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Academia Food health knowledge research Researcher Special Guest stress struggle

(46) Research on HEALTH: metabolism.

…(drums) and Researchista’s first Special Guest_Professor is Professor Dr. Ronit Shiri-Sverdlov! This is Research on HEALTH month and this month we will talk about metabolism. Let’s recall from school what metabolism is about? Metabolē means change” in Greek and is the set of chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms (that does not only include humans, but also plants and animals). Wikipedia says that this is usually divided into two categories: catabolism – the breaking down of organic matter, and anabolism – the building up of components of cells such as proteins and nucleic acids. Usually, breaking down releases energy and building up consumes energy [Break down food – create new energy = metabolism]. This post is about on side when metabolism does not work.. called Metabolic Syndrome. I hope the post below will inspire to eat fat in a smart way!

Metabolic Syndrome: beyond simple fat accumulation

Everybody knows that consuming a healthy diet and doing physical exercise regularly are essential for keeping our health in optimal condition and our body in good shape. Although there are general guidelines that may help in defining what a healthy diet is, the term ‘healthy’ very much depends on individual needs and opinion. What is healthy can influenced by genetics, gender, age, cultural habits, nutrient availability, and socioeconomic state, amongst others. The notion that continuous malnutrition increases the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome and the associated metabolic complications is widely accepted.

Why does eating an unhealthy diet lead to detrimental effects on our organs including the liver, in some but not all individuals? Surprisingly, the effect of unhealthy diet on our body goes beyond the amount of fat.  In fact, it is all about location!

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Professor Dr. Ronit Shiri-Sverdlov, Maastricht University

From an evolutionary perspective, it has become clear that metabolism is a vital process, which is characterized by the efficient use of energy, as well as the ability to store excess energy for periods of food deprivation. In contrast to our ancestors, current industrialized habits are hallmarked by an excess intake of fat and sugar-enriched foods in combination with physical inactivity. This metabolic imbalance turned our former ‘survival’ state into a serious health problem, currently known as obesity, in which abnormal amounts of fat accumulates throughout the body. Nowadays, nearly one-third of the global population is overweight or obese. Lately, it has become apparent that not only adults suffer from obesity, but also children. As more and more individuals are getting obese, the metabolic syndrome is considered a major health threat.

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Adapted from http://www.struggle.pk

Before taking a closer look at the liver, it is first important to understand the concept of the Metabolic Syndrome. The Metabolic Syndrome is an ‘umbrella term’ for a cluster of factors that increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

It involves a complex interplay between different organs, including the fat tissue, intestines, pancreas, brains, cardiovascular system and the liver, in which lipid homeostasis is dysregulated and metabolic inflammation is taking the lead. The liver is one of the most essential organs involved in metabolism, as it does not only regulate the storage and degradation of nutrients such as fats, carbohydrates and amino acids, but it is also involved in the detoxification of harmful compounds.

What is the exact link between the liver and the Metabolic Syndrome?

When we eat too much fat, the excess fat is transported to the liver, where it will be taken up and start to accumulate. Thus, the more fat that we eat, the more fat that accumulates inside our liver cells. Accumulation of fat in the liver is common in our society: it is present in approximately 15 percent of the general population and 90 percent of the people are currently obese. This simple accumulation of fat in the liver is still reversible and, therefore, not necessarily considered harmful. This condition, however, starts to become problematic, once the unhealthy lifestyle continue for long period of time. Accumulation of fat in the liver increases the risk of developing liver inflammation. Ultimately, liver inflammatory can lead to severe, non-reversible liver damage, including liver failure and other associated complications such as cardiovascular disease. Therefore liver inflammation is considered a major health threat.

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 Why does continuous intake of fatty meals can cause severe complications to our body?

When our body is in a healthy condition, specific receptors on the plasma membrane of liver ensure that the fat will be taken up and further processed. Before fat can be broken down for direct energy supply or storage, it must first enter the lysosomes. These cellular acidic organelles are small vesicles inside our cells, which contain enzymes that are capable of breaking down the fat. Once the fat has been degraded into smaller lipid particles, it can leave the lysosomes and can be either stored in the cytoplasm of the cell or can return to the blood.

