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Industry Report 04 September

The Industry Report highlights the most important (and interesting!) news for the nutraceutical and functional food industry.

3D Printing the Future

As personalised nutrition continues to dominate the mainstream, thought turns to the future of the category, and what innovation the industry can expect to see. A spin-off company from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Multiply Labs, made the news in May as one of the first companies to use 3D printing to produce supplements, ‘combining the latest 3D printing technology with FDA-approved pharmaceutical polymers’. Interestingly, these polymers, although undisclosed—simply noted as ‘patent-pending’—allow the manufacturers to control the release of its active ingredients. This makes the supplements ideal for the busy, on-the-go consumer who wants to take a single supplement and enjoy a morning release of omega-3s and then an energy boost later in the day, for example. As consumer demand grows for further personalised products, there have been studies on 3D printing for oral supplements, but there has been little uptake within the industry so far. That may be set to change, however, as a new 3D printing material has been created from lemon juice and potato starch. A study has found the gel created from these ingredients is an ‘ideal building block’ for 3D food printing, and could see new manufacturing processes for functional foods in the future. 3D food printing is a simple yet customisable production technique for food manufacturers, although the cost of investment and innovation means its use is in the early stages, but the possibilities are almost endless. As the technique centres around personalisation, using this new lemon juice gel has applications for supplements for the elderly and children, who may find various foods unappetising, and also opens up functional food opportunities as food materials such as dough and meat paste have already seen success in 3D printing. It remains to be seen how soon the industry can adopt new manufacturing processes, but the future looks full of innovative 3D-printed products.

Seasonal Cycling in the Gut

A new study has found the gut bacteria of the Tanzanian Hadza people displays seasonal variations following dietary patterns—further evidence diet strongly influences the gut microbiota. The data reveals ‘annual cyclic reconfiguration of the microbiome’, and greater microbial diversity was found in this population than in urban industrialised people. The researchers hypothesise that changes to the human diet over the millennia could explain the loss of diversity in the modern human gut. The researchers explained ‘surviving hunter-gatherer populations are the closest available [way] to learn about the ways of our remote human ancestors’, and thereby gain insight to ancestral gut microbiota. Interestingly, the Hazda microbiome was then compared to the composition of populations from 16 different countries, and researchers found ‘some dynamic lineages of microbes have decreased in prevalence and abundance in modernised populations’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bacterial profiles in the Hazda people also contained fewer antibiotic-resistant genes than those in industrialised populations.

Editor’s Pick

In May this year, an Australian millionaire offered some advice to millennials struggling to buy a home: he advised people to stop buying avocado toast. Luckily for millennials, new research shows avocados have health benefits beyond their reputation as ‘good fats’—they may support eye health and gut health, and boost memory and attention.  Scientists at New Zealand’s Plant and Food Research said avocados contain compounds which support cardiovascular health, blood glucose regulation and have anti-inflammatory effects—all excellent reasons to purchase an avocado over a house. While a new study found avocado has no ‘noticeable effect’ on the gut microbiota in rats, they did notice the gut bacteria metabolised the dietary fibre in the avocado to produce short-chain fatty acids which are associated with a number of immune health benefits. Another study looked at the lutein content of avocados, and found it may boost attention, working memory and problem solving—all healthy ageing benefits. Lutein’s role in preventing age-related macular degeneration is well-documented, and of crucial benefit to millennials exposed to high levels of blue light every day. If you’d still rather buy a house, don’t give up the avocados completely: the key to amazing smashed avo toast is a pinch of chilli flakes and a smidge of lime juice.

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