a ‘food’ on the assumption that the FDA RDA and is correct and complete. I highly doubt either of these is true.
  • I want cooking to be a hobby and a profession, like photography, not a necessity. Now I have the freedom to spend more time on the things I want to do.
    • This makes me think of Tim’s statements aboutN.N. Taleb calls “epistemic arrogance.”  Not having to cook may have many benefits but what problems may it cause?
  • Man was meant to do more than subsist.
    • Maybe, but what if we were just meant to subsist? What if taking away the effort require for nutrition changes things negatively? Food is social, and professional and has many other things it provides. What if that is all lost because ‘food’ as we know it is not needed anymore? I think the creator is looking at this through rose coloured glasses and not thinking about the negative or possible negative aspects of this.
  • Bacon is high in Oleic acid, the principal component of adipose (fat) tissue so it is great for increasing body fat.
    • Dietary fat does not directly affect body fat.  This is pretty common knowledge now
  • While the environmental effects of livestock farming do bother me, I think eating meat as rarely as I do is completely sustainable.
    • Effects of industrial farms yes, but natural farms can be more good than bad (See Allan Savory’s TED Talk). Also the amount of meat that is eaten has little to do with sustainability.
  • However, bacon also has Palmitic acid, which is closely associated with cardiovascular disease so moderation is still in order.
    • There is evidence against this relationship as well.
  • The maltodextrin kicks in quickly, providing energy almost immediately, and when it runs out the oat powder takes over as an energy source.
    • Too dependant on carbs for energy. How is this going to help with obesity? It will help with leptin probably based on the findings form the Shang ri La diet, but for people with major insulin issues i doubt it.
  • My test has lasted in liquid form for 2 weeks now and is still holding steady.
    • How are you testing for oxidation and other breakdown of nutrients?
  • Our brain requires glucose and ions to operate, just like our muscles do.
    • The brain can function of ketones for periods of time, and many believe that this improves cognitive function.  See Petter Attia’s Talk
  • We no longer live in a hunter-gatherer society. I have no use for bulging biceps. No one in the United States plows fields or hammers steel. It has all been automated. We need mental strength.
    • So many false assumptions here. Our bodies have evolved to be physically strong and mentally strong. This combination is important, I am sure he is aware of this as he seems to be into fitness as well.
  • If people had more self-control obesity would take care of itself.
    • Statements like this drive me nuts. Maybe if we ate less processed foods, and the government stopped subsidizing grains, and protecting monsanto we obesity would take care of itself.
  • Practically everything has gotten better over the past century but food has gotten worse. This is because food is a haven for reactionaries.
    • I disagree I think this is because of our capitalist system that makes money from sick people? And we produce food that can make the biggest margin not food that is the most nutritious.
  • If we can make transistors that are cheap, fast, and low power, surely we can make food that is tastier, cheaper, and more nutritious than anything that exists naturally.
    • I agree and think this is achievable but I highly doubt we have the knowledge to achieve this currently.
  • In the past food was about survival. Now we can try to create something ideal.
    • This is making the assumption that what is ideal for him is ideal for everyone, this is not the case at all.
  • I now take a probiotic too, just in case.
    • Why not put the probiotic in the Soylent?
  • Some people tell me going “ketogenic”, or reducing carbs is healthy. I am now skeptical of this claim as lowering carbs makes me feel hungry and tired, and the drink taste less sweet.
    • Of course it does, going into ketosis all the time is not healthy, and definitely not required for someone 6’3” 180lbs. Also there is definitely a transition period needed to become fat adapted. There may be no gain for you personally but many other people may gain from it.
  • I have not found sufficient evidence for the benefit of this diet (keto) outside the treatment of epilepsy.
Some additional thoughts.  To me this is similar to infant formula that we made in the 70s and even went tried to convince people it was better than breast milk.  Then look what happened. Studies have shown that formula fed babies are more prone to allergies, asthma, obesity, diabetes etc etc. What about other possible health issues? What I am excited about is that this could turn into something better. The first thing I would do is try to build something similar from real food. Trying to maintain 100% RDA (not the FDAs RDA) and use ingredient like liver (the most nutrient dense food you can eat), and kale (the most nutrient dense vegetable you can eat), and coconut oil, fermented cod liver oils and many other minimally processed foods with little or no allergens or potential causes of inflammation. I would prefer it to be something you can chew but preserved and lasts a while and is easy to carry around, similar to a pemican or a land jager. Also I am not sure that feeding our over populated world is really a good thing. We have been fending for ourselves for millions of years, why should we need to provide for everyone else. I do think the idea of developing something cheap and easy for the hungry a nobel idea but I am always torn with things like this, I guess I am too darwinian. Also what happens when the first person that eats a 100% soylent diet gets cancer or heart disease or some other life threatening illness?  As others have stated on Tim’s blog comments, the only way to test food like this is a lifetime test, something that evolution has done with whole food for millions of years.  Otherwise you just don’t know for sure.   So what do you think of soylent and a 100% processed food diet?

