Saturday, May 23, 2009

Feedback from nutrition expert

Jackie, hi,

An interesting idea, your hybrid food, but doesn’t sound like meals would be very much fun! If you think of all the rolls food has in your life other than nutrition it’s difficult to imagine a liquid concentrate being fulfilling. (except of course when you’re working flat out to finish an assignment!)

But to answer your questions: the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand (NRVs) provide values recommended for all nutrients (you can access this document on the Ministry of Health website). The RDIs provide the amount of nutrients thought to be ensure that most people will have sufficient to meet identified outcomes, this mainly refers to the micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals). Energy obviously depends on activity levels, body composition and growth. And amount of fat and carbohydrates are related to energy (as is protein to some extent)—research has not been able to identify the optimal amount of the energy providing nutrients, but current recommendations to reduce risk of chronic disease are for 20-35% of energy from fat, 45-65% from carbohydrates and 15-25% from protein.

In answer to your 2nd question, yes, we have enough information to produce an artificial food that can allow survival, but 1) who would want to eat only that? And 2) survival might not be optimal. Much of current nutrition research is learning about components of food other than currently identified “essential” nutrients that are beneficial for health. So if you do not get enough vitamin C, after a period of time you will die (so vitamin C is essential), but if by consuming brassicas (e.g. broccoli, brussel sprouts) you will obtain a chemical that will help reduce risk of colon cancer (but if you don’t eat these foods you still might never get colon cancer).

Plants are a more efficient way to obtain nutrition than through animal sources. And it is possible to design a food that meets basic nutritional needs better than is likely when people self-select a diet from all available foods. One of the exciting potentials with plants are the phytochemicals that may have benefits beyond the basic ‘required’ nutrition (i.e. the NRVs/RDIs) – can these be concentrated in your hybrid food, or will they be lost in the processing?

Please feel free to get back to me if you don’t understand my comments.

Best wishes,

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