21 Apr

Food Futures

Food Futures


Most of us have now got our brains around the idea that 'probiotics' are a good type of bacteria and are used to seeing everything from yoghurts to smoothies boasting of having them added.

If you have read the blurb on the side of the cartons, you will have worked out that these friendly bacteria manage to avoid being digested in your stomach and make it down to your intestine where they multiply like mad, helping to boost your immunity as well as settling down symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

But it won't be too long before you will begin to see a new word popping up on packs and you may as well be ahead of the game so that you know what the food manufacturers are on about as they attempt to blind you with the next bit of science.

The word to watch for is 'synbiotic'.No… It's not a probiotic which has gone off the rails and committed a cardinal crime. A symbiotic is simply a mix of a probiotic with a prebiotic.

What's a prebiotic?

It is simply a type of fibre which acts as a food source for the probiotic bacteria which means the good probiotic can grow at maximum speed.

You can find prebiotics naturally in foods like chicory, asparagus and onions but soon they will be made synthetically, mixed up with probiotics and added to foods like breakfast cereals, yoghurts and probably drinks like smoothies. Interestingly, initial research shows that prebiotics may help to strengthen our bones as well as help good bacteria to grow… so watch this space.

Meanwhile, here's a few tips right now if you are already fans of eating probiotic fortified foods or popping supplements full of these good bacteria.

  • Have probiotics products separately from hot drinks because heat can 'kill' them off before they make it anywhere near your gut.
  • All probiotics are also adversely affected by light, oxygen and moisture. To preserve the probiotic content of your smoothie, juice, milk or yoghurt you need to store them in the fridge. Between removing them from the fridge and consuming you need to keep them in a cool, dry place with minimal exposure to light and once opened, eat or drink them quickly.
  • Eat plenty of foods naturally rich in prebiotics. Try for example to have bananas, chicory, onions or asparagus most days.

One Man's Meat… Letting Your Genes Dictate Your Diet

Never has it been so clear that one man's meat can be another man's poison. Now that top scientists have cracked the genetic code through the Human Genome Project, researchers say it won't be too far off before the medical community, for a relatively small amount of money, will be able to test our DNA and determine individual mutations which will show predispositions to certain health problems and diseases.

And with this information will come the possibility to offer individual tailored dietary advice to help protect against or even prevent symptoms from such problems ever arising. And it will also mean that some of the blanket healthy eating advice that we currently offer may not be relevant to certain individuals.

A genetic test may throw up the fact that you have a genetic tendency and therefore an increased risk of developing thinning bones and osteoporosis in later life. Making sure that you do everything to get a really good intake of bone-building nutrients may help to delay or prevent its onset.

If you have a daughter and her genetic test reveals a similar tendency, you would know to be extra vigilant in ensuring a high calcium and bone-building diet for her, especially during her teenage years when bones are formed.

Scientists believe that we will have at our fingertips the ability to give appropriate and tailor-made nutrition advice to help everything from Alzheimer's' to certain types of cancer.

It's a fascinating area and one to watch.

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