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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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  • by retardpicnic ( 1762292 ) <> on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:03PM (#32378002)
    We don't know nearly enough about how the bady will react to the ingestion of nanoparticles. Things so small that they could literally rush right into the bloodstream, which could be a small deal if we are talking about vitamins, but a big deal if we are talking about chemical preservatives. The idea is great, the science has yet to prove consumption safe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:08PM (#32378060)

    Well, so the next generation will become betatesters of nanofood science. Like all previous generations were testing something new and dying from its effects...

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:15PM (#32378142)

    They can magic the salt into a different shape that means more of the consumed salt hits the tongue, resulting in less salt used to achieve the same sensation of saltiness.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vidnet ( 580068 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:21PM (#32378234) Homepage

    Why would anyone want low-fat mayonnaise? Fat is what mayonnaise is about.

    If it's the fat you're after, oil is much cheaper and more pure. Mayonnaise is just about being delicious.

    There's nothing you can do to make potato chips healthier; there's nothing healthy in potato chips to enhance.

    Making potato chips less unhealthy is equivalent to making them healthier. No one's saying "healthy", just "healthier".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:26PM (#32378284)

    Epicyte created corn in 2001 that has spermicidal properties.

    In San Diego, a small, privately-owned bio tech company, Epicyte, held a press conference in September 2001. Epicyte reported that they had successfully created the ultimate GMO crop-- contraceptive corn. To do it they had taken antibodies from women with a rare condition known as immune infertility, isolated the genes that regulated the manufacture of those infertility antibodies, and, using genetic engineering techniques, had inserted the genes into ordinary corn plants.

    “We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies,” boasted Epicyte President, Mitch Hein.

    Lovely.... I am sure the population control advocates will demand this be given as part of food aid to developing countries.

  • diet food? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:26PM (#32378288) Homepage

    Diet food already tastes like the real thing. All my veggies taste real.

    All my whole grain foods all taste real...

    Oh wait, simulated chemical created chocolate cake and high fructose corn syrup laden junk? Is that what they are trying to make taste better?

    How about simply not eating that trash?

  • by Dumnezeu ( 1673634 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:38PM (#32378436)

    This is just the next line of food additives that attempt to make food into something that it's not.

    Proof, pls. kthxbai.

    Nothing new here really. We've had diet food before, we'll have more of it in the future.

    Really? Nothing new?

    The taste might actually improve too.

    So improvements in taste is nothing new?

    Why don't we focus on improving our diets so that they actually include healthy foods? There's a lot of food out there that's healthy for us that doesn't taste like cardboard.

    That food is also quite expensive. It either costs a lot of time, a lot of processing or a lot of space. Also, TFA implies that this nanofood-thingy might have the potency to make cheap (crap) food healthier! Why change your diet to a different kind of food when you could have the same kind, but a bit different, so that it doesn't harm you as much? As long as you like the taste, your body gets the right amount of energy and it doesn't harm you... what else could be wrong with what you eat? The fact that it's not natural doesn't make it bad. Shit additives the manufacturers are using these days makes it bad. If we can improve those additives, I don't see what's wrong with eating plastic. Again: So fking what if it's not natural?

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @01:43PM (#32378500)

    Don't forget, 70% of American's think that nanotechnology is inherently morally reprehensible. [] And the numbers are even higher if you sample highly religious people. So either the general public has absolutely no idea what the word nanotechnology means or (and this is a scarier thought in my opinion) a significant majority of American's are against a technology are against any technology that promises to significantly enhance the human body.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @02:00PM (#32378706)

    "Lovely.... I am sure the population control advocates will demand this be given as part of food aid to developing countries."