The 4-Hour Chef Hunts Deer & Eats Their Hearts

I have often heard people ask if Tim promote ‘Paleo’ eating.  He has already been on Robb Wolfs Podcast in 2010 to promote the 4 Hour Body, and Robb also did a guest post on Tim’s blog to promote the Paleo Solution Book back in 2010.  But now that the 4 Hour Chef campaing is in full swing Tim is doing interviews with a lot of the Paleo peeps.  I posted a link to an interview he did with Wellness Mama yesterday and I also got an email yesterday from Patrick of Paleo Hacks with a link to a post on paleohacks that Tim started in early November If you could become world-class in anything in 2013, what would it be? There are 3 pages of questions/answers.

Also the email from Patrick had an awesome quote from Robb Wolf about Tim "As much as I hate beans, I love Tim Ferriss. Seriously though, Tim is always on the bleeding edge of innovation, be that in business or nutrition."

So if you every wondered if Tim was a fan of Paleo there is your answer.

Pareto Nutrition Helping Out the Million Pound March

Pareto Nutrition has added some more to help you get going with the million pound march that Tim started.  Here is what they are doing:

  1. They have dropped by the price on all PAGG packages that are 2 month supply or more by at least $50, or the minimum wager on dietbet.
  2. Everyone in the lower 48 US states are upgraded to FedEx 2nd Day. 
  3. No coupon code or other hoops to jump through
  4. Offer expires November 5th, so hurry!

Click Here to get the $50 off and 2 day shipping.

scottwblack

Pet Peeve #101

oneeightyfive:

“Diet soda causes weight gain!”

No, it doesn’t. Something that has ZERO calories cannot cause weight gain on its own. However, people who drink lots of diet soda (me) do tend to make improper dietary decisions like eating too much food (me again) and that is what causes weight gain.

While the health industry would like use to think this it is not true.  Artifical sweeteners do affect fat gain/loss in many ways.  Some cause an insulin response, all affect your gut flora, and the biggest problem they pose is the affect on satiety hormones like leptin.  You  confuse your body by providing a sweet substance with no energy.

Rebuilding Your Feet With Brian MacKenzie via Mobility WOD

Hey MWodies,

Today’s mission begins a series with Brian MacKenzie of Crossfit Endurance about rebuilding your feet.  We receive many questions about people’s feet ranging from orthotics, to shoes, to bunions, to how to ween off high shoes, to how to stand. In later episodes we will cover mobilization and specific interventions to rebuild your weak feet.

Kstar

Ps.  Please keep the debate on ice raging.  My favorite quote so far, “you can have my ice when your pry it from my cold dead hands.”  And by all means, as we have always maintained on this blog,  Test/retest everything.  We will try and and address your questions and comments in future episodes. Please keep it civil.  We don’t spam or block anyone with a civil voice.

I have been watching Kelly Starret’s Mobility WOD for a long time now. I have quite a few orthopaedic issues from a life full of elevate heels, sitting, and contact sports injuries. I have learned a ton of biomechanics and how to improve them from his videos. He is coming to a crossfit gym close to me soon and I might be able to go.

Here is a good video on your feet and fix them to prevent further issue in your knees, hips and back.

