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Here’s What The Future Of Food Could Look Like

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Food Sensor Chip on Teeth

Devices like tooth sensors that measure sugar and alcohol intake, as well as monitor other health qualities, could revolutionize the food industry as we know it.

From new technologies detecting specific ingredients and allergens in food to the expansion of cell-cultured meat, the list of emerging technologies that help consumers understand what they are eating grows by the day.

According Max Elder, a researcher at the Institute for the Future’s Food Futures Lab, “the future is already here, and it’s about time the food industry faced it head first.

Elder believes that for Consumer packaged goods companies to prepare for new challenges, they will need to “work backwards” to come up with strategies for creating the industry they want.

Computer Circuit Chip Apple Fruit

The Future Of Food Technology

Too many of today’s packaged foods are filled with empty calories, and people are no longer able to rely on their five senses to get accurate information about what they’re eating. Products labels have traditionally been relied upon to provide said information, but they could be misleading and are often difficult to understand.

In fact, a 2018 study by the Center for Food Integrity also found that only 33% of survey respondents “strongly agree” that they are confident in the safety of the food they consume. Such a high level of distrust has prompted the development of a new suite of technologies that help consumers make better-informed decisions about their food, “radical” technologies that Elder says will likely be widespread over the next decade.

Examples of such devices include an ingestible sensor being by Carnegie Mellon University that monitors gastrointestinal health and a tiny tooth sensor from Tufts University that can measure glucose, sugar and alcohol intake.

But before sensors in guts or on teeth become ubiquitous, Elder said they will likely be situated outside the body. Chinese search engine company Baidu, for instance, has developed smart chopsticks that can detect the freshness of cooking oil.

Those suffering from celiac disease will find Nima especially useful. Nima is a small portable machine that uses a sensor to test for trace amounts of gluten when crumbs are placed into it, and the namesake company behind its creation is developing variants of the technology for other allergens, including peanuts and shellfish.

While the food knowledge consumer can gain from such new technology could pose a challenge to food companies, but it is also an opportunity for brands to get more information on what eaters want and tailor their products, services and communication accordingly.

Slab of red meat

More Sustainable, Humane Meat

We can’t talk about the future of food without mention of the lab-grown meat industry, which has the potential to expand despite regulatory setbacks.

There has been a rapidly growing movement towards and major investment in exploring more cellular food systems, and while it’s too early to know if cultured meat is as healthy or nutritious as conventionally-produced meat, the segment could potentially be a major part of the food of the future.

According to Paul Shapiro Author of Clean Meat and former vice president for The Humane Society of the United States, clean meat is better for the environment than raising and slaughtering animals, whether conventional, grass-fed or free-range. Instead pouring tons of resources into raising an entire animal that won’t be eaten in its entirety — horns, eyeballs, hooves, brains, etc. all go to waste — growing meat in a lab only results in the parts and calories consumers need.

The lab-grown meat industry is still in its infancy and the market is small, meaning cell-cultured meat commands a price premium over conventional meat. However, if the industry can eventually achieve price parity, the only issue it will have to contend with is how comfortable consumers are with eating meat produced in a lab.

Traditional Farming

Meeting Environmental Values

There has been a growing demand for transparency in the food industry, and many consumers desire to know what is in their food and actively look for ecolabels that align to their values (Fair Trade, Non-GMO, etc.). An increasing number of individuals are also reading the label to look for names they recognize and trust before they make a purchase.

That’s to say companies will have to cater to consumer’s environmental values more so than ever but must do so with caution. Not fully understanding the environmental impact of new types of food production could lead to some companies making claims they may not be able to hold up.

Like everything in life, the food industry is undergoing a transformation, and most certainly for the better. The future looks promising for the health- and environmentally-conscious consumer.

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Diet & Health

Science Has Found The Best Way To Wash Pesticides Off Apples

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Apple on tree

Polishing an apple with your shirt might get rid of some dust and dirt, but removing the pesticides will require a little more work.

New research has found that washing apples with baking soda, the common yet miraculous household product, could be all you need to eliminate most of the residues on the surface of apples and other fruits.

Pesticides have long been used to increase crop yield, but rising concerns over their adverse effect on human health has many people talking. While the exact effects depend on the type of pesticides and the amount eaten, the World Health Organization says that certain pesticides could harm the developing nervous systems of fetuses and children.

A growing number of people have opted for organic food as way of avoiding the chemicals, but organic food usually command a price premium and there is no guarantee that pesticides were used. In fact, the organic, naturally-occurring pesticides that some organic farms use aren’t necessarily safer.