    Good. In our PC culture it's unfashionable to point out how ballistically fucked up the behavior and choices made by people in those countries lead to famine, war, pestilence and death. One way to fix some of that is to reduce population pressure that drives them into areas that cannot sustain them.
    Giving them food ordinarily serves to sustain their crappy decision model (which is why I oppose all foreign food aid). It doesn't FORCE them to change.
    Give them all the contraceptive corn they'll eat (not having to spew out a brat every time you get fucked had been tremendously LIBERATING to Western women!) and if they don't like it, then they can choose to abstain.

  • Okay, here's three quick points:

    1. The main health problem among Americans is lack of exercise. Everyone essentially knows this, but we keep slinking away from the point and looking for magic diet foods. The odds are good you don't have a beer gut or a McDonald's gut, what you have is a gasoline gut.
    2. While diet is important, it's far more complicated than most of us are willing to admit. Is a low-fat diet important? But then, how do you explain the French? Is a low-calorie diet important? But then how do you explain the Japanese? The suckers will no doubt snap up novelty low-calorie diet products, but there are reasons the official recommendations haven't budged much over the years: eat a varied diet, and try to cover all the bases.
    3. High tech modified foods: it's worth watching out for problems, it may even be worth beefing up government watchdog agencies (though I suspect what we really need is just to get the existing ones to do their jobs, which means not appointing people who won't do their jobs, which means not electing Republicans, or the equivalent). But overall, I think the paranoia about food experimentation is going to turn out be misplaced (e.g. there's a not so implausible scenario where GM foods enable a wide-spread return to organic gardening, and save the planet).

    (Posted with "It's All Text". Just say no to TEXTAREAs)

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @02:32PM (#32379144)

    It's altering food that's the problem. I sat down last year with a couple of nutrition texts and assembled a list of actual bodily needs and discovered that I could get everything in the form of pills. It turns out to be surprisingly cheap and easy, especially once you realize that you don't actually have to consume protein: you digest proteins into amino acids before they're absorbed in the gut, so you just need to get the necessary amino acids. I've gone as long as two months at a time without consuming any "food", and my weight and general health are both excellent. (I could go longer, but food is involved in social situations where I'd rather not explain what I'm doing.) After a few weeks, the stomach shrinks so you no longer feel hungry. You also don't have to pass waste nearly as often, since you're not consuming all that useless garbage that the body doesn't need. And then there's all the time wasted with meals that I've reclaimed.

    My main complaint is that most of the nutrients I'm consuming in pill form still come from natural sources. I'd much rather they were synthesized so I could be assured of their purity instead of relying on haphazard evolved-instead-of-designed natural processes. (There's also the problem that I still have to obtain fats by occasionally eating a handful of nuts.) Instead of playing silly engineering games with plants and animals and whatever random crap they contain, I'd rather bypass the whole atavistic mess and live as if we have actual science now.

    Of course, if you're a foodie, none of this will have any appeal, but if you eat mainly because you have to, there are alternatives.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:23PM (#32380128) Homepage Journal
    Huh, I don't know what kind of beers you've tried (you claim to have tried a lot, but I am suspect) but I really disagree on the theory that beer actually tastes like crap and we just drink it to get a *high.* Now, I will make this clear, this is personal preference/opinion, so I don't have any scientific evidence to back anything up but here's been my experience.

    The first time I tasted a beer I drank a Budweiser at a friends house. Honestly, I didn't see the appeal to the drink (and most people can understand why I am sure). I mean, the flavors were smooth enough that I wouldn't describe it as stingy or anything like that, but it just tasted like liquefied bread and my response was something in terms of, "WTF is all the fuss about?"

    However, a couple years later, one of my friends came back from Belgium and brought home some darker beers. I hadn't been drinking a lot at this point (actually, I only drank once since the Budweiser), so there was no acquired taste thing going on here. When I drank that beer, for the first time, I almost cried it tasted so good. There was a tart sweetness to it that was very difficult to find in any other food. The smoky flavor that is heavy in a lot of American dark beers was very mellow. The bitter nip to it (and it wasn't much more than a nip) stimulated a slight tingle on the tongue. Most noticeable of all, was how smooth it was going down the throat. I want to emphasize that last point. A good beer does not sting going down, it warms the throat just like a good whiskey does. It leaves you sitting there, feeling more complete for having drank it.