Rebuilding Your Feet With Brian MacKenzie via Mobility WOD

Hey MWodies, Today’s mission begins a series with Brian MacKenzie of Crossfit Endurance about rebuilding your feet.  We receive many questions about people’s feet ranging from orthotics, to shoes, to bunions, to how to ween off high shoes, to how to stand. In later episodes we will cover mobilization and specific interventions to rebuild your weak feet.   Kstar Ps.  Please keep the debate on ice raging.  My favorite quote so far, “you can have my ice when your pry it from my cold dead hands.”  And by all means, as we have always maintained on this blog,  Test/retest everything.  We will try and and address your questions and comments in future episodes. Please keep it civil.  We don’t spam or block anyone with a civil voice.  
I have been watching Kelly Starret’s Mobility WOD for a long time now. I have quite a few orthopaedic issues from a life full of elevate heels, sitting, and contact sports injuries. I have learned a ton of biomechanics and how to improve them from his videos. He is coming to a crossfit gym close to me soon and I might be able to go. Here is a good video on your feet and fix them to prevent further issue in your knees, hips and back.

The Best Fish Oil Money Can Buy

Why not all fish oil is created the same.

A while ago Stephen from 4 Hour Life posted Costco vs. The World Round 1: Fish Oil and the Search for the Ultimate Omega!. At the time I had not yet got my Feremented Cod Liver Oil so I could not comment on it directly but did link to this article about Why Feremented Cod Liver Oil. Since then I have started taking FCLO and High VItamin Butter Oil regularly. I had such a hard time getting it shipped to Canada that I setup FCLO Canada, one of the reasons I have not been blogging much. There is another important article about fish oil that Chris Kresser wrote a while ago When it comes to fish oil, more is not better. In that article he references a number of studies that show long term negative affects of concentrated fish oil. He states that

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are highly vulnerable to oxidative damage.
  • Lowering omega-6 (from industrial seed oils found everywhere in everything) is much more benificial
  • There are dangers with studies that isolate a single nutrient
  • I view FCLO as primarily a source of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K2 and E) – not EPA and DHA.
  • In the context of a nutrient-dense diet that excludes industrial seed oils and refined sugar, and is adequate in vitamin B6, biotin, calcium, magnesium and arachidonic acid, the risk of oxidative damage that may occur with 1g/d of cod liver oils is outweighed by the benefits of the fat-soluble vitamins.

FCLO combined with High Vitamin Butter Oil also has added benefits as described by Chris Masterjohn in On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved.  In that article he states Dr. Price “found the combination of cod liver oil and high-Activator X butter to be superior to that of cod liver oil alone.” Tim also discuss using FCLO in the 4-Hour Body.  In the Tripling Testosteron chapter he recommends using it to boost testosterone levels.  I have searched around for any other scientific info on the mechanism here but couldn’t find anything, if you know of any please let me know.  Stephen at 4 Hour Life wrote about it here. So what makes Fermented CLO different from other Cod Liver Oil.  Take a look at these two articles (1,2) by Dave Wenzel, the owner of Green Pastures, where he explains how the conventional process to make fish oil strips a lot of the nutrients.

New Blogs I am following

I have recently started following two other really good blogs.  The Bullet Proof Exec by Dave Asprey and Wellness Mama by Katie. One thing you may have heard of is Bulletproof coffee which comes from Dave’s blog.  The recipe is 500 ml of coffee, 2 table spoons of grass fed butter and 30 grams of MCT oil.  I have been using coconut oil which is 60% MCT.  I have also switched to decaffeinated coffee (still made in a french press) to try to help get to sleep faster.   Dave also discusses removing mycotoxins from you diet, he advocates a Paleo diet as well and has a really good infographic on what kinda of food is good and bad.  Dave also discusses sleep a lot as well, which is my big interest because I still do not get to sleep quickly. On the Wellness Mama site the thing I like the most is the healthy living section.  Here Katie talks about homemade ways for things like shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo and baby care.  I have not yet made any of these but plan to soon. I will try to keep my updates more frequent.  If there is anything specific you would like me write about please let me know.