Rob Rhinehart, a 24-year-old from Atlanta, has devised a meal substitute that he says tastes great and fulfils his complete nutritional needs.
He claims he found a way not to eat food by combining all essential nutrients, including carbohydrates, sodium, chloride, zinc, into a juice. The idea is that he eliminates all the extra “stuff” and the body operates more efficiently.
But Rhinehart’s claims are completely untested, have never been included in a clinical trial, and his diet isn’t being monitored by a doctor. His self-experiment is ludicrous and most likely dangerously unhealthy.
While the diet is essentially trying to be like the medical food that is injected into a patient’s stomach when they have a feeding tube, Jay Mirtallo of Ohio State told the Washington Post that these are “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.”
He continued, “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.”
They are also FDA regulated to make sure they contain what they say they contain.
Metsovas explains that “our culture has become so fixated on all things food; it’s no surprise the author of this posting is generating so much response. Generally, I probably wouldn’t respond to any of this rubbish, however, I see a red flag for a potential eating disorder.”
Below are Metsovas’ responses to Rhinehart’s claims in his blog post:
Rob Rhinehart’s blog: My energy level had skyrocketed at this point, I felt like a kid again. But on day 3 I noticed my heart was racing and my energy level was suddenly dropping. Hemoglobin! … I quickly purchase an iron supplement and add it to the mixture the next day.
Stella Metsovas’s response: It’s no surprise that a fasting state produces endorphins. The fact of hemoglobin being brought up so casually alerts me to how novice the experimenter must be.
RRB: olive oil for fatty acids and table salt for sodium and chloride
SMR: Are you sure the author is using real olive oil (insert satire)?
RRB: I’d been running off and on for several months, never able to do more than a mile straight, but this day I ran 3.14 miles non-stop. This is an irrational improvement.
SMR: Definitely caught my attention here and wondered if I should review the rest of the post. Is he suggesting the cocktail will provide him with the appropriate nutrients for endurance running?
RRB: I had my blood tested in two ways: complete blood count and chemical panel, and got a lipid panel near the end. This shows stuff like red/white blood cell counts, Na, K, P proportions, and more. The internist had to bill it as “testing for blood-borne diseases.”
SMR: Note: Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration (MCHC) was on the lower end of range, dated 1/7/13, prior to this experiment.
RRB: Some people can eat all they want and never gain weight, others can’t shed pounds no matter how hard they try. The trick is in the genome, though both extremes are uncommon. 23andme is awesome!
SMR: Should we have a roundtable discussion about this? What a stupid, ridiculous statement.
RRB: I used to spend about 2 hours per day on food. Typically I would cook eggs for breakfast, eat out for lunch, and cook a quesadilla, pasta, or a burger for dinner. For every meal at home I would then have to clean and dry the dishes. This does not include trips to the grocery store. Now I spend about 5 minutes in the evening preparing for the next day, and every meal takes a few seconds.
SMR: As an avid cook, I can tell you the author wasn’t spending 2 hours a day on food preparation and cleanup. FYI: cultures that have lived healthiest and longest without disease, base their life on foraging, cooking and consuming quality foods.
RRB: Living on fast food and ramen is cheap and convenient, but unhealthy.
SMR: Living on fast-food isn’t cheap.
RRB: However, I am consuming no toxins or carcinogens and I get all the nutrition and energy I need with about 1/3 the calories the average American consumes so I hope in the long term my longevity will be improved (caloric restriction has been shown to reverse the effects of ageing in rodents)
SMR: The authors interpretation of calorie restriction (CR) is hugely inaccurate. [It’s true, the latest studies about caloric restriction indicate that it doesn’t seem to work in primates, even after a 25-year study]
RRB: What your body needs is 9 ‘essential’ (meaning the body cannot produce it itself), amino acids: Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalaline, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine
SMR: The author has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to protein digestion and assimilation.
Even with a reasonable amount of intake, variability in protein consumption can result in measurable health consequences in specific conditions. This said, dietary protein delivers more than energy and building blocks to the human body: The pools of body, tissue, and cell proteins, peptides, and amino acids are under complex metabolic control, resulting in a highly dynamic protein turnover, that is, the interplay between synthesis and degradation. Proteins also contain peptide sequences that can be interpreted as bioactive precursors which can be liberated upon digestion to exert biological functions locally (e.g., in the gut) or systemically (i.e., via the bloodstream).
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