26 January 2003
FOODS OF THE FUTURE TAILORED TO FIT
This is why Nestle, Unilever and co. are so keen on GM - they think it could lead to virtually endless "added value" food products. Hence, "food and biotechnology companies are already investing heavily in functional foods in their never-ending search for premium products to sell in industrialized countries that already enjoy an abundance of food"
The "a dash of mood-enhancing tryptophan" reads particularly onimously in the context of genetic engineering - see:
Foods of the future may be tailored to fit
January 23, 2003
The Wall Street Journal - Europe,
London -- Before breakfast every morning, Joan Robertson, a 50-year-old professional, according to this story, heads straight to her computer and pulls up a genetic profile telling her exactly what sort of nutrients she will need to eat that day. Foods in her kitchen have bar codes laden with information that she will match to her profile. If she eats out, she runs a mini-scanner over the menu to choose just the right foods. At the end of the day, she e-mails the details to her insurance company, which charges her lower premiums for healthful eating.
The story says that day, her breakfast consists of a yogurt containing bacteria that boost her immune system and cholesterol-lowering soy extracts. Her morning tea has extra cancer-fighting antioxidants as well as a dash of mood-enhancing tryptophan. For lunch, a pepperoni sandwich that has been in the company vending machine for five years tastes as fresh as the day it was made. A bottle of water has isoflavones to help her fight osteoporosis. Dinner is a steak that is low in fat and high in protein and iron, thanks to genetically modified cattle. A side order of fries comes from potatoes with high starch content that leave them crispy with minimal oil absorption. For dessert, she has a thin slice of chocolate cake impregnated with protein microballs to make her feel full quickly.
Such could be the typical diet for a denizen of the wealthy industrial world in 20 years, when so-called functional foods, now a niche market, become the norm.
And, the story says, hile some developments may seem futuristic, demographic trends point decisively toward a diet heavy on designer foods that optimize health and performance. Longer life spans will mean more older people who will need to fight age-related diseases such as osteoporosis and heart ailments and will want to remain energetic, upbeat and mentally sharp into their 70s and beyond. Today's Generation Xers, who grew up with Gatorade and sports bars and who were weaned on news stories about the links between diet and health, won't think twice about eating manipulated foods.
Werner Bauer, executive vice president in charge of research and development for Nestle SA, whose 500-person research and development division focuses heavily on nutrition, was quoted as saying "To a great degree, demographic trends are influencing the way in which food will develop. Both older and younger people will have a clearer perception of their nutritional needs."
The story says that food and biotechnology companies are already investing heavily in functional foods in their never-ending search for premium products to sell in industrialized countries that already enjoy an abundance of food. The thinking is that consumers will want to enhance their health and well-being, but in a much more customized way.
David Schmidt, senior vice president of food safety at the International Food Information Council in Washington, D.C., was quoted as saying, "In the past, dietary guidelines took the whole population and gave recommendations, which might work for about 60% of the population."
The result, the story says, will be foods that are enhanced through genetic modifications or the addition of certain natural components to address a plethora of needs, such as fighting cancer, enhancing mood, increasing mental acuity or boosting the immune system. This goes hand in hand with genetic research that will determine our vulnerability to disease, mental illness or environmental stresses, as well as intolerance to substances such as gluten or wheat. In theory, a specific diet could one day be tailored to a person's DNA profile to maximize health and well being.
Marion Nestle, chairman of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, was quoted as saying, "Foods are going to be advertised in the same way that dietary products are. Supermarkets will look like drug stores."
The possibilities are virtually endless. For instance, soy, a product that could help protect against a host of ailments, including heart disease, so far has been associated with less-than-tasty tofu and soy milks. However, scientists see great potential in soy and are working hard to identify and extract its beneficial components, which could eventually find their way into everything from oil to muffins.
The story goes on to say that daring ideas are coming from the U.S. military, which needs to feed soldiers in the most extreme circumstances. The Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Massachusetts, which cooperates with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration in finding food solutions for space travel and also works with producers such as Kraft Foods Inc. in joint-research products, is working on "the ultimate in survival rations," Director Gerald Darsch says. One product under development is a type of envelope containing encapsulated enzymes. Soldiers stuck in isolated areas could use the enzymes to convert inedible carbohydrates such as twigs and leaves into rations to keep them going until they can find normal foods.
On the outer limits of nutrition is a thick, Band-Aid-sized patch that could administer nutrients through the skin through electrocharges that force them through pores.
"It can't replace a mashed-potato and roast-beef dinner," says Mr. Darsch. "But it could administer some key micronutrients a soldier needs to enhance his performance."