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Biotech Science Technology

The Rise of Nanofoods 369

separsons writes "Researchers are altering foods at the nanoscale level, changing their tiny molecular structures to enhance certain properties. (New Scientist has a more detailed look.) For example, one group of scientists found a way to hide water within individual droplets of oil, making low-fat mayonnaise taste like the real thing. The process can make spices spicier, potato chips healthier, and make diet food taste just like full-calorie snacks. Nanotech can even help combat global malnutrition. But the process is certainly controversial, and food manufacturers are being tight-lipped about exactly what nanofoods they're working on. So can nanotech create a healthier world, or is it just frightening Franken-food?"
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The Rise of Nanofoods

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  • excellent TED talk (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:08PM (#32378056) Journal
    Here is an excellent TED talk [] that talks about genetically modified food and the fear it creates. He makes the point that fear of the foods is causing significantly more harm than those foods ever have. He compares it to vaccine boycotters, and how each group gets their sense of danger completely out of proportion (really, the danger of measles is much worse than the danger of the vaccine).

    In the case of these foods, there isn't even a danger that it will get out into the wild and reproduce or anything like that. If they turn out bad, we can stop making them, it's as simple as that. The risk is really quite modest.
  • by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:09PM (#32378072)
    It wouldn't be a kdawson article without alluding to a surreptitious motive, a conspiracy, or just being pure paranoia. Or a baby video they found cute...
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:11PM (#32378088)

    New toys are fun, but these guys should find a different justification. How about more nutritious cattle feed?

    Like ... grass instead of corn? Done. :)

  • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:16PM (#32378156)
    Which is ironic given that something like 30% [] of all sugar consumed globally is from beets. Doesn't taste like poo.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:19PM (#32378206)

    ...but can it make beets taste like something other than shit?

    "You are what you eat" goes for plants as well as animals. Good beets feed on good soil, and don't taste like those lifeless things you see in the supermarket.

  • by 2names ( 531755 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:24PM (#32378270)
    It's ALL Franken-food, every damn bit of it. If you don't grow it yourself it has been modified. In some cases, you can't even rely on the purity of the food you grow yourself because the seeds or starter plants have been modified.
  • by ( 410908 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:37PM (#32378432) Journal


      and if you really feel like haute cuisine hard boil an egg and sprinkle it on the mix.
    and go easy on the vinegar and use a good quality oil. and don't forget a little bit of oignon.

    Anything else ?

  • Correction (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:43PM (#32378494)

    When he said "beer", he meant "budweiser", and when he said "shit", he meant "piss".

  • by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:46PM (#32378550)
    Good oil and good vinegar salvages almost everything. Dash of balsamico, perhaps, and this sounds like a plan. :)
  • by dubbreak ( 623656 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @02:16PM (#32378924)
    Seconded. BUT (big but), freshness is key.

    Beets straight off the in-law's farm, when cooked properly melt in your mouth and taste like they're buttered (when nothing has been added). Just season with a little salt and maybe drizzle a little balsamic vinegar (if that's to your taste). Even people who "hate" beets will rave about them.

    Old beets taste like boiled stumps and are equivalently difficult to eat.

    Same thing goes for a lot of veggies though. Fresh is best. I just had some fresh asparagus (just picked), and it was the best I had ever tasted. Delicate flavor, extremely tender. I can't wait for corn season. The early season corn cooks up to perfection in less than 2 minutes, is sweet, flavorful and not the least bit starchy (unlike corn from the grocery store which even if it has been hydro-cooled has often become extremely starchy). If corn is grown locally you should try purchasing it straight off the farm if possible (here most have stands that sell corn picked that day). My experience with local stores (even the ones that pretend to be more of a "farmer's market") is that they take too much time to get the produce on the shelves. They may have received it fresh picked earlier that day, but it won't be on the shelves for a day or two.
  • by badlapje ( 1043044 ) <> on Friday May 28, 2010 @02:53PM (#32379552)
    The question is kind of self-answering for those who know anything about nano (food or materials it doesn't matter). According to the industry itself there are two things that are important to realise when you're discussing nano-materials: 1. they are ffing small. So small in fact that they'd have no problem whatsoever getting past the blood-brain barrier (talk about a health risk). 2. the properties of nano-materials are different from those of their "normal" counterparts. Nano-iron does not behave the same way regular iron does. Not physically and not chemically. That's one of the main things as to why it's so attractive to research this stuff and why it has such a huge potential for innovation. To put this in scientific lingo "Materials manufactured or engineered at this level have unique properties and behave differently from conventional matter. This stems from two factors; their increased relative surface area and new quantum effects. Their greater surface area to volume ratio leads to increased chemical reactivity and resistance, whilst at nano scale quantum effects lead to unique optical, electrical and magnetic behaviours." If you realise the two above then you also realise two things: 1. self-regulation can't ever work. Due to the simple fact that testing for side-effects costs a lot of money with the potential to not only affect profit margins but to render them negative all together (if the side-effects are really bad and the product is cancelled). It doesn't need more explaining then this. It's leaded gasoline/cigarettes/agent orange/asbestos/CFC's (--- take your pick) all over again. 2. politics, as usual, are way behind on legislating (imo consciously so). It'll take at least another decade (if not two, three or ten) and several bad press scenarios before they really start to act upon the potential dangers this technology entails.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:49PM (#32380598) Homepage Journal
    "Mayo is oils, eggs, vinegar, salt, sugar and seasoning (and generally a bunch of preservatives). "

    Not the way "I" make it...

