Behold, the Magic Lab pills that will pass as Food
We’ve all seen it before. Magic vaccines that prevent disease, magic pharmaceuticals that promise to treat and cure those who are ill, magic diet pills that will make you lose pounds in a matter of days or weeks. We have also learned about soylent green. If you haven’t make sure you check it out.
It is all about swindling desperate people so they make desperate decisions. It is about taking the easy road because it is more convenient.
It’s a recurring question when we think of futuristic food. Will we feed on pills created in laboratories? Will not we cook or worry about sitting at the table? Will we consume energy in the form of pills that we ingest mechanically, like robots that recharge their batteries?
Although not a new issue, in recent months biotech laboratories appeared to promise just that by manufacturing the so called “food of the future.”
That food, they say, will come in magic shakes and capsules that presumably provide us with an excellent nutritional balance, in some cases even leaving solid food aside.
One example is Mana Drink a company that promises to provide liquid food designed in the laboratory that is sold as “the nutritional drink for the 21st century lifestyle” and is already on the market in 29 countries.
A dose of 330 ml covers, according to the manufacturer, Heaven Labs, 20% of the daily nutritional needs of the human body. Made from so-called natural ingredients such as seaweed lipids, coconut oil and oatmeal, “it adds up to 400 calories and can totally replace any meal of the day.”
Business sources explain that they are even working with the European Space Agency to develop the meals for astronauts in their space travel.
It is not a completely new product, although at the company assures curious and skeptic consumers that they have taken it a step further with respect to their competitors, elaborating a much more complex formula.
Among its predecessors is Joylent, a brand of shakes, which has also been marketed for a few years as an alternative to solid food.
People who have experimented with these preparations say they were “curious to know what was going on,” A consumer says he spent a whole month swallowing only Joylent and water.
When he finished, some blood tests showed that his health was good, and even a little better than his usual diet. It is not clear if he followed a healthy lifestyle before he began ingestion the food substitute or if he used to eat junk food or a combination of both.
His iron and cholesterol levels, for example, improved. “Now, eating is a pleasure. I’m sure I will not be taking those shakes on a continuous basis. But I keep consuming them from time to time.”
But what do nutrition experts say about it? Dieticians and nutritionists are blunt about them: “All these laboratories have discovered absolutely nothing.”
These solutions have been in the clinical field for years. It is what in clinical nutrition is called enteral nutrition, with formulas that are administered with nasogastric or duodenal naso tubes.
“They are given to people who cannot eat for various health problems.” In other words, their function is indeed to substitute food, but in cases where the person isn’t able to feed in the traditional way.
What some laboratories do is emphasise the importance of exercise and promote nutrition with products that have existed for 70 years.
The question is, of course, is this the food of the future? Do you stop eating solid food to ingest laboratory preparations that claim to be nutritionally perfect?
“This is an absolute distortion of what is recommended in nutrition and food. We do not have clinical trials that have contrasted how a population group has been fed for a long time only with these shakes,” says nutritionist Juan Revenga.
From the manufacturing company they say that their products are in the market because they have been tested with many volunteers, and the results have been analyzed with nutritionists.
“I do not have a crystal ball, but I think the scenario in which these products would generally be triumphant would be a worldwide hecatomb, such as a Third World War or an extraterrestrial invasion,” says Revenga.
It is true that among its positive points is its easy storage and the fact they are very compacted and in many cases non perishable.
“It’s an aberration to eat only with shakes. Rodent studies have shown that the absence of masticatory activity leads to some health problems. One of the most significant is the absence of sensation of satiety if food is not chewed,” adds Revenga.
In the same sense, Magdalena Rafecas, professor of nutrition and bromatology, explains that “our body needs to digest and absorb nutrients. We have to make our mouths work. I do not think this can ever replace a complete meal. “
Another product that is very popular around the world is something called nutraceuticals. One company, Aora Health, promises to “create the food of the future”.
The company explains that they have designed products “to help enjoy a long and healthy life.”
In this case it is not a substitute for food, but for complements. An example is Aora Day, a set of pills composed of so-called natural ingredients, and that allege to have several functions:
Give energy, lower levels of anxiety and stress, increase concentration and antioxidant effects. “Our products are based on science,” says a company spokesman.
“We worked with the best research institutes, studies have been done that show the results, and we also focus on people to empower them. So that it is not just doctors and pharmacists who make the decisions “.
There is a lot of marketing in that sales pitch. The word nutraceutical is exactly the same as food supplements, but it sounds more scientific if people hear nutraceutical.
The first term is created by marketing to get people’s attention. However, there is a talk of nutricosmetics or nutraceuticals, but the only recognized expression is that of functional foods, defined as those that provide a health benefit beyond those that we are expected to obtain from their nutritional composition.”
The population should not be left in any doubt that it is more effective to have a functional eating pattern than to fill the super cart with products full of allegations.
The opinion of the companies that profit or wish to profit from magic pills is very different:
“Feeding the future is to understand that we are not all the same to adapt that diet more precisely with therapeutic effects. Eating is a pleasure, and its social part is essential to live longer. But more and more we resort to fast food or skip breakfast or dinner. That’s why there will be a part of the food that will be therapeutic, because in five minutes we can take the nutrients we need. It will be personalized food, depending on the age, the time of day and each person.”
We all have in mind the pattern of five fruits and vegetables a day, so difficult to meet, the companies say. Aora Health is preparing to launch All 5, a product that will supposedly contribute the same nutrients as those of five pieces of fruit and vegetables, in just a few seconds, in the form of a pill.
Unfortunately, nothing will ever successfully replace real food, planted on the ground and picked fresh from the garden or the local food market.