When the levels of fat intake are continuously high, as observed in obese people, the fat circulates longer in the blood and consequently get oxidized. We have shown that unlike non- oxidized fat, when oxidized fat is taken up by the cells, it accumulates inside the lysosomes. The accumulation of the oxidized fat inside the lysosomes is associated with the development of liver inflammation.

What did we conclude? It is not the accumulation of fat, but rather the location by which the fat accumulates, which triggers the inflammatory response in the liver. Therefore, the actual accumulation of oxidized fat in the lysosomes could be the actual trigger for the inflammatory response. These pioneering results have shed new lights on the possible underlying mechanisms which are leading to the Metabolic Syndrome and opened new venues for the treatment and prevention of the associated clinical complications.

by Professor in Hepatic Inflammation and Metabolic Health, Dr. Ronit Shiri-Sverdlov, Maastricht University UMC+ (Maastricht University Medical Centre = Academic Hospital+Maastricht University), Genetics and Cell Biology Department.

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Maastricht UMC+

With love for Research,

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Academia Business Environment Food knowledge research Researcher Special Guest

(37) Aesthetics, Food and Innovation

Dear Researchista friends, please welcome our first Special Guest from abroad (outside NL), Dr. Beatrice D’Ippolito! 

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This month Researchista has decided to focus on the food industry. As an evolutionary economist at root, when I think of an industry and the products or services offered, I start thinking of what drives change and innovation in the specific context. Last week’s contribution to ‘Research on Food (industry) month on Researchista’ started off with the following: “It is the experience which brings about development and innovation”. Today I would like to delve further into the concept of innovation in food retail, hardly considered as innovating, yet bearing a significant potential for growth and change.

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Source: “Learning about food design”, d’Ippolito (2015)

Ongoing debates within the academic and policy-making communities centre argue that less technology-intensive industries rely on services to build their innovation capacity. Which foundations does this belief build on?

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Recently I have been involved in a project which sought to explore how aesthetics, which often finds expression in design, can shape the innovation activities undertaken by food retailers. ‘Why aesthetics?’, you may wonder? And even, ‘How does it relate to food retail?

Aesthetics was a term coined by Baumgarten in Aesthetica (1750-58) to describe a philosophical discipline that examines the “lower” sensual aspects of human experience as opposed to the “higher” realm of logics. Research on the topic has evolved in many directions ever since and, for the sake of simplicity, I hereby refer to aesthetics as concerned with “the nature and appreciation of art, beauty, and good taste” (Oxford English Dictionary). Falling under the realm of axiology, that is, the study of values and value judgments, aesthetics is strongly connected with individual preferences. You may start connecting the dots here.

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Source: internet.

Retail industries are increasingly being subject to consumers demanding for more innovation. Interestingly, although a retailer’s success relies on the ability to predict market trends, retailers are usually the adopters of innovations produced by other manufacturing companies. Retail firms are rarely thought of as innovation pioneers, yet some of them seem to adopt existing technologies to either improve their selling practices or enhance the quality of their retail processes. In addition, most innovations offered by retailers, though incremental, can generate meaningful impact on firms’ performance if sustained in the long run.

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Source: “Emerging trends in food retail”, http://www.supermarketnews.com (Oct’16)

Further, I would like to discuss more about these aspects by illustrating how food retailers can innovate their offering by leveraging on the design element of their products and services. To do so, I draw on the case of Eataly (www.eataly.net), a food retailer that entered the Italian food market in 2007 with a first establishment in Turin, and additional ones later on, both in Italy and abroad.

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Source: internet.

The founder of Eataly believed in a world in which consumers are aware of healthier eating habits and the importance of consuming organic and seasonal products. These values have been inspired by Slow Food, a global organisation founded in Italy in 1989 to counteract fast food and a fast life on the one hand, and the disappearance of local food traditions and ethical modes of food production and consumption on the other. In seeking to protect this cultural heritage, Slow Food has effectively become a ‘clearing house’ for knowledge of local foods, initially in Italy, then globally.

