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Head of Nutrition at the University of Auckland Dr Lynn Ferguson researches gene/diet inter-reactions. Dr Richard Archer from Massey University investigates future trends in the food industry.

Key content

Key content

Techno foods

With a sampling of mood foods, antioxidants, ‘Recharge’ ice cream and nutrigenomics now well digested, John’s final appointment is with Dr Richard Archer who is the Head of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at Massey University in Palmerston North. Richard’s research investigates future trends in the food industry with a view to developing foods not currently available.

Following on from a prediction that the next trend could well be in the fast, artificial, and highly technological, Richard and his team are designing and building completely new foods called ‘techno foods’. These foods will exist only in software form before being made and will link in with the food genomics revolution. Richard predicts that it will be the young people who want to eat this food as well as people who are looking for a new experience. It could well be the ‘new’ fast food.

Things to think about

Things to think about

 In conjunction with this episode of Ever Wondered?, your students may enjoy these activities, which link to Dr Lynn Ferguson’s research into the different dietary requirements of different groups of people.

 In this activity, students investigate the occurrence of food-related conditions, for example, lactose intolerance, within their school or community in order to make a packed lunch suitable to take on a school tramp.
Developing personalised solutions for specific diet restrictions

 In this video clip, students can watch some researchers involved in Nutrigenomics New Zealand explain why the ‘optimum diet’ for each person is different because we all have different genes.
Nutrigenomics and personalised food

Transcript

Transcript

DR WATT

Welcome back to Ever Wondered? I'm now at the University of Auckland School of Medicine where I'm about to meet Professor Lynn Ferguson. Lynn works in the field of nutrigenomics and she's going to introduce us to the incredible world of the genome and what it can teach us about our food choices, health and well-being.

PROF LYNN FERGUSON

I'm Lynn Ferguson and I'm head of Nutrition at the University of Auckland and my field of interest is a new field called nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics is basically the study of the gene/diet interactions. And the way we’re using it is to think about how we can understand people’s genes and optimise their diet to maintain optimal health. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, even slowing the progression of ageing are all likely to have some sort of genetic component that’s going to optimise nutrition in different ways for different people.

VOICE-OVER

So how does Lynn determine an individual’s specific dietary needs? First comes an interview with a nutritionist.

LYNNE

So what would be the first thing that you have to eat?

DR WATT

Two slices of toast with Marmite.

LYNNE

And what kind of bread would you use for your toast?

DR WATT

Like a multi-grain or a rye.

LYNNE

And do you have anything to drink with your breakfast?

DR WATT

Yeah, I make up a smoothie with banana in it and spirulina.

PROF FERGUSON

We know that people sometimes like to think a little bit optimistically. They’ll forget the chocolate bar and perhaps remember a little more of the vegetables than they actually ate.

DR WATT

Lynne’s given me a buccal swab so I can give her a sample of my DNA, so let's get scraping.

VOICE-OVER

The buccal swab is to gather cells from the inside of my mouth. These cells can then be used to extract my DNA in order to build a picture of my genome or unique genetic portrait.

PROF FERGUSON

For me, it's really exciting that New Zealand is being seen as at the forefront of this field. We were in there right at the beginning with such a very potent collaboration of everyone ranging from dieticians, pathologists, bioinformaticists, geneticists, it's got enormous potential. It's moving fast and we really are up there with the rest of the world, if not ahead of them.

Everybody isn't individual, but there are groups of people and again, that tends to relate to the genotype data where we’re recognising that there's a group of people that are affected in immune response. There's a group of people that have got affects in transporting mutations. And so that there's probably between three and five different groups of people genetically and they're probably the same groups of people that have got different types of dietary requirements.

At the moment, we don’t know enough about gene/diet interactions to really be able to utilise the full potential of the field. But in ten years’ time I think it's really going to be a matter of days or weeks so you can get whole genome information. That means you can go into the supermarket, swipe your bar code and it will signal the rows that have got the foods that are optimised to your genotype and are going to really keep you in good health for as long as possible.

