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comment by OrphanWilde
· score: 2 (2 votes) · LW
I ran a comparison of my own nutrients a couple weeks back, composed of "Alive" brand multivitamin (at the time I started buying it, the only multivitamin I could buy in local stores with both iodine and... some other thing I thought important at the time), potassium supplements (added to my supplement list after my argument with several people here on the dangers of potassium - hey guys, you changed my mind!), a calcium supplement, a biotin supplement, a choline/inositol supplement (for the piracetam I also take daily), and a flaxseed supplement for Omega oils. (Also, my protein shakes, which I only take on days I work out)
Results, in comma-delimited format:
Source,Carbohydrates (g),Protein (g),Fat (g),Sodium (mg),Potassium (mg),Chloride (mg),Fiber (g),Calcium (mg),Iron (mg),Phosphorous (mg),Iodine (ug),Magnesium (mg),Zinc (mg),Selenium (ug),Copper (mg),Manganese (mg),Chromium (ug),Molybdenum (ug),Vitamin A (IU),Vitamin B6 (mg),Vitamin B12 (ug),Vitamin C (mg),Vitamin D (IU),Vitamin E (IU),Vitamin K (ug),Thiamin (mg),Riboflavin (mg),Niacin (mg),Folate (ug),Biotin (ug),Panthothenic Acid (mg),Lycopene (ug),Ginseng (ug),Gingko Biloba (ug),Lutein (ug),Alpha Carotene (ug),Vanadium (ug),Choline (mg),Inositol (mg),Omega 3 (mg),Omega 6 (mg),Omega 9 (mg),Boron (ug),Resveratrol (ug),Lutein (ug),Creatine (g),L-Glutamine (g)
The major deviations are thus: I don't explicitly including carbohydrates or fats in my supplements, as they're not intended to be a total meal replacement. I don't explicitly include sodium. Potassium levels in Soylent are 3,500 versus 1,080 mg in my supplement, easily modified. My supplements don't include chloride (a nutrient used in oxygen exchange, if I recall correctly) or phosphorous. Magnesium in Soylent is also 4x the level of my supplement, and vitamin A substantially higher. Vitamin K is 33% higher in Soylent. I don't have ginseng, gingko, alpha carotine, or vanadium in my supplements. My supplements have -substantially- higher biotin levels. I have lutein listed twice in my spreadsheet for some reason; my supplements are 20% of Soylent's. My supplement contains omega oils. So, for most intents and purposes, my nutrition is on par with Soylent's, less oils and carbohydrates (which I wouldn't add to my current diet anyways, given that I'm aiming for a caloric deficit of at least 1,500 calories per day).
I calculated the cost of my supplements, less the ingredients which have nothing in common with Soylent:
Alive: $.12 per dose
Biotin: $.06 per dose
Calcium: $.12 per dose
Protein: $1.45 per day
Potassium: $.74 per day (increased to 3,500 mg)
Adding carbohydrates: $1.08 per day
Adding oils: $.84 per day
For a cost of ~$4.5, rounding up to $5 per day to cover the cost of supplements I'm not currently including.
Not particularly surprising, the bulk of the cost comes from proteins, oils, and carbohydrates.
I then ran some comparisons on these. 4 ounces of raw potato contains 23 grams carbohydrates; 10 lbs of potatoes contains 40 such servings, or 4.6 servings of 200g of carbohydrates. At $4.00 per 10lb bag and less, potatoes are the cheaper option. (Playing around with values for rice and other carb-laden foods like oats, it seems difficult to get much cheaper than $1 for 200 grams.)
I... cannot figure out why on earth Soylent contains so much oil [ETA: Yes I can. It's exactly the RDA suggested oil intake, as the protein is exactly the RDA suggested protein intake; why carbohydrates are then 66% of RDA suggested intake is beyond me]. But I can't find a cheaper way of getting it without resorting to some questionable oils. Fatty beef combines oil and protein, and 80/20 can get you there with a -full pound- per day (which takes some stress off the protein), but said pound will cost more than the protein and the olive oil combined. (It does provide other nutrients, though, including 1/3rd the potassium.) If you can get beef for <$2.75 per pound, it appears possible to beat my nutritional economics. -Alternatively-, you can eat 1 dozen eggs per day. No, seriously. This nets 60g of fat, and 72g of protein. You're probably capable of getting eggs for less than $2.50 per dozen, as well.
So... my calculations suggest, very loosely, that unless Soylent is getting some -substantially- better prices, it won't be economical compared to a carefully chosen diet of economic real foods with an inexpensive multivitamin. I'm guessing the finished product will cost ~$5.00 per day, assuming profits will make up the difference between wholesale costs and my market costs. The average person seems to spend somewhere between $20 and $30 per day in the US on food, so it is in fact cheaper than the average diet - but the average diet isn't the cheapest possible nutritionally satisfying diet, which seems to be a combination of eggs, oats, and possibly vitamin supplements. (I roughly calculate the cost of getting the same nutrients from eggs, oatmeal, and supplements to be ~$3.50 per day, assuming $1.40 for the eggs, $1.00 for the oats, and $.75 for potassium, with the rest being made up of various, cheaper supplements.)
On to my major criticisms - first, the use of whey protein is uneconomical and highly dependent upon conventional food sources (whey is a byproduct of processing milk for various purposes, such as cheese production). If the goal is truly to revolutionize food production, whey protein is -not- the way to go. (Also, whey protein -does not in fact keep forever- once mixed, at least in non-sterile conditions. I've thrown away a couple shaker bottles which had whey protein left in them a -little- too long. That smell never comes out.) Second, the use of dextrose as a carbohydrate; this crap has a higher glycemic index than pure glucose, which makes it -fantastic- for working out and elevating the blood sugar of hypoglycemic diabetics (it's used medically for this purpose), and absolutely horrible for daily nutrition. Third, the kilocalories I count in Soylent are 1,525. Which is about 700 calories less than I would personally need at <1% body fat if I didn't get out of bed at all in a day. Personally I'd have to supplement the hell out of Soylent, at which point, what exactly -is- the point?
Criticism aside, $5.00 a day, while higher than the most cost-effective nutrition I can come up with by about 66%, is still one fifth to one sixth the cost of the average diet. Assuming somebody gets their remaining calories from another food source, micronutrients probably aren't going to be a substantively greater issue than on a more conventional diet (consider what the conventional diet in the US actually is). If it dropped the dextrose, and left it entirely up to the person to get their remaining 1,200 calories a day through snacking on carbohydrate-laden junk food, I think it would actually be viable.