    Just get the food processor out, whip up some egg yolks, a little lemon juice, salt, splash of hot sauce and drizzle in some pure olive oil (not extra virgin, too strong a flavor), let it get creamy. No preservatives. Often, I'll add in a bit of dill, and maybe some roasted garlic...YUM! It takes only minutes, and your potato salad will taste like never before!!

    I used to never eat mayo growing up, till I tried making it myself.

    And nothing wrong with good fats and protein...better than stuffing yourself with empty refined carbs, that's for sure!!

    All things in moderation you know.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Wheat ( 20250 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:38PM (#32385736) Homepage Journal

    The only animals that eat grains in nature are birds and mice. If you feed a cow grains, it will make it so sick that dies in a year or two. There is lots of proof showing that the contents of grass-fed beef is far healthier than grain-fed [].

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Wheat ( 20250 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:53PM (#32385834) Homepage Journal

    The brain is primarily made out of fat, and needs large amounts of fat to maintain brain cells. Eating low-fat deprives the brain of the nutrients it needs, which in many people manifests itself as a strong feeling of depression. Most vitamins and minerals are fat-soluble, that means we can only absorb and use them if they're consumed with fat. Lots of tribal cultures consume copious amounts of fat (Inuit), but they never get degenerative diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

    Real mayonnaise is made out of olive oil and pastured eggs. Both are very high in vitamins, minerals and good fats. Mayonnaise in the grocery store is made with canola oil or soybean oil, these are bad fats - they are very inflammatory and promote heart disease. In addition, they are made with caged-chicken eggs where the chickens are fed a nutrient poor diet. This means that there is a small fraction of the amount of nutrients that is in real mayonnaise. You can find mayonnaise such as "Hellman's Real" with a big photo of some olives on the front, promoting the fact that it, "contains olive oil", but it's mostly still canola oil with just a small amount of olive oil added to it.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Wheat ( 20250 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @11:05PM (#32385918) Homepage Journal

    There is a debate, but it's sugar, alcohol and refined carbs make people fat. The liver can convert carbohydrates to fat. In fact, if fructose is consumed (which is 50% of the ingredients in table sugar), the liver has no choice but to convert it entirely into fat (and a really bad fat at that). Well, the first bit of fructose your body eats in a day can be turned into glycogen, maybe 10-80 grams depending upon your activity level, etc. But generally if you drink a can of pop, or a glass of fruit juice, it's all going to be turned into bad fast by your liver.

    See Sugar: The Bitter Truth [] for more details on how refined sugar is just as harmful on your liver and on your body as alcohol.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Wheat ( 20250 ) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @01:57AM (#32386750) Homepage Journal

    The saturated fat debate should have a been a non-starter, and probably would have been if people had the internet in the 50s, 60s and 70s when the science was done.

    About a century ago, humans dramatically started changing their diet, notably with the introduction of refined sugar and vegetable oil (often processed into hydrogenated or trans fats). Ancel Keys, and the saturated fat researchers came up with the "lipid hypothesis", that fat sticks to the arteries and "clogs them up". They didn't even consider the new foods introduced when human health declined, but decided that it was something that we've always eaten which must be the problem. The reason people started suspecting cholesterol was because we'd just come up with ways of measuring it in the blood - so they took the data and went looking for "problems". It really didn't make any sense.

    To quote Nutrition and Physical Degeneration [], "Statistics have been published by the Department of Public Health in New York City which show the increase in the incidence of heart disease to have progressed steadily during the years from 1907 to 1936. The figures provided in their report reveal an increase from 203.7 deaths per 100,000 in 1907 to 327.2 per 100,000 in 1936. This constitutes an increase of 60 per cent. Cancer increased 90 per cent from 1907 to 1936." This is where things really started going south for humans, and cancer, arthritis, alzhiemer's, heart disease and diabetes really started to come into the picture. We have managed a continued increase in degenerative disease over the last 70 odd years since then. Today 1 in 2 persons who live to old age will die of cancer. Humans used to be able to live to that same age and have a 1 in 1000 chance of dieing of cancer.

    Saturated fat is present in ever increasing quantities the closer you approach the equator. It's better suited to plants in warmer climates, as you move to the poles, polyunsaturated fat becomes more present since it has a lower melting point. Humans evolved in temperate regions, where saturated fat is more present. There are a number of studies done on natives eating high-saturated fat diet who were disease free (The Masai for example).

    Today we have hypotheses (based on information we've learned since the "lipid hypothesis" about how fats work in the body) that PUFAs might be deterimental, since we know they go rancid easily. Over consumption of PUFAs in conjunction with an anti-oxidant poor diet and a diet low in saturated fat (combing saturated fat with PUFAs makes PUFAs dramatically more stable from rancidity), means that these fats can go rancid in the blood stream - when these happens these fats can no longer be used as fuel, and the immune system needs to clean them out. Many PUFAs (corn oil is the worst) are also higher in omega-3 and low in omega-6, humans have eaten extremely varied diets, but one constant is the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6, because of this constant, these fats are used as inter-cellular messengers for ramping up inflammation or turning inflammation off. Eat a diet of only omega-6 and no omega-3, and silent inflammation turns up in the body and becomes a constant drain on the system.

    Still, I don't think that we will find any one fat sub-type as a true "enemy" (sat/mono/pufa - not counting fats destroyed by processing and unusable by humans for energy like hydrogenated and trans fats). All kinds of organisms use a mix of different fats, it doesn't make sense that animals would convert one type of fat to another in the liver, if that fat was harmful to them.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!