DR WATT

So there's a good chance in the not too distant future we’ll all be grocery shopping with our very own unique to us genome profile cards, which will guide us to buy specific foods for our individual health needs. And if this all sounds very space odyssey and futuristic, then brace yourself for a food type that’s pushing the science envelope out even further.

VOICE-OVER

We’re here at Massey University in Palmerston North to meet Professor Richard Archer, head of the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health.

PROF RICHARD ARCHER

Most of the world’s food at the moment being quite highly processed, then you can see the big counter trend which shows up as natural and organic and local and what people tend to call “real” food. What's the counter trend going to look like to natural and all things good? Well it's going to be artificial and it's going to be fast and it's probably going to be highly technological. So coining this concept “technofoods” and it will be a completely different food, nothing that we know at the moment.

So it's not going to be a carrot. It's not going to be a vegetable. It won't be a pizza. It's not a burger. It's nothing recognisable at the moment. It can be any colour, could be any flavour and you build up a food. So your food just exists in software before you make it.

VOICE-OVER

Because this food is constructed from scratch, nutritional elements can be added to the batter, creating a food that is customised for the user.

PROF ARCHER

We can inject multiple things into the food stream as we’re building it up. It's perfectly placed for the nutrigenomic revolution.

VOICE-OVER

But how is this technofood put together?

PROF ARCHER

We have elected to go for something which is starch based or starch and polysaccharide based which will then cook up to be a crumb structure, so bread-like or muffin-like or a solid foam basically.

TERESA WEGRZYN

This is about food construction. So unlike a bread where you’ve got a bit of leeway, we need to be able to predict the structure of the food absolutely, how it behaves, when it's a paste and how it behaves during cooking. About 70 percent of bread is air and we want to control the air because it's going to affect the printing process. So there's two issues. There's how it works on the printer, but it also has got to produce a food with a great texture … well, something that people will like to eat.

VOICE-OVER

Fascinating stuff, but what is this food going to look like?

DR WATT

What's this impressive piece of kit …

TECHNICIAN

All right, this here is a thyrexes cartesian robot, that’s the actual printer. It can move two-dimensionally, like your standard printer that you'd print on two-dimensional bits of paper, but it's also got the zed axes movement with brings it up and we can sort of print three-dimensional objects with it. We've got a IV hospital bag full of food batter. That comes down through here, this is a peristaltic pump which is run off this motor here and it comes down through and out through a mixing chamber here.

Also around here is where the colours will be injected from this piece here and this here has the four syringes that will inject the colours to give you a full colour printed image.

DR WATT

It's a bit like playing the chef but more science.

VOICE-OVER

With the batter all printed out, it's time to cook it and put it to the test.

DR WATT

Ever wondered what constructed food tastes like? Teresa, this tastes like nothing.

TERESA WEGRZYN

Well it's meant to taste like nothing. The whole point of it being neutral is people can choose what tastes they want to put in it. That’s what makes it a personalised food.

DR WATT

So what can you put in? What kind of tastes can you put into it?

TERESA WEGRZYN

Well anything, I don’t know. Fish? Chocolate? Raspberry?

DR WATT

No limitations at all?

TERESA WEGRZYN

No, hopefully no limitations. That’s definitely a part of the project as well.

DR WATT

Very good. Some taste would be good.

PROF ARCHER

Who's going to want to eat this food and why? I think for a start it's going to be the young people. It will be people looking for a new experience, something where the flavours are unusual and loud. The colours might be unusual and loud.

When we started this it was a unique idea, hadn't heard it anywhere in the world. Since then we've heard the concept from a couple of places, but just as the concept. As far as I know we’re the only people really trying to put it into practice.

TERESA WEGRZYN

You'd think the Jetsons or Star Trek, with a little oven that sits there and you dial up the food that you want. It's really about choice, about constructing foods.

PROF ARCHER

What's the new fast food? And I think this could be it.

DR WATT

Science continues to discover more and more benefits in the food around us, which could lead to an evolution of diet for coming generations. That's all for this show. If you enjoyed the science and you want to find out more, visit the Ever Wondered website. See you again next time

Go to www.biotechlearn.org.nz