Next up, I attended a meeting on hybrid sweetener systems where they discussed new approaches to sweetening foods to help combat the obesity epidemic. They are noticing that customers are demanding “better and healthier” food products. Dr. Walters of Rosalind University of Medicine and Science started off the talks by stating that soft drinks have been linked to the obesity problem. He noted that the sweet taste receptor was identified between 2001 and 2003. According to the lecture, it has been found that combining different sweeteners together in a product formulation actually increases the sweetness and they suspect it has to do with different molecules affecting varied sites on the sweet taste receptor. The speakers had discussed a new sweetener called Talin by Naturex. Talin is a sweetener derived from a West African fruit called katemfe according to the companies website. It is low in calories and when combined with Stevia it improves the taste profile. Stevia usually has a bitter aftertaste to it but when it is combined with Talin you find a smoother and more pleasant sweetness. Later on, I attended an educational session entitled, “Nutragenomics and Angiogenesis: How Food Influences the Common Denominator in Health.” Angiogenesis helps maintain a healthy physiological state but when it is not in balance, it can lead to health problems like obesity and cancer. The speakers noted that dietary intervention can suppress these processes and discussed the gene mechanisms involved.
There was a talk given by Mr. David W. Robson, Head of Energy and Environmental Foresight with the Scottish Government that I sat through entitled, “Food, Water, Energy Nexus: Surprise is Inevitable, Being Unprepared is Not.” He stressed the importance of starting to prepare for the inevitable calamity that is to hit mankind in the coming years due the effects of climate change on food, energy and water. It was noted that climate change impacts economic, food, global stability and biodiversity. Environmental, social and technological changes require that we increase centrality of resources to human security, national prosperity and social well being. The perfect storm which can stress physical and biochemical systems and these now fragile systems can amplify issues of equity according to Mr. Robson. He predicts that water scarcity and stress would occur in 2025. Additionally he expects a globally integrated market for fresh water in 20 to 30 years. Water, he reported, is currently traded like wheat and its’ consumption is doubling every 20 years.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at IFT. I was able to network with fellow RD’s and even had the chance to speak with the President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dr. Ethan Bergman. There was talk of the possible expanding role of supermarket RD’s in healthcare as Obamacare gets underway due to the fact that more American’s will be insured. It was also exciting to visit the city of Chicago and experience it’s grandeur. The Taste of Chicago, a food festival held once a year was a feast for the senses and was walking distance from where I was staying. The food industry doesn’t have the cleanest reputation when it comes to promoting health and wellness. They have a long ways to go to improve upon that, which appears to be their goal. Given the global food culture, the food industry will continue to play an important role in feeding the global population. From attending their events, it is my understanding that they are aware of the harmful effects of the western processed diets on health. Traditional whole foods were touted as health promoting. It will be interesting to see what the future holds with respect to the food industry’s response to the coming food crises and the current obesity epidemic.