Impact of Soylent Consumption on Human Microbiome Composition

As students carry out their busy lifestyles, many are turning to inexpensive and convenient drink based meal-alternatives, such as Soylent, to supplement or replace their regular diets. These meal alternatives are designed to fulfill the nutritional needs of a human, but the impact on the microbiome remain unknown. This project aims to track the composition of participant’s microbiome before, during, and after Soylent use to more holistically understand Soylent’s impact on microbiome health.

Study Design

Prior to the main study, we will receive informed consent from members of mycrobes, our microbiome oriented student organization. We will then screen the participants based on their backgrounds, medical history, prior Soylent use, and lifestyles. After screening, 14 participants will be chosen for the final study group.

The study design is as follows:

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Our total participant pool will consist of 14 people with approximately 1/3 in the control group and 2/3 in the Soylent group.

Each day, participants will be asked to submit the following information:

1. Description of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

2. Sampling Kit Serial Number

3. Bristol Stool Chart Rating

Individuals in the Soylent group will consume 5 bottles of Soylent per day, meeting their daily 2000 kcal requirements.

On days that require microbiome sampling, participants will use uBiome kits to swab their used toilet paper, which is then stored in a buffer. Once the 10 day trial is completed, samples will be sent to uBiome for sequencing.

Sequencing data will be generated sent to us within 6 weeks. At this point, we will correlate each participant’s data with their diet and hopefully find interesting trends! Importantly, we expect to see specific changes in alpha and beta diversity showing a loss of diversity in individuals with a sustained Soylent diet.

“Ryan Hsu has been an excellent undergraduate in my laboratory working on the quantitative dynamics of human microbiome assemblies for over a year. This project expands his focus to the impact of constructed diets on the human gut microbiome. There have been other studies on diet-microbiome interaction revealing startling impacts on the host, but this one focuses on an emerging very restrictive diet that is gaining in popularity rapidly. This project will throw needed light how this diet affects this health-critical bacterial community.”

Adam Arkin

Professor, UC Berkeley & Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Funding

We’ve raised over $6,000 to conduct this research project over at Experiment.com. In addition, we’ve partnered with uBiome to conduct this study.

Soylent

Soylent is a meal-replacement drink that is gaining popularity, especially amongst students. 5 servings a day provides 2000kcal as well as fully meeting daily recommended values of all nutritional needs.

Nutritional Facts

uBiome

uBiome is a cutting-edge biotechnology company in San Francisco. Using next-generation DNA sequencing, they sequence microbiome samples to resolve relative abundance of each species in a sample.

“We are so excited to collaborate on this project to test how Soylent changes the gut microbiome. We hope to find some interesting data and further scientific curiosity in this field!”

Jessica Richman

CEO, uBiome