Challenges and Opportunities of Feeding an Expanding, Aging Population

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar

Food has its fashions, with form and function battling for dominance. Convenience, low-calorie, locavores, organic, functional food, indulgent excesses…what’s next?

Personalized nutrition, nutrition density, immediacy and alternative proteins are some of the key words for the future.

Personalized nutrition

Salad

We’re going to see even more diversity of choices, as well as products aimed at specific population groups, says Gerhard Rechkemmer, president of the Max Rubner Institut, a food and nutrition research organization in Karlsruhe, Germany.

In the future, that will go into what we call personalized nutrition,” he says. “You will have the genetic or metabolic design of a person and provide food for their needs.”

The microbiome—the bacteria in the gut—is even more genetically diverse than the genes in our own bodies. These bacteria “have a metabolism as we do, but it’s something we don’t much understand yet,” says Peter Weber, a medical doctor and nutritionist in Kaiseraugst, Switzerland. “In the future, we will understand better how the different systems in the body interact.”

While the outlines of a prudent diet are known, new research results in adjustments to details like recommended daily requirements for various nutrients. That’s likely to go further, with adjustments based on individuals’ genetic makeup.

Nutrition density

Two rapid changes are affecting our relationship with food that will make nutrition density a key trend in the future. First, our lifestyle has become much more sedentary, even within the past few decades. Second, we are living much longer.

In both cases, we are eating more calories than we need. The result is the explosion in obesity—a 28% increase in adults and 47% increase in children in the past 33 years, with the number of overweight and obese people hitting 2.1 billion in 2013, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, published in The Lancet.

Yet even though we’re eating too much, we aren’t getting the nutrition we need. “When we talk about nutritional challenges, we typically start off with developing countries because that’s so obvious,” Dr. Weber says. “But in affluent societies we also have micronutrient inadequacies.”

On a global level, about 37% of people have insufficient vitamin D serum levels and only 12% are within the desired range, Dr. Weber says, adding that about 90% of Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin E. The World Health Organization estimates 250 million preschool children lack enough vitamin A, which puts them at risk of blindness.

As people age, their bodies absorb less of the micronutrients in food. The challenge in the future is “how we can make appropriate food which is micronutrient dense, with not too much energy and which tastes good,” Dr. Weber says.

Immediacy

Snacking in the U.S. represents half of all “eating occasions.” While people say they are looking for something healthy for more than half of those snacks, “planning is hard. People are time-stressed. Their lives are hectic,” says Laurie Demeritt, chief executive of The Hartman Group, a food research and consulting firm in Bellevue, Washington.

People prefer to make decisions about food close to the eating occasion, to choose based on their mood at the moment. “They don’t like to plan. They eat on a whim. It changes how we view food,” she says.

As a result, retail formats are adapting to serve people who want to buy something to eat at the last minute, by serving freshly prepared offerings. Food-service operators also are making it possible for people to call in an order that they can run in to pick up. It’s a trend that’s likely to grow.

Twenty or 30 years ago, there were certain places where you could buy food,” Ms. Demeritt says. “Now there are more options for food procurement, and not so much pressure for planning.”

Even though 60% of millennials say they enjoy cooking, they aren’t talking about cooking from scratch, she says. “They want to get a sauce that’s prepared, but they’ll choose the vegetables, for example. They’re looking for the manufacturer to be the sous-chef and still let them have choice and creativity.”

Alternative proteins

As the world population climbs toward an expected peak of nine billion, there’s a question of how people will get enough to eat, especially as people who enter the middle class in developing countries tend to adopt the same kind of meat-heavy, processed diets common to affluent societies.

When the Chinese began to drink more milk, it had an impact on the global milk supply,” Dr. Weber says. “If we have three billion more people to feed in the future, from where should we provide protein? From even better farming? From plants? From artificial proteins that you grow in a lab? These are opportunities and challenges.”

Protein ties into the aging of society as well, because older people need to consume more protein to deal with muscle wasting.

senior woman cutting vegetables on chopping board in kitchen

However, in Europe and the U.S., vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more popular, says Dr. Rechkemmer of the Max Rubner Institut. India shows that “a vegetarian diet supplies sufficient protein if you have products available. It remains to be seen whether that trend will continue.”

However, in Europe and the U.S., vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more popular, says Dr. Rechkemmer of the Max Rubner Institut. India shows that “a vegetarian diet supplies sufficient protein if you have products available. It remains to be seen whether that trend will continue.”

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

Research Heralds 3D-Printed Organs and even Hearts

By Catherine

3D printing human organs

Written by Catherine Bolgar

Few would have guessed the trajectory from 1970s inkjet printers to 3D printed organs consisting of human cells, yet, that’s where we’re headed.

3D printers apply layers of melted plastic to create complex objects, from the silly to the serious, including personalized prostheses such as eyes, ears or knees. A patient at the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, recently was the first to receive a custom 3D printed plastic skull.