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Source: “One of Eataly’s mottos” from field visit to Eataly Store in Milan (Teatro Smeraldo, 2015), D’Ippolito & Timpano (2016). Translation: “Life is too short to eat and drink bad”

How does aesthetics manifest itself in the offering and activities of Eataly? The company originates from a series of stimuli rooted in both the territory in which the first store was set up, Turin, and the professional background of the founder, Oscar Farinetti. Eataly became the place where consumers could go and enjoy their food with family and friends (a restaurant), buy locally produced ingredients (a supermarket), and learn how to cook traditional recipes (a locus of learning).

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Oscar Farinetii, Founder of Eataly. Source: here

Still, where is aesthetics? Eataly is an excellent case to explore how design as embedding and expressing aesthetics can foster innovation in service industries like food retailing. This is the case for various reasons. First, Eataly sought to grow and build reputation by locating their branches in sites that have a meaning for the local community. As Farinetti puts it, “Each ‘Eataly in the world’ focuses on one value: harmony for Turin, audacity for Genoa, doubt for New York. For Rome, we have chosen beauty”. For instance, the branch in Turin is located within the old premises of Carpano, an Italian winery and distillery that first established in Turin in 1786 and later moved to Milan. The store also benefits from the flourishing surroundings, that is, one of the country’s largest areas for food production and relevant events such as Terra Madre and The Salone del Gusto. The logic behind this approach is that of attracting the attention of those consumers who are familiar and emotionally attached to the site they live in and increase their awareness about its cultural heritage. Second, whilst the architecture of the various retail stores tries to recall the big factories (e.g., visible pipes on the ceiling, metallic furniture), Eataly still wishes to establish a reputation for the store as being central to the city rather than peripheral like many shopping malls.

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Source: Eataly Story in Rome (taken during one of my field visits, April, 2014)

Third, elements of aesthetics have been built into different aspects of the firm’s organisation. A highly visible dimension regards the layout and logistics of the store. The first store, Eataly Turin, counts more than 6,000 m2 dedicated to the supermarket area, the restaurant, and exhibition (e.g., fair trade coffee) of their products. The store logistic has been set out with the aim of making the consumer ‘travel’ through theme-specific corridors almost by forgetting that the store is of a much bigger size. Product and restaurant points are arranged to induce purchase and offer a unique experience – “…products are shelved so closely that you cannot just avoid them, you feel the impulse of taking one back home with you” (field notes from the researcher’s visits to Eataly Rome). A series of mono-theme restaurants are dedicated to the product types such as ready-made bread or fresh meat, and besides each of them, a learning corner has been set up to deliver cooking training programs to candidate chefs, for example about meat cutting or bread making techniques.

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Translation: “If I don’t go to Eataly, I die! I have fallen in love from the first moment I saw it. This is why I wanted to bring it in my city: New York. It is liked like crazy, even by my dog”, Joe Bastianichi. Source: internet

The architect’s brief for Eataly’s first store has been framed and exhibited in the Rome store (see figure below): here one can really see Eataly’s intent to recall consumer attention to the company’s roots and how these have informed their organisational values.Still, where is aesthetics?

Eataly is an excellent case to explore how design as embedding and expressing aesthetics can foster innovation in service industries like food retailing. This is the case for various reasons. First, Eataly sought to grow and build reputation by locating their branches in sites that have a meaning for the local community. As Farinetti puts it, “Each ‘Eataly in the world’ focuses on one value: harmony for Turin, audacity for Genoa, doubt for New York. For Rome, we have chosen beauty”. For instance, the branch in Turin is located within the old premises of Carpano, an Italian winery and distillery that first established in Turin in 1786 and later moved to Milan. The store also benefits from the flourishing surroundings, that is, one of the country’s largest areas for food production and relevant events such as Terra Madre and The Salone del Gusto. The logic behind this approach is that of attracting the attention of those consumers who are familiar and emotionally attached to the site they live in and increase their awareness about its cultural heritage. Second, whilst the architecture of the various retail stores tries to recall the big factories (e.g., visible pipes on the ceiling, metallic furniture), Eataly still wishes to establish a reputation for the store as being central to the city rather than peripheral like many shopping malls.

