Status of truly artificial food.

Discussion in 'General Science' started by WBahn, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    Perhaps this should go in the Off Topic forum, but my interest is more from the technical science standpoint so I'm putting it here.

    I was looking at a box of Nestle Goobers at that store and what caught by attention was that it said, "Nestle Goobers: A Deliciously Wholesome Treat", and then proudly proclaimed, "Each serving of Goobers has 5 grams of protein." Of course, they didn't mention the 14g of fat or the 18g of sugar that this "wholesome" treat also contains.

    Next to it was a box of Hot Tamales, which announced that it has "Fierce Cinnamon Flavor". Sure enough, no hint of cinnamon (or much of anything else) in the ingredients.

    But this got me to wondering again about to what degree can we presently produce truly artificial food. I guess I would break that into three categories: (1) Food that is grown from cultured cells of whatever food it is trying to mimic, (2) Food that is grown from bacteria, algea, or other living media (I would put food derived from crude oil in this category, as well), (3) Food that is purely chemical in nature and built up from inorganic starting materials.

    I'm particularly interested in the last category. Leaving taste, texture, and even safety aside, do we have the ability to manufacture purely synthetic substances that our bodies are able to metabolize and get at least a significant portion of our nourishment -- or at least energy -- from?
  2. Tesla23

    Senior Member

    May 10, 2009
    I'm sure we can do it in laboratory quantities, I don't know how to do it myself, but I'd be very surprised if chemists couldn't synthesise glucose from CO2 with a bunch of inorganic compounds and energy.

    On a large scale I suspect it is the same problem as producing synthetic fuel, the most efficient processes seem to be biological (algae, yeasts, bacteria or plants).

    On the topic of what's in our foods and why, I recommend reading Michael Moss's book "Sugar, Salt, Fat"
  3. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    A large quantity of food and food additives are inorganic, artificial and/or synthesized.
    Salt, sugar and fat are good examples.

    Salt is totally inorganic.

    Diet drinks use totally artificial and synthesized ingredients. You would be better off drinking water (not bottled water).

    While margarine starts off as vegetable oil the final product is goes through extensive chemical synthesis in order to raise the melting point.
  4. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    Does steak grown in a vat count?
  5. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    And how many calories do salt and diet drinks impart?

    Modifying foods doesn't really count -- when you boil and egg you are modifying it, or when you cook a steak.

    I'm not aware that sugars and fats are being synthesized from inorganic starting points. Would love to see some references so that I can read up about it. But, from what I know, the opposite is largely the case with many artificial sweeteners in that they start with something natural, like sugar, and perform operations on it to convert it into something the body can't metabolize and extract energy from while keeping the reaction of the taste receptors largely the same.
  6. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    Sure. Category #1. They've been doing things like that for a number of years (decades?). Don't know what the "steak of the ark" is these days? :D