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    Archive for the ‘food chemistry’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Hexagonal Water

    Have you heard of these devices that transform the shape of water molecules?

    Supposedly if you change the shape, it hydrates you better, slows down aging, and can cure certain diseases.

    — Trevor Jaracz
    (location withheld)

    I have indeed heard of devices — such as the Vitalizer Plus — that proclaim to alter the structure of a water molecule into a hexagonal shape.

    Some companies go as far as claiming that hexagonal water is “living water” with “beneficial enzymes” that are not found in tap or bottled water.

    I have also heard the advertised benefits — a healthier immune system, less inflammation, better gastrointestinal health, etc, etc.

    The only positive thing I can muster to say about this is that whoever came up with this concept sure has an overly vidid imagination.

    I’ll spare everyone a tedious chemistry lesson and just say that the molecular structure of water is permanently fixed, and absolutely no biochemical changes can be made (by any person or machine) to turn it into a “healthier” or “better” beverage.

    It doesn’t need to be! No one is getting sick as a result of drinking conventional water.

    For all intents and purposes, hexagonal water should be placed in the same category as unicorns, fairies, and gnomes.

    I would be very happy if all companies selling hexagonal were heavily fined by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising.


    You Ask, I Answer: Fruit & Vegetable Ripeness/Vitamin & Mineral Content

    Does the nutrition of a fruit or vegetable depend on how ripe it is?

    — Claire Snyder
    Tampa, FL

    An apparently simple question with a semi-complex answer.

    Technically, yes.

    Some fruits and vegetables offer different nutrition profiles depending on what stage of ripeness they are at.

    Take tomatoes, for example.

    Sun-ripened vine tomatoes are ideal because they produce plenty of antioxidants and polyphenols while fully ripening via the sun’s rays.

    Conventional tomatoes, meanwhile, are picked while still green. Days later, they arrive at your supermarket.

    In between being picked and ending up on display, they (as well as avocados, pineapples, and apples, among other fruits) are sprayed with ethylene, a plant hormone that speeds up the ripening process.

    It’s not so much that ethylene is harmful as much as the fact that this artificial ripening process does not allow the fruit to provide as much nutrition as it could. Some of the chemical processes that naturally occur as a result of exposure to ultraviolet light do not take place.

    By the way, this is why you so often bite into a wonderful-looking, yet bland-tasting, tomato. Some of the enzymes a tomato produces as a result of exposure to the sun greatly enhance its flavors!

    This is not to say conventional tomatoes are “unhealthy” or “bad for you.” However, you are definitely sacrificing some nutrition for convenience.

    Assuming you are eating naturally ripened food, though, its nutritional profile does not change over the course of a few days.

    Tuesday’s ripened banana will offer the same amount of potassium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6 on Thursday.


    In The News: Deworming Treats

    This is certainly a new level of functional foods — a deworming snack!

    Kraft Foods — owned by Altria — has been in secret talks with food chemistry company TyraTech to incorporate deworming components into a snack food to be launched in rural regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where millions of young children suffer from intestinal parasitic infections (the stomach-turning picture at the right serves as a visual aide).

    The pesticides, explained R. Douglas Armstrong, chief executive of TyraTech, are derived from plant oils,” reads the New York Times article.

    For now, the technology is still at a pretty early stage. For instance, there’s the issue of how to incorporate it into food without tainting flavors.

    Additionally, some more tweaking apparently needs to be done to make this chemical strong enough to eradicate worms without debilitating the host (humans).

    If it works out, it’s a great feat for Kraft.

    It also brings about an interesting situation. When parasitic infections are a major concern, does it matter if the solution is embedded in a mostly calorically empty snack food?


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