Canola Active Oil

Israel’s Shemen Industries introduced a product it calls Canola Active Oil, which it claims can reduce the body’s cholesterol intake by upwards of 14%. How does it do this? Using a technology it calls nano-sized self-assembled liquid structures (NSSL), which help to keep cholesterol from jumping from the digestive tract to the bloodstream. NSSLs, or nanodrops, as the company calls them, are added to the oil to create a water-soluble bubble of sorts that allows the healthier phytosterols that are abundant in plants and their oils to outcompete cholesterols to move into the bloodstream, thereby fighting against the causes of heart disease.

SlimShake Cholcolate

SlimShake-Chocolate, once marketed by Texas-based RBC Life Sciences (the product seems to have been discontinued since it’s nowhere to be found on the manufacturer’s site), featured an innovation called called Nanoclusters. These clusters were tiny structures that are 100,000th the size of a grain of sand. The company coated them with cocoa to form CocoaClusters, which, because of their greater surface area relative to their mass, delivered more chocolate taste, eliminating the need for excess sugar that makes these drinks bad for you.

NanoTea

The gloriously named Shenzhen Become Industry & Trade Co. Ltd., has developed a technique called ball-milling, which it uses to pulverize plants into particles that are fewer than 100 nanometers in diameter. The NanoTea made from this process allows for the release of 10 times as much selenium, a naturally occurring element that has antioxidative effects in the body.

SODA-LO

A technology developed at the U.K.’s University of Nottingham is another example of a nanofood exploiting the surface-area-to-mass ratio of a nanoparticle to deliver more flavor with less product. In the case of SODA-LO, the product is salt. By creating smaller salt crystals, SODA-LO, according to a press release from the company, “enables added salt levels to be reduced by up to 30% in foods such as bread, pizza bases, pastry, savory pie fillings, cheese, and baked snacks.”

FANTESK

First developed in the mid-1990s, FANTESK is a simple technology: It’s essentially an oil trapped in a starch. That encapsulated oil, however, is distributed evenly in the starch giving it a uniform taste and allowing for the creation of many low fat items containing FANTESK, from soft-serve to cheddar cheese. Recently, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, have put a FANTESK mixture of cooking oil with no trans-fats and wheat flour into cake mixes and frostings. The result: Delicious buttercream with only half the fat.

Milk Protein Nanotubes

Food isn’t just the end product where these nano-developments end up. In some cases, food itself enables the technology. In 2005, two Dutch researchers revealed a method for creating a nanotube out of a protein found in milk called alpha-lactalbumin. The protein’s ability to be coaxed into forming such a structure means it “could well serve as a vehicle for encapsulated molecules, such as for example vitamins and enzymes,” the researchers wrote in Trends in Food Science and Technology, which would allow scientists to easily fortify your breakfast cereal with more essential nutrients.

Good-Tasting, Low-Fat Mayo

Scientists at Norwich’s Institute of Food Research in the U.K. are working on a method for developing low-fat food that tastes good. They are specifically targeting emulsions, such as mayonnaise (which are simply oil suspended in proteins). Low-fat mayo is made by taking out half the yummy fat and replacing it with water. The researchers are hoping that by creating nano-droplets of water, they can suspend them in the oil, so an eater is greeted with that signature mayo taste with the water hidden within, instead of the current version, which tastes like watery mayo.

Programmable Food

Writing in the journal Appetite, a group of researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich discussed the risks associated with applying nanotechnology to the food industry. Among the topics mentioned in the report were so-called “individually modifiable foods,” which would employ various encapsulated ingredients so that heating an item in a microwave in a certain way could alter properties like its color or taste. Sure enough, there have been reports, such as this possibly tounge-in-cheek one in The Guardian’s Observer magazine, about programmable wine where one day a prospective buyer could decide at the absolute last minute (relatively speaking) whether he or she preferred white or red. We’ll believe this one when we see it.

2012-08-15

Co.Exist

How Nanotechnology Is Changing How You Eat And Taste

You might think of the tiny tech as purely industrial, but scientists are incorporating nanotechnology into food at a rapid pace, for everything from making food taste saltier without using more salt to making it harder for your body to absorb cholesterol.

Nanotechnology is already revolutionizing industries, from the tech sector to the health care industry. It was only a matter of time until the application of this exciting science of building tiny structures came to food. Nanotechnology has already come up in our stories of future food packaging, offering germ-killing films and reinforcing plastic bottles to keep the fizz in our sodas. But nanotech is also making its way into the actual food we eat, as well. Here are some examples of where this trend is and the far reaches of where it could go.

For more videos and stories on innovative solutions in food technology, check out the rest of our Feeding the Future series.

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