17
$\begingroup$

For all domestic animals, and for all animals kept in laboratory, complete and precise composition of perfect food is figured out (cat food, dog food, cattle, rats, laboratory monkeys and apes) -- which contains precise composition of carbs, fats, proteins, aminoacids, minerals and vitamins. Everything is known. Convenient dry cat/dog food contains exactly that. Animals are healthy on this food.

The composition is also known for human babies. This is manufactured as "baby formula". Everything baby's organism needs to be healthy (and to grow).

How let's take human adults.

Was ever attempt made to create "dry human 'dog-food'"? This sounds stupid, but there are emergency situation in which such food can come very useful.

So my question is, is there anything special in human biology that prevents creation of complete "dry human food" that contains everything our organism needs to be healthy ?

Or it was created but tasted so disgusting that nobody would eat it ?

Or it actually exist somewhere ? Just curious.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why would it have to taste disgusting? Dog/cat/rat/etc. food does not seem to taste disgusting to dogs/cats/rats/etc. Anyway, soldiers have rations and astronauts too! $\endgroup$ – nico Apr 21 '12 at 12:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The Monkey Chow Diaries may be a relevant, if not entirely scientific, experiment. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Apr 21 '12 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Military must have tried to develop such things. What about military energy bar type rations? $\endgroup$ – Memming Apr 21 '12 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Memming: see links in my comment $\endgroup$ – nico Apr 22 '12 at 0:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think "monkey chow" is the answer. Note that in real labs and zoos, monkeys get a lot of their calories from monkey chow, but are still fed fresh vegetables to provide fiber, obscure phytonutrients, and entertainment. $\endgroup$ – octern Nov 12 '12 at 22:15
14
$\begingroup$

Yes. Rob Rhinehart has developed what he refers to as "a food substitute intended to supply all of a human body's daily nutritional needs, made from powdered starch, rice protein, olive oil, and raw chemical powders" which he calls Soylent.

It was developed and tested largely in 2013, crowdfunded late 2013, and is expected to start shipping in 2014. Tests of at least 30 days with no other food intake have been performed, though this is being marketed as a food and not a medical aid of any sort, so does not require FDA testing.

Even if this didn't exist, there are numerous "complete" human diet foods meant for medical use. These are mentioned in an article about soylent:

Jay Mirtallo is a professor of pharmacy at Ohio State and the immediate past president of American Society for Parental Enteral Nutrition, which focuses on the science and practice of providing food to patients through both intravenous injections and feeding tubes. His main concern with Rhinehart's plan is that he's making the concoction himself, rather than buying it from reputable suppliers.

"He basically made medical food," Mirtallo says. "If he wanted to switch to a liquid diet, those are already available."

Indeed they are. Companies like Abbott Nutrition and NestléHealthScience sell dozens of medical food products, intended to be used by patients under medical supervision and administered intravenously, orally, or through an incision in the stomach.

"They’re very complex products, in terms of making sure you get them in a form that’s palatable but that stays in a form that’s bioavailable to the body," Mirtallo says. "Some of the products are very difficult to get into a liquid form and may lose their potency when they do that, or could interact with other substances that keep them from being absorbed completely."

Rob appears to be attempting to make a consumer version, and so far reports are positive.

But even if you don't trust Rob's mixture, there are countless medically complete nutritional foods that are FDA approved, though not generally available at the supermarket.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to know the difference in price between Soylent and the proper medical food from "reputable suppliers." $\endgroup$ – Aleksandr Dubinsky Aug 23 '14 at 22:56
10
$\begingroup$

Shortest answer: there's nothing special in human biology, you could totally make it

Short answer: Bachelor chow! enter image description here

I would totally buy this stuff if they made it. The closest I have now to bland, flavorless, zero thought/effort food is Wheaties.

longer answer: Seriously though, dogfood for humans wouldn't be that hard to make. If you just took everything from the RDI guidelines (the Recommended Daily Intake from which they calculate the percentages you find on food labels) and mashed it all together into a thick brown paste you would get all of the macro and micro nutrients that you theoretically require. Precise proportions are irrelevant because:

a) everyone is a little different, and

b) to some extent, our bodies are able to fine tune our digestive tracts to fit our specific diets (presumably this tuning would occur even faster if you ate the exact same thing for every meal). You're a mammalian omnivore. Enjoy it!