Washing has been and remains the standard practice used by both consumers and the food industry to remove pesticides, but some of the plant-protecting compounds that get absorbed by the skin of fruits and vegetables might be more resilient to current cleaning methods. To find the best method, Lili He, Assistant Professor at the ‎University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues conducted a study in which they applied two common pesticides — the fungicide thiabendazole, which past research has shown can penetrate apple peels, and the insecticide phosmet — to organic Gala apples and then washed apples with three different liquids: tap water, a 1 percent baking soda/water solution, and a U.S.-EPA-approved commercial bleach solution often used on produce.

The baking soda solution proved the most effective at removing pesticides, eliminating 80 percent of the thiabendazole and 96 percent of the phosmet, respectively, after 12 and 15 minutes of the fruits being soaked. Plain tap water and the bleach solution were far less effective.

The different percentages are likely due to thiabendezole’s greater absorption into the apple. Mapping images showed that thiabendazole had penetrated up to 80 micrometers deep into the apples, while phosmet was detected at a depth of only 20 micrometers.

So, there you have it, if washing is your preferred method of removing pesticides off your fruits and vegetables, using a baking soda solution is the way to go. If all other options are to be considered, then peeling your produce is probably your best bet.

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Diet & Health

You Binge Eat Because You’re Sleep-Deprived

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Woman caught eating food

There have been many studies correlating sleep deprivation with a wide range of health risks, including decrease in alertness and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. But what about a possible link with food cravings?

Researchers have long known that lack of sleep is associated with binge eating or just plain eating uncontrollably whenever and wherever, but a new study published in online journal Sleep suggests that the same chemical mechanism behind the munchies might be why sleep-deprived people not only feel hungrier, but also become buckle in the face of a big chocolate bar.

The study involved 14 volunteers aged 18 to 30, all of whom were first given four nights of either normal (8.5 hours) or interrupted sleep (4.5 hours) and then two meals and unrestricted access to all kind of snacks — both healthy (e.g., fruit and yogurt) and less-healthy options (e.g., chips and cake).

When the researchers monitored their endocannabinoid (eCB) levels, they found that those participants who had been sleep-deprived reported feeling hungrier and tended to eat the less-healthy snacks.

Moreover, they eat nearly double the fat and protein of the well-rested participants and exhibited an exaggerated cycle in their endocannabinoid levels, with an especially high level in the afternoon — around the same time they reported feeling the hungriest.

Endocannabinoids are chemicals that our bodies naturally create to play a part in such physiological processes as appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. They also to activate the same receptors that get people high from consuming marijuana, explaining the temptation for food stemming from sleep deprivation.

Have you ever felt so tired as to almost feel high? Well, this might be the reason…

Scientists hope these findings will lead to further scientific discoveries on food cravings that would aid in the treatment and control of binge eating.

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Diet & Health

Improve Your Gut Health By Eating Mangoes

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Fresh Mango

If you suffer from constipation, a mango might just be what the doctor ordered.

A new pilot study carried out by Texas A & M University and published in the the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that mangoes contain a combination of polyphenols and fiber that is more effective than an equivalent amount of fiber powder in relieving constipation.

Susanne U. Mertens-Talcott, a corresponding author of the four-week study and an associate professor in the department of nutrition and food science at Texas A & M University, stated:

“Our findings suggest that mango offers an advantage over fiber supplements because of the bioactive polyphenols contained in mangos that helped reduce markers of inflammation and change the make-up of the microbiome, which includes trillions of bacteria and other microbes living in our digestive track. Fiber supplements and laxatives may aid in the treatment of constipation, but they may not fully address all symptoms, such as intestinal inflammation.”

Researchers took 36 adult men and women with chronic constipation and randomly divided them into two groups — a mango group that ate about 300 grams of mango a day (equivalent to about 2 cups or 1 mango) and a fiber group that incorporated the equivalent amount of fiber powder (1 teaspoon or 5 grams of dietary psyllium fiber supplement) into their daily diet.

A food questionnaire was then given to the participants to assess their food intake and ensure their eating habits remained consistent (i.e. equivalent amounts of calories, carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat) and measures of constipation severity were taken at the beginning and end of four weeks.

Their analysis revealed that while both the mango and fiber groups improved over the course of the study, mangoes proved more effective in reducing the symptoms of constipation than fiber alone.

Mango supplementation significantly improved constipation status (e.g. stool frequency, consistency and shape), increased short chain fatty acids levels, which indicate improvement of intestinal microbial composition, and helped to reduce certain biomarkers of inflammation.

Mangoes have long been know to be a rich source of dietary fiber, but Texas A & M University’s study is possibly the only study ever to be dedicated to the efficacy of the tasty fruit at relieving constipation.

But as promising as these findings are, the researchers concluded that more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism behind the protective effect of mangoes in constipation and the role mango polyphenols may play in supporting the beneficial effects of fiber.

A mango day keeps your food moving smoothly and easily, right?

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