Tag Archives: research

The Big C(heese)

Nisin-treated biofilm Source: Dr. Yvonne Kapila

Nisin