You probably shouldn't try to live on something like this for the rest of your life, since there's plenty of research suggesting that there are other micronutrients, such as phytocompounds (i.e. plant stuffs), that are poorly understood but may be beneficial to humans. One thing to note here is that any health claims about any antioxidant that is not on the list of essential vitamins (vitamin C is an antioxidant on the list) are almost certainly bunk and/or hokum.

The upshot is that you would only need, at most, utterly minuscule quantities of these miscellaneous micronutrients. You would be fine(ish) for at least a few months. For related reasons, your statement:

The composition is also known for human babies. This is manufactured as "baby formula". Everything baby's organism needs to be healthy (and to grow).

is largely correct but somewhat flawed. While it is true that many babies are raised solely on formula and subsequently turn out just fine, there are some things that you can only get from mother's milk. For example, the mother passes on components of her own immune system to her baby through her milk, which then help to strengthen the baby's own immune system. These are the kind of subtle but useful compounds which are encountered in a "natural" diet but which could never realistically be included in people chow.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think you do not cover the aspect of whether such thing would be bearable -- by taste. $\endgroup$ – Andrei Apr 24 '12 at 18:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Andrei By asking about the "bearability" of the taste you're veering away from biology and towards psychology. Here's how I think about it: I don't know if you've ever owned a dog before, but they like people food. A lot. And the more devious members of the species will scheme quite a bit to get at it. In general, though, their only two options are dogfood or starvation. Under those conditions I'm sure that most people would also grow acclimated to the taste. $\endgroup$ – tel Apr 24 '12 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrei Getting into the psychology side of it, the current consensus among researchers these days is that it takes about two months of daily repetition for a human to establish a behavior as a habit. At that point, even if the behavior is somewhat arduous/painful, it becomes more natural for the person to continue with it than to cease. $\endgroup$ – tel Apr 24 '12 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ @tel: related (unanswered so far) question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/7985/… $\endgroup$ – nico Apr 28 '12 at 10:39
4
$\begingroup$

According to @Ilmari Karonen's comment and link, I have the answer. Such food does exist. However a person who tried to eat it and nothing else could bear it for only 7 days. He had cravings for "normal" food. The link was http://www.angryman.ca/monkey.html. Apparently the guy had weak will, but that's normal.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

there are of course foods for bodybuilders and for weightgainers and losers, never seen just one food containing all (and I activly searched for it) but you can create your own mix if you buy some protein suplements (that are usaly made from whey and other byproducts that have a good ratio of the various essencial aminoacids) or just soyabeans that also have good aminoacid ratios and is cheaper; some carb rich foods and those complete vitamin/mineral suplements + essencial fattyacids (ie: cods liver oil). only problem is finding a trully complete vitamin/mineral supplement. I've searched in vain thus far.

$\endgroup$

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

0
$\begingroup$

It's absolutely doable. Humans aren't magic and their nutritional needs aren't unknowable. Taste would be an issue at the first generation, but that wouldn't be a issue going forward anymore than it was for early immigrants leaving old foods behind and learn to love the foods their new environment offered. Legal issues would inevitable arise when statistically significant variations among different groups eating different formulations are found, i.e. formulation 1 eaters have more arthritis than formulation 2 eaters while formulation 2 eaters live slightly shorter arthritis free lives. You get the idea. Ultimately, it will be the only way to sustainably support our ever increasing population. And, just like some pregnant women eat clay, man will occasionally add other nutrients to their own diet. It's important to understand humans don't have the most complex nutritional needs compared to our entire bionomy. We just have the ability to create the most diverse tastes to meet our completely normal needs.

$\endgroup$

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome. Can you add sources to your claims? It looks more of a personal opinion than a scientific answer. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Oct 20 '18 at 23:12

protected by AliceD Oct 20 '18 at 23:18

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.