Healthy Living

Nanotechnology In Food: What You Need To Know

Nanotechnology is a scientific method of inserting nanosized (1 to 100 nanometers)  chemicals and materials into products in order to influence the content. The food manufacturing industry has adopted nanotechnology for various purposes. 

It is employed in food cultivation, farming practices, packaging and processing. Up to now, the feedback given by experts on using nanotechnology in food production has been on the positive side. However, investigation into potential health problems is still underway. 

As of 2019 in the U.S., manufacturers are not obliged by the law to reveal if nanotechnology was used in the making of the product. But companies inserting nanoparticles into their latest food products have to pass safety tests. While research is still ongoing on the safety of nanoproducts, moderation is advised till then.

The molecular particles used have other benefits for which they are used, such as reduction of waste generated by environmentally-friendly packaging and help in preservation of food. Here are some of its main uses. 

Lends Taste and Texture 

Nanoencapsulated flavor enhancers are sometimes added during the stage of food processing to provide taste. For instance, nanosized salt grains are being developed to ensure that the food retains the salty texture but does not contribute to increasing high blood pressure. Researchers are also trying to find ways to use nanotechnology to insert water in place of fat droplets, therefore reducing fat consumption but without changing the texture. 

Preservatives

Nanoclays and nanofilms are thin packaging material that act as barriers to prevent the food from spoilage and stop the absorption of oxygen by sealing packages. It also prevents the carbon dioxide from escaping while maintaining the texture.  

Nanoparticles are cleverly attached with antibodies that have the capacity to change colors when pathogens are detected in the food content. Packaging material such as plastic containers and cardboard boxes are made with antimicrobial properties to extend shelf life of the food products they hold. 

Farming

In order to reduce the dependance on chemicals and fertilizers to keep pests at bay, farmers are turning to nanotechnology to help them spot fungi in their crops. This is done by planting nanosensors in fields to help them keep track of nutrition levels, which decrease when pests are present. 

Allergies

Gluten-free foods are recommended to people with celiac disease, but nanoparticles used in wheat products can prevent allergic reactions in people who are gluten sensitive. The nanoparticles make this possible by segregating the harmful ingredient in a shell like enclosure, which the body understands as unhealthy. 

Risks

Researchers are in the process of determining whether certain particles used in food manufacturing cannot be processed by the body completely, hence could end up accumulating and cause side effects. For example, nanosilver and titanium dioxide could possibly accumulate in the small intestine, indicating the development of leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. 

nanoparticles This is a photo of nano-diamonds using an optical microscope. Ewa Rej, the University of Sydney

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