Coming Soon: A Food Replicator to Create Food Based on Your Nutritional Needs
What if there was a kitchen appliance that could provide you with instant, balanced meals throughout the day, customized to your own specific dietary needs?
Food conglomerate Nestle claims to be developing one that will literally replicate foods in real time with the perfect balance of added vitamins and minerals, potentially revolutionizing the way food is consumed.
The Swiss company’s Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) is calling the project “Iron Man,” and if successful, small tabletop appliances that resemble Nestle’s popular Nespresso machines could end up in people’s homes in a matter of just a few years.
“Iron Man is an analysis of what’s missing in our diets, and a product, tailored to you, to help make up that difference,” explained NIHS director Ed Baetge to Bloomberg about the project. “In the past, food was just food. We’re going in a new direction.”
Prior to using the machine, a consumer would first be tested for specific nutrient deficiencies and health conditions that may require supplementation. Once assessed, the individual’s personal profile would be uploaded into the system and calculated to dispense an appropriate ratio of added nutrients, including things like zinc and vitamin D, for which millions of people are currently deficient.
Ideally, the machine will add these and other nutrients in the perfect amounts to other foods, allowing the user to stay optimally nourished. Nutrients may be added in the form of powders, much like the capsules already used in the Nespresso machine, or they might be dispensed as liquids.
“Out comes your food at the press of a button,” added Baetge, reveling in the technology. “If we do this right, it can be the next microwave in your kitchen.”
Customizable nutrient dispensers would make healthy living much simpler
The concept as it pertains to food distribution is a bit reminiscent of Soylent Green, the utopian “nutritional drink” of the science fiction cult classic film that later turned out to be made from people. But it could also be quite revolutionary in terms of modern nutrient delivery, especially for health-conscious folks that take many different supplements throughout the day.
Nestle is taking a proactive approach to simplifying this process by looking specifically at health conditions that could benefit from such a machine. Diabetics, for instance, could program it to avoid excess sugar and carbohydrates, while cancer patients might program it to dispense “superfoods” rich in cancer-fighting nutrients.
“Nestle … has high hopes for its customized nutrient beverage, with more than 100 of its researchers investigating links between vitamin and mineral deficiencies and diseases like diabetes and cancer,” writes Adam Pasick for Quartz.
At the same time, the costs associated with such a product could be astronomical, especially because the nutrient capsules it dispenses would have to be custom built for each individual. Multiply these costs by three times daily, 365 days per year, and you are left with a concept that might work for the ultra-rich, but that is unreachable to middle- and low-income individuals.
“Other experts in the field are dubious, in part because of the cost,” retorts Pasick. “With full nutritional work-ups currently priced at more than $2,000 per person, imagine how much those little Nespresso capsules will cost.”