Last but not least, aesthetics is also embedded with how products are “placed on the shelves and introduced to consumers” (interview with the Communications Director). Most products, though manufactured by small farmers, are packaged in light-coloured packaging, in white more often than not, to introduce fresh, healthy, and tasty products. Shelves are painted in white; advertising wallpapers or flyers have a white background; and shopping assistants’ aprons are white to recreate a similarly freshening atmosphere. As the Communications Director stated, “it is important to present the product without overwhelming it”.

Eataly represents an example of how, through the entrepreneurial initiatives driven by passion, tradition, and ethical behaviour (e.g., promotion of locally sourced products, shorter product life cycles, and new restaurant models), a small firm can be innovative and contribute to driving change. The case points indeed to the importance of local communities, local brands, and intensified relationships with customers’ suppliers that will not only generate a positive impact for the company, but also the local economy.

Post written by Dr. Beatrice D’IppolitoLecturer in Strategic Management, University of York, UK

Note to the post:

The current piece draws from a research collaboration between Dr D’Ippolito and Prof. Timpano (Universitàa Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Piacenza, Italy). Results from this project can be further consulted at the following sources:

With love for Research,

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Business Environment Food future health knowledge research Special Guest

(36) Research on food (industry): the future.

 Welcome on Research on food industry month on Researchista! Our Special Guest Michelle Jongen (former student of HAS University in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, study Environmental Science) discovered ‘vertical farming’ and wondered how she could implement a vertical farming system in combination with a knowledge center. She wants to create awareness, and activate and inspire people about the environment with her initiative at Botanica Innovare and the story goes like this…

….”The only source of knowledge is experience” – Albert Einstein. A beautiful phrase with which I would like to start this article. Indeed, it is the experience which brings about development and innovation. Today, I will discuss the developments and innovations in the field of future food.

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First, we look at the responsible cultivation of vegetables. It has been known for a long time that change is necessary. Before change is possible, we need an inspirer. Concerning crops, the designated person is Dickson Despommier. He is a pioneer in the field of urban farming. He is the one who tells people about his vision where crops are grown vertically in apartment buildings. This view is also known as vertical farming. It is a technique that is developed at this moment both with and without the LED lights. This system is used and examined all over the world.

Some advantages of the vertical farming system are:

  • No crop failure due to weather conditions or pests and diseases;
  • Year-round picks which achieves 30% more yield;
  • Sustainable use of space through the use of vacant buildings;
  • Constant quality of the crops;
  • Food miles are reduced.

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What you see is that countries where the demand for healthy and safe food is high already apply this technique. A good example is Japan. After the nuclear disaster and tsunami, growing food is a tremendous problem. A new cultivation method had to be developed to ensure the health of the population. Nowadays, the consumers of Japan are supporting both vertical and urban farming as this is a secure way to grow crops.

Another development is closer to us than we think. Especially for the people who live in Maastricht. Maybe you already know what I’m talking about. After watching the development of crops, it is now time to look at the future of meat. Meat is increasingly discredited because of the large amount of carbon dioxide and methane which is emitted into the environment. It is our own Professor Mark Post of the University of Maastricht who researches cultured meat.

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Last week, he organized the second International Conference on Cultured Meat from 9 to 11 October. During these days, the acceptance among consumers was important. Several speakers gave their views on the acceptance of cultured meat. In conclusion, we can say that questions are not asked in the right matter and the information on the Internet is often one-sided. We shouldn’t view this alternative as cultured meat but as clean meat. This will give a more positive name to cultured meat.

If we take a step further, we examine situations such as the ones in the film The Martian. In the film, Matt Damon is launching his own urban farming on Mars because he has been left behind. In his alternative greenhouse, he mainly grows potatoes. This made a big fuss because how realistic is this scenario? It is a question that lead to many different opinions.

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As you can see, many innovative developments arise in the food industry. For example, the future crop cultivated at large fields are moving to closed rooms and cows will eventually be replaced by cultured meat. Both techniques have a major positive impact on people and the environment. People receive food that is produced in a responsible way which greatly reduces carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Consumers need to search for the correct information about these themes. Of course, that is not an easy task because of the influence of the media and companies.

