Sunday, August 11, 2013

IFT 2013: Part 2

    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.    

Sunday, August 4, 2013

IFT 2013: Part 1

      A little less than a month ago I attended the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) annual meeting and food expo in the beautiful city of Chicago.   The event focused on the impending food crises and changing the food industries image as the facilitator to the world’s health woes, particularly with regards to obesity.   Talks were given by prominent scientists, physicians and political scientists with regards to these issues.   The keynote speaker was Dr. Fareed Zakaria, CNN correspondent and political scientist, who gave a positive spin on the unforeseen challenges to the global food supply due to climate changes and how that is going to affect the food chain and distribution economically and politically.  He emphasized that, as always, a solution will be found and he used examples of previous recessions and how America managed to survive.  But of course, scientists will be at the forefront in resolving this issue.   There were educational track sessions on topics relating to food and nutrition, food laws, food microbiology, as well as food safety and defense.    I also attended their educational excursion to the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) where we were given a tour of their clinical nutrition and innovation labs. Their food expo floor was inundated with food ingredient companies trying to sell their products based on their application.  

     The trip to IIT’s clinical nutrition lab was interesting and insightful.  The dietitian/ lab researcher we met actually drew blood from the study participants as warranted.  Before this I did not know that dietitians actually performed such duties in this line of work.   They also had a room which looked like a physicians exam room where some investigative work was done.  There was of course a prep room and an instrumentation room where blood samples were processed.  At the conclusion of our tour we were given strawberry smoothie samples and were asked to distinguish between the one made with real strawberries and the one made with the artificial version.   We also visited the innovation labs and were led towards a microbiology laboratory where they were showing us their work on biological polymers and their applications with food products. 

     I attended several interesting food and nutrition track educational sessions during the event which I will go into some detail.  First,  it was such a delight to listen to Dr. Kaplan from the University of Calgary speak about, “The Role of Nutrition in Mental Health,” as her talk was entitled.  She emphasized that traditional diets (such as the Mediterranean diet) promoted mental health while the western processed diets increased the rate of anxiety and mood symptoms.   One particular study she discussed involved analyzing individuals 3 day food records and noting that those with increased vitamin and mineral intake had improved mental functioning scores.   During her talk she quoted Margaret Mead by stating that “it is easier to change a man’s religion than the way he eats,” to prove her point that since American diets are deficient in whole foods that supplementation may be necessary.   She also stated that although the brain is 2% of our body weight that it occupies 20 to 50% of our metabolic demands.   Finally she discussed studies involving vitamin and mineral supplementation and improved mental health.   But, she did stress that whole foods were best! Dr. Markus, a professor at the University of Maastricht gave a discussion on, “Food, the Brain and Stress Resilience.”  He stated that the balance between situational demands and personal preferences/abilities determined our wellness.   Stress, he added, “is the mental and physical energy to keep this balance.” When individuals are in a bad mood they usually crave carbohydrate rich foods.   Increasing intake of tryptophan has been shown to improve mood.  He went on to discuss how this knowledge could help enhance food effects and thereby help with curbing obesity. 

     To be continued with highlights from the rest of my IFT 2013 experience!