Lab Mice Got Really Unhealthy When They Only Ate Powdered Food

With Soylent to eat (or I guess drink) and Palcohol to drink (or maybe eat), it seems the kitchen of the future will just be a blender. But don't haul your stove to the curb just yet: an admittedly small study says that mice who ate nothing but powdered nutrient ended up more sickly than their friends who had to chew.

The research, published this month in the journal Life Sciences, fed two sets of mice the exact same food—only one group got pellets, and the other got powder. After three weeks eating food that didn't require chewing, the powder group had higher blood glucose levels (a condition that can lead to diabetes).

A second experiment carried out the same test over the full lifetime of the mice. After 17 weeks, the powder group had elevated blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, and increased levels of stress hormones in their blood. And the researchers say the powder-only mice even showed "abnormal behavior" compared to the group that ate pellets. Basically, the powder group seemed rather unhealthy.

The basic conclusion here is that chewing actually changes the way the body handles food. In humans, the act of chewing is known to release a little burst of insulin, helping the body deal with the influx of food without succumbing to a massive spike in blood sugar.

But while people who are unable to eat solid food can survive for years on a liquid diet, there's been pretty much no research studying what happens when a person willfully decides to quit chewing and get all nutrition in liquid or powdered form.

There's obviously more room for study here—this research project involved just 32 mice, 16 of whom ate the powder diet. But at the very least, this project tells us that maybe the chore of chewing isn't merely a pointless exercise.

Besides, our rodent pals don't seem to mind chewing. [Life Sciences via PopSci]

Image: Shutterstock / Alexey Losevich