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Three dietitians' blind review of Huel, Joylent and Soylent

Update: These assessments were done using Huel v1.2 figures. We have now updated our formula to v2.1, which you can view here.

Introduction

We here at Huel are passionate about making Huel the best it can be. So we asked three independent dietitians to compare the nutritional information and ingredients of Soylent, Joylent and Huel to see if there was any way to improve it. This was a blind test. I contacted them from my personal email account that was separate from Huel. We never disclosed Huel's, Joylent's or Soylent's name during the creation of the reviews. The dietitians were not paid or given anything to endorse any of these products. It was a totally blind test. The dietitians were paid for their time producing the reviews, but not to endorse or favour any product. We wanted their honest opinions and insight.

What is a dietitian?

From the Association of British Dietitian's website:

Registered dietitians are qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.

Dietitians are statutorily regulated, with a protected title and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. The spectrum of environments in which dietitians practise is broad and includes the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and national and local government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government to local communities and individuals.

The title 'dietitian' can only be used by those appropriately trained professionals who have registered with the Health Care Professions Council and whose details are on the HCPC website. 

Who I approached to produce the reviews

In total, I approached around 20 dietitians. Most were unavailable, unwilling or simply didn't respond to my inquiry into the work. However, there was one test that was done by a dietitian that we haven't included. This is because the review they provided didn't offer any critical insight into any of the products. We didn't pay this dietitian, so I can't use their results or mention their name. Here is a brief snippet of what they sent back:

The recommended number of servings are not provided on this product but I have based my calculation on 3 servings per day which will provide 2112 kcals per day. Based on this, product 2 is high in protein as 3 servings provide 135g protein per day. It has a medium fat content and low in saturated fat. It will provide all the vitamins and minerals to meet the EU nutrient reference values.

As you can see from this, there has been no insight offered into the product. All that has been done is reproducing of the protein and fat content, and confirming that it will meet the nutrient reference values, which is what the labels do. The reviews below, meanwhile, have gone into much greater detail, offering analysis on both the ingredient used and nutritional contents. I did go back to the dietitian with these concerns, but I was told there was nothing more they could do. As a result, I felt it was necessary to get another review that offered more insight than this one. The reviews below aren't perfect, and we are the first to admit such. However, Rachel Clare, Kirsty Dobson and Claudia Erhlicher are experts in their fields, highly professional and have provided some great insights to highlight between the three products.

The results in brief

Due to the length of this blog post, it felt prudent to offer a summary where people could see the results quickly. As such, I've produce a table listing each dietitians rankings of each product, with 1st being the product they prefer most, and 3rd as the product they prefer least in terms of their nutritional and ingredient contents. These rankings were made before the dietitians knew the names of the products, only knowing them as product 1, 2 and 3 respectively:

 

Soylent (Product 1)

Joylent (Product 2)

Huel (Product 3)

Rachel Clare

Unspecified 2nd/3rd

Unspecified 2nd/3rd

1st

Kirsty Dobson

3rd

2nd

1st

Claudia Ehrlicher

3rd

2nd

1st

The brief

Below, I have posted an image of what information was sent to the dietitians to perform the analysis:

The information we provided to be reviewed

To minimise human error and mistakes in copying nutritional information and ingredients, we simply lightly edited images on the ingredients and nutrition from each products website, removing any mention of brand names. Below, you can see the images the dietitians were provided:

Product 1 (Soylent 1.5)

Product 2 (Joylent)

Product 3 (Huel)

The results

The three dietitians refer to Product 1, Product 2 and Product 3. These are Soylent, Joylent, and Huel respectively. I have not edited these responses at all, except where I 'bolded' Claudia saying Product 1, Product 2 and Product 3 for ease of reading.

First dietitian: Rachel Clare

Website: www.rachelclare.london

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rachelclareldn

On comparison of the nutritional content and ingredients list, product 3 stands out most impressively as a meal replacement. I have not tested any of these products and my observations are blind to the brand name, therefore not endorsed by myself.

Assuming you were to have 4 sachets a day to meet a 2000 calorie target, product 1 meets the recommendations for vitamins and minerals. However, it misses some key targets for nutrients required for a healthy and balanced diet. For example, total fibre from 4 sachets comes to 12g which is short of the recommended daily intake of 18g and recent publications have even recommended a daily fibre intake of 30g for adults.

Although product 2 has a better profile for fibre and a lower sugar content than product 1, it includes gluten, dairy and lactose in its ingredients list which makes it less suitable for those with food allergies or intolerances – of which we know is on the rise.

If I were to recommend one of these products as a sole meal replacement it would be product 3 without a doubt. In addition to being well balanced for carbohydrate, protein and fats it has an excellent profile for fibre, omega-3 and monounsaturated fat which are essential for good gut health, reduced inflammation and a healthy heart. It also contains the right amount of vitamins and minerals so consumers would not be at risk of any micronutrient deficiencies. Furthermore, the ingredients do not include any allergens apart from oat flour which some with gluten allergy or intolerance may be able to tolerate, but this would need to be discussed with your GP or dietitian.

Author's Note: Since doing the reviews, Rachel has approved Huel. Her approval can be viewed on our home page. We had no contact with Rachel before the test was conducted, and she had never heard of Huel until after the results were gathered. These results were entirely independent and blind on her behalf. Any approval of Huel happened after the initial testing.

Second dietitian: Kirsty Dobson

Website: http://www.nourishbrighton.com/index.html

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nourishbrighton

I was asked to assess three powdered meal replacement products with regards to their ingredients and nutrition composition. As the brand information was withheld by the researcher to ensure the analysis was conducted blind to prevent bias I will refer to these as products 1, 2 and 3.