A step beyond plastic parts is a biological-synthetic combination. A personalized 3D printed scaffolding is made of synthetic material, on which living cells are placed that will grow around the structure. This technique, which prints the structure but not the cells, is being examined for bone and for skin.

Cells we isolate from fat will stimulate bone formation and blood vessel formation in these structures,” says Stuart K. Williams, director of the bioficial organs program at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. “That is on the cusp of becoming utilized in a more widespread manner.”

The next goal: to use 3D printing techniques with live cells. Tissue made artificially with real human cells is called “bioficial.”

A patch of bone tissue may one day help patients whose vertebrae are damaged by an injury or cancer. Cartilage, which doesn’t regenerate on its own, could be repaired with bioficial tissue created from patients’ own cells. And perhaps, someday, entire organs could be replaced.

3d printed head

Cells are trickier to work with than plastic. The printer itself has to be adjusted—rather than melting at high temperatures, it has to use low temperatures that won’t kill the cells. It has to be sterile. A robot-controlled syringe squeezes out the cells, which are suspended in a gel that can solidify and maintain the desired shape, similar to gelatin desserts. But those desserts melt when they get warm; for the 3D printed tissue not to melt in the heat of the body requires other chemical processes to ensure they retain the desired shape, says Jos Malda, deputy head of orthopedic research at University Medical Center Utrecht.

Not just that, but each cell needs nutrition. When a body part or organ loses its blood supply, it dies. “If you create a larger construct in the lab, keeping that piece alive is a big challenge,” Dr. Malda says.

Finally, “having cells in the right place doesn’t mean an organ will function,” Dr. Malda says. “But never say never.”

These challenges are why Dr. Williams decided to focus on a bioficial heart. “It doesn’t have complex metabolic activities like the liver or kidneys do. A heart is simply a pump. It pushes blood out and allows blood to come back in,” Dr. Williams says.

The artificial heart was one of the first implanted devices made of synthetic materials. Dr. Williams’s team is working to make a bioficial heart, starting by printing individual parts: the valves, the cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells), the electrical conduction system, the large blood vessels and the small blood vessels.

We have made dramatic steps forward printing the individual parts of the heart,” he says. “We haven’t assembled it yet, but it’s likely to happen in the not too distant future. It won’t be ready for implantation, but we will be able to understand how the heart works in assembled form.”

The first step is to assemble blood vessels to ensure the blood supply. That would allow for building tissue two to four centimeters thick that has its own blood supply.

Back in 1988, Dr. Williams used fat-derived cells to build a blood vessel and put it into the body of a patient. “Fat has the capability of forming all the different cells found in the heart,” he says.

Some day, doctors might be able to take a patient’s own cells to build a replacement organ, thereby getting around the problems of rejection of a donor organ.

Perhaps we’ll find out it isn’t necessary for a bioficial heart to look exactly like a real heart, or a bioficial kidney to look exactly like a real kidney for them to work well. “Maybe we can make it more simplistic, using a slightly different blueprint,” Dr. Williams says.

Will the first use in a patient be the complete heart or parts of a heart?” he asks. “I think it will be parts: a patch of large and small blood vessels.”

Such a patch, which researchers are trying to make in the lab, could be used in a patient whose blood isn’t reaching part of the heart. Another possibility is pediatric applications, for children whose hearts haven’t formed properly because of a genetic defect.

We’re hoping that one day we’ll be able to treat the patient by repairing parts long before they are in such a condition that we have to replace the entire organ,” Dr. Williams says.

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

4 reasons why you should visit Dassault Systèmes’ booth at #IMTS 2014

By Diana

If you plan to attend the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago from September 08, 2014 to September 13, 2014, don’t miss Dassault Systèmes’ booth E-3125.

Here’s what we have in store for you:

  1. You will see our solutions tailored to the Industrial Equipment industry. We focus on what our customers and their customers value most and deliver solutions that bring the best value for an outstanding and stellar experience.
  2. Our Industry Solution Experiences respond to the industry’s biggest challenges: global collaboration, multi discipline integration, the rise of mechatronics components, increasing revenue with services.
  3. Throughout the week, we will present two demonstrations. The first one “3DEXPERIENCE platform in action” will show the advantage of using a single platform to enhance multi-disciplinary collaboration and the second one “Mechatronic systems for a Smarter production” will focus on how equipment can become smarter with embedded intelligence.
  4. Informal discussions with our experts on just about any industrial equipment topic and the solutions Dassault Systèmes’ proposes to meet your challenges.

Now that we hopefully convinced you to visit our booth (the picture bellow is a first foretaste for you :wink: ), click on the following link to get a FREE ticket: http://www.3ds.com/events/single/imts-2014-international-manufacturing-technology-show/

IMTS-Dassault Systèmes booth

 



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