Food of the Future: A pill a day to replace all meals

A pill could solve world hunger easily, says the writer. FILE PHOTO: Russell Boyce/Reuters

A pill could solve world hunger easily, says the writer. FILE PHOTO: Russell Boyce/Reuters

Published May 3, 2023


Technology innovation has spawned the birth of new devices that connect everyday living.

But just how far has the world come in the health industry, and how far is humanity from consuming a single pill a day to take care of all one’s nutritional necessities?

What are the pros? What are the cons? And how many would actually do it?

The food we consume in the future will likely vary, with technology predestined to play a role in the development of these kinds of foods or their replacements.

Despite this, the steps to the future of food have already begun, with numerous feats being made in previous years, and in some cases, to tackle more critical world issues.

With food security a threat to those stricken by poverty around the world, a pill could solve world hunger easily. However, the solution in pill form seems to have been to stop hunger and prevent obesity initially.

In 2021, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Queen Mary University of London and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that receptor 4, or MC4 receptor for short, was responsible for controlling how the brain perceives hunger.

It was found in the study that the receptor's switch could be activated by setmelanotide sold under the name Imcivree, a drug approved for the treatment of severe obesity caused by certain genetic changes. Despite the evidence, the pill was only after that considered a means to alleviate hunger.

While the pill seems the logistically choice to end hunger, that's exactly what it would do - end hunger, with the issue of nutrition still needing to be addressed.

Simply put, addressing nutrition through drugs is being done on a daily basis through multivitamins. Upping the dosage of each vitamin required could supplement meals.

Despite this, supplements, at present, do not address the human caloric intake, which is crucial to sustaining the body.

At the same time, pills can present an end to feeling hungry and add some nutritional value. However, caloric intake still needs to be addressed.

So how far is the world from a pill to replace all meals?

Two professors from the agricultural and biological engineering department of the University of Florida have been researching the potential of 3D printing food.

In a nutshell, dried food powders are combined and printed to create a variety of meals of different flavours, which also contain more calories than a multitude of pills.

The same theory is paving the way for new development as entrepreneurs continue to experiment and, in some cases, come close to meal replacement through powders and supplements.

Recently Soylent replacement powder, made of soy protein and packed with vitamins, caught widespread attention, especially in Silicon Valley.

Eventually, condensing this powder into pill format is a reality.

However, the cost of the powder still needs to be lowered to consider using it as a means to end world hunger.

With the increase in technology and AI already being used to harvest crops for food, for example, more efficiently, The Jetson-like lifestyle of consuming a pill to replace all meals could be on the cards and while there has been headway made, it still takes more years to develop a pill that will alleviate hunger fully.

At the same time, provide enough caloric benefit alongside the daily required nutritional value.

* Kyle Venktess is a freelance content producer for IOL Tech.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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