Product 1 contains less 'natural' ingredients compared to Product 3 with modified food starch listed twice high in the ingredients list. It does appear to be suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those requiring a lactose-free diet however it is not clear if the oat flour comes from a source that is classified gluten-free. It provides a very good source of protein and meets salt, saturated fat and carbohydrate intake guidelines. Unlike products 2 and 3 it does not meet the guideline for <35% percentage energy as total fat providing a considerable 43% of calories as fat. The fibre content is poor at 12g falling well below the recommended 18g per day. Vitamin D content is also poor compared to the other products as only 104% of RDA provided but in the less favourable D2 form. I am unable to comment on volumes required to meet 2000kcal intake as this information was not supplied.

Product 2 is not suitable for strict vegetarians or vegans, neither is it gluten- or lactose-free. The main bulk ingredient is oatmeal with ground flaxseed being listed towards the end suggesting minimal content although it is high in dietary fibre. It does provide a good source of protein mainly from the whey protein and as for product 3 it meets the guidelines for percentage of energy as total fat, saturates, carbohydrates and sugar. This product does contain Omega 3 at the safe dose of 5g daily although there is no MCT. Product 2 is the only one to contain cholecalciferol, and at over 250% of RDA, which would ensure good absorption. You would only need to consume 1500ml fluid in order to provide 2000kcal daily.

Product 3 stood out to contain a much greater proportion of 'natural' foods listing oat flour, pea protein, brown rice protein and flaxseed as the first listed ingredients. The ingredients listed suggest this product would be suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those with lactose intolerance. It is unclear whether this product is gluten-free as the source of the oats is not stated. Product 3 meets the UK recommended guidelines for percentage of energy as total fat, saturated fat and carbohydrate. It is an excellent source of protein and fibre (almost double the recommended intake) from both soluble and insoluble sources which are beneficial for gut health. In addition this product contains both Omega 3 and MCT essential fatty acids in significant quantities. There is no recommended intake level for MCT however the European Food Safety Authority have suggested a safe upper limit of 5g/day Omega 3 whereas this product would be providing 13.4g in 2000kcal so this is an area of potential concern if used for a prolonged period of time. The only other negative to state is that Product 3 contains a synthetic form of Vitamin D (ergocalciferol) which is not as well synthesised as cholecalciferol although I note it provides 300% of the RDA in 2000kcal so this should compensate for this. The recommended dilution would mean consuming 2.3L daily which may be too much for some people to tolerate.
If I was to rate these from best to worst I would suggest the following order: 3, 2, 1.

Author's note: Huel has since updated the labels, which state it's source of oats are not gluten free. In the ideas of fairness, the older labels were used for all three tests from the nutritionists, so Kirsty was not aware of this at the time of testing.

Third dietitian: Claudia Ehrlicher

Website: http://www.londondietitian.com/index.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/londondietitian

This was a blind test, therefore I have purely analysed the nutritional and ingredient profile from the information I was given.

I assume that all three products are designed as a meal replacement but not necessarily for weight loss.

Product 1:

With 500cal per serving this offers a good average of energy. The product is suitable for vegetarians / vegans.
With 23g of fat per serving it is quite high in fat compared to the other 2 products. The choices of fat are healthy.
The carb content is ok but sugar content higher than this of the other 2 products. But not exceeding recommendations.
The fibre content is very low with only 3g per serving.
The protein content is just average with 20g per serving but the nutritional value is not very high as it comes mainly from rice protein.
One serving covers in average 25% of the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. This could be ok if the consumer were to have 4 servings per day.
Contains soy and no other allergens.

Product 2:

Compared to the other two products it’s very high in calories with 700 cal per serving. It is high in carbs, although the amount of sugar is fair with 10g per serving. It is very high in protein with 45g per serving. The fat profile is balanced and in a good ratio and contributes to a healthy fatty acid intake. It contains more allergens then the other 2 products and therefore the suitability is restricted. It covers 33 – up to 137% per serving of vitamins and minerals. Which means that, assuming you have 3-4 servings per day, all requirements are met but some even overly exceeded.
Not suitable for vegans.

Product3:

With 508cal per serving it provides as much energy as product 1. It is a good source of nutritionally valuable protein (different sources which complement each other and increase the bioavailability) and healthy fatty acids. The content of saturated fatty acids is a little higher than that of the other 2 products but still within the healthy recommendations. The product has a good carbohydrate (including sugar) product with only 0.88 g of sugar per serving and is therefore suitable for people who should stick to a low sugar diet.
One serving already provides ca. 1/3 of the recommended fibre intake. This is a little lower then product 2 but very good compared to product 1.
One serving provides a min of 25% of the daily recommended vitamin and mineral intake but up to 100% per serving for some of the vit/min. Which means that, assuming you have 3-4 servings per day, all requirements are met but some even overly exceeded.
The product contains MCT fats which are easier digested and absorbed by people with certain conditions.
It’s more widely suitable as it contains no allergens (except oats which could be a problem for Coeliacs). It is suitable for vegetarians/vegans.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

All 3 products are made of a combination of extracts, added vitamins/minerals, stabilisers etc. Not actually a natural food.

All three products compared, I would put them in the following ranking:

No1: Product 3
No2: Product 2
No3: Product 1

Although Product 2 has the best protein profile it has the highest calorie and carb content. Obviously, depending on the target group this might be the intention.

Final thoughts

Nutrition is a contested subject at the best of times, and we can see from the three results that all three dietitians have focused on different areas to speak and write about. All three products have different benefits and weaknesses, but consistently across the board, Huel was rated the best. 

Moving forward, this also offers some fantastic insight in how to improve and better Huel. The three dietitians who were involved are all experts in their respective areas, and their insight into the ingredients and nutritional information of Huel have been greatly appreciated. I would like to thank each one of them for their thorough and professional work, and wish them all the best for the future. 

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