    The thing that I appreciate about a good beer (yes I am an elitist) the most is the incredible variety of flavor experiences that can be found in a single drink. Very few consumables have the ability to stimulate so many different receptors as beer. This, in my opinion, is what makes it taste incredible. It doesn't just taste sweet, or salty, or whatever, it tastes complex, and I like that. More importantly, I think that's what makes a taste truly unique and worth appreciating. I'm not a wino, but for what it's worth, my wine drinking friends say the same thing about wine.

    Now, you compare the taste of beer to the taste of a milkshake and say that a milkshake is what can be called, universally, good. I would agree that a milkshake is pleasing for the sweet receptors. However, it leaves all your other receptors lacking. To make a music analogy, I consider milkshakes to be the equivalent of fun, energetic modern pop music like Katy Perry. It's fun to listen to. It fills you with a good hype for a short time. It's very nice, but somewhat lacking in terms of depth and power. Now a good beer, on the other hand, is like a magnificent symphony or orchestra piece. It fills your very spirit with so many sounds tied together in such wonderful ways that it makes you think. You can listen to a good symphony, and your mind's eye will develop an entire cinematic to go along with the music, rife with character, feeling, plot, color and on and on. Now, is the powerful symphony better, or the fun pop music? Well that's a judgment more than anything, but I don't think either sounds better. I think they both sound great in their own ways.

    Similarly, is the super sweet, awesome classic milkshake or the complex fulfilling beer better tasting? Well, neither. They both taste magnificent in their own ways. So you can reiterate your point all you want that beer tastes like shit, but I really think you have missed out on some world class beers or something. Beer provides one of the most complex, amazing symphonies of flavor that I've ever had the delight of partaking in.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday May 28, 2010 @03:28PM (#32380238) Journal

    Don't get me started on beef...I remember what a REAL US Prime steak used to taste like with all the marbled 'flavor' taste...

    While I agree that the objects in the grocery chain stores don't taste anything like the stuff that comes out of our garden, I'd have to say that you can still get really great beef. However, it costs a lot more.

    Now the chicken today tastes horrible compared to real chicken. Even the smell of the antibiotic and hormone-infused chickens cooking is repulsive to me. When I'm at our summer home in the Ozarks, I can buy fresh chickens that grew up uncaged and eating stuff that chickens like to eat and the taste is wonderful by comparison. The guy who raises those chickens likes to say that his chickens that peck their own food from corn and other meal are the best in the country. I suggested that he change his slogan to "nothing tastes as good as a pecker" but he was not amused. Well, he was sort of amused, but he's one of those guys who doesn't really show anything on his face. When he finds something absolutely side-splitting hilarious, he'll maybe twitch one corner of his mouth a millimeter or so. Raises great chickens, though, and plays mean mandolin.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wheat ( 20250 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:46PM (#32385796) Homepage Journal

    "Saturated fat is bad" is entirely political. The US Gov't has literally spent billions of dollars on studies trying to prove the deleterious health effects of saturated fat. This started in the early seventies, and after they did a massive study, and with lots of lobbying from the grain-industry, politicians aren't going to come out and say, "We were wrong". Politicians aren't very good at saying that.

    (Gary Taubes covered the history of low-fat in Good Calories, Bad Calories in great detail).

    Saturated fat is a healthy fat, there is no reason to avoid it. Tribes in the Pacific eat a tonne of coconuts, and they live to ripe old ages, but they get better than 10 times fewer degenerative diseases than North Americans. They never get diabetes, they don't get alzheimers, they don't get arthritis, and cancer is very rare. Yet they eat a tonne of saturated fat.

    They don't eat and sugar, grains or vegetable oil. These are the foods that make us sick and cause our bodies to degenerate prematurely.

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