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That is why Botanica Innovare is offering education and creating awareness on the themes of sustainability, environment and health. Need more information or a workshop, please contact us.

Post written by Michelle Jongen, founder at Botanica Innovare.

 

With love for Research,

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Business Environment Food future health research Researcher Researchista

(35) The transition of a civilisation.

…Food… the substance to keep us alive, the reason for one of the most amazing things we can devour and enjoy, the reason to meet with friends, the thing that we sometimes abuse having in our bellies or forget to consume on time for a healthier living. So many topics relates to it: food waste, food management, food production, toxic food vs. healthy food, food eating, food and public health (is what children at school eat healthy enough?), poverty and food, wealth and food, labour costs and rights when working in this industry, auditing and inspection of food (so many… exquisite food, shrimp production and labour costs of people producing food, McDonalds). Let’s just call it in one word: “Food industry”. 

During her bachelor Environmental Science, Michelle discovered ‘vertical farming’. She wondered how she could implement a vertical farming system in combination with a knowledge center. Subsequently, she wants to create awareness, and activate and inspire people about the environment. Eventually, after six months of doing research, she was convinced to launch Botanica Innovare.

The transition of a civilisation. Research on food (industry), an introduction.

“Life is good! You can move easily from A to B, buy the most exotic products in the supermarket and you always have access to clean water and electricity. What do we want more? Well, it would be nice if we can continue this life and pass it on to future generations. That is possible, however, this way of life begins to take its toll on the earth. In fact, we are plundering our beloved planet. This is something that each of us is responsible of. It is not completely strange because it is the way we are shaped by society. It is mainly about consumption rather than the familiar consuming less. We know this damn well as a consumer and yet we still go for the bargains. Is it denial, a habit or laziness?

The end is nowhere near and it is time for a transition! A transition in which we turn from an unconscious unhealthy society to an unconscious healthy society. A society in which we take responsibility for our actions. A society where we can be proud of and which makes it possible to pass our earth to future generations. You might be wondering where you should start. That is up to you because you are the one who has the potential to initiate changes with small actions. For example, stop buying plastic bags, look at the origin of your food or take your bike for a spin instead of your car. Furthermore, sustainable development needs to be encouraged. Fortunately, people understand the necessity of change. Last year, in September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are completed, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. Our governments have a plan to save our planet…it’s our job to make sure they stick to it.

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That brings us to the second Global Goal: Zero Hunger. This Goal states that we must end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. The beauty is that we can make this happen! Companies and research institutes are considering this issue for years. New cultivation techniques are becoming increasingly realistic. All over the world, different vertical farming systems are designed and tested. Also the hydroculture (growth on water) and hydroponic systems are increasing. If we look at the alternatives to meat, we see the frequent use of insect and the development of cultured meat.

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Source: here

For the time being, we in the Netherlands can (only) make use of vegetables that have been grown on water. Further investment and development is necessary for other food production systems. And that while the vertical system is already used in other parts of the world. Think of Japan where they can’t grow safe food in the open ground after the nuclear disaster. Here, the need for alternative systems is much larger. Therefore, these sustainable developments should be more encouraged in Europe. Luckily, this is already happening.

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human activity by night and the influence we have on the environment

It is as Socrates once said: “it is often better to ask good questions than to give good answers. With questions, you move others to examine their own experiences and ideas. That triggers learning processes that may be more effective than knowledge.” Dare to ask questions about new food production systems and inform yourself. Dare to be open minded because this is our future. These movements should not be seen as an adversary but it should lead to solidarity. Next week, I am going to talk about LED farming, cultured meat and more. I hope this article inspired you and made you realize that you are the one that can change our civilization.

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A transition is a structural change that is the result of interacting and mutually reinforcing developments in areas such as economy, culture, technology, institutions and nature and the environment.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present generation without jeopardizing the future generations.

By Michelle Jongen, founder at Botanica Innovare.

 

With love for Research,

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