Healthier foods for better lives
From left: Moderator Dr Alvin Loo, Lecturer at the NUS Department of Food Science and Technology; and Guest Speakers Mr Song Zhixuan, Co-founder of Liloss; Ms Shermaine Heng, Co-founder of Curated Culture; and Dr Jin Xiaoxuan, Co-founder of AuroraFood.
At a recent NUS Giving Experience Leadership Series session, three NUS Alumni from the NUS Department of Food Science and Technology shared their innovations in healthy food and beverages.
According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide are obese, including 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents and 39 million children. This has also led to an increase in the incidence of chronic diseases such diabetes.
To improve their diet, people can turn to recent innovations in food and beverages, said three speakers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Giving Experience Leadership Series session held on July 27, on the topic of ‘Healthier Food Choice’.
Dr Jin Xiaoxuan, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of NUS spin-off AuroraFood, shared that her start-up identified a group of bioactive compounds from cereals and berries that can slow down the action of digestive enzymes in the intestine. It has been using these active ingredients to develop diabetic-friendly food with a low glycaemic index (GI).
“Our active ingredients compete with sugar molecules for the digestive enzymes, so glucose is released more slowly and safely. We have validated our technology through clinical studies that show a 20 percent reduction in people’s glycaemic response and a greatly-blunted sugar spike,” shared Dr Jin.
The firm is going to launch its first product, a low-GI baking premix, this year, and has patented its food technology platform. “We aim to create endless possibilities and roll out more healthy sweet treats,” said Dr Jin.
Ms Shermaine Heng, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of food start-up Curated Culture, added that health-conscious people can gradually cut sugar from their diet, and pick food and beverages that have healthier ingredients backed by science. These include probiotics, which are microorganisms that confer health benefits when consumed at effective doses.
“We can train ourselves to accept less sugar through step-wise reductions. Don’t go from high amounts of sugar to no sugar, because you may find it difficult to adjust,” Ms Heng advised.
Her company creates healthy and all-natural probiotic beverages. “Our tasty cold brew teas have zero sugar, and are gently brewed with organic tea leaves, sweetened with plant-derived sweetener and enhanced with science-backed probiotics,” she shared.
Food start-up Liloss, for its part, is tackling fat. Mr Song Zhixuan, its Co-founder, explained: “We have sweeteners to replace high sugar, but no good solutions for high fat.”
During his PhD research, he screened over 300 tropical medicinal plants and vegetables for lipase inhibitory activity. Such activity blocks lipase, an enzyme in our body that digests fat, from doing its work. Using his findings, he invented a patent-pending vegetable extract, which he calls Liloss, to reduce calories absorbed from dietary fat.
“Liloss is made from vegetables we have eaten for hundreds of years. It is safe, mild in taste and stable in food and supplements, so you can put it in lots of things. We are developing the ingredient further to make it water-soluble, so it can be used in beverages,” he said.
The guest speakers and moderator Dr Alvin Loo sat in a panel to field questions from the audience.
During a question-and-answer section moderated by Dr Alvin Loo, Lecturer at the NUS Department of Food Science and Technology, the three speakers added that they had received critical support from the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP).
Ms Heng concluded: “Food is a complex matrix, with many things involved in creating a new food. We need to build a robust ecosystem and foster partnerships for a better food industry, to improve what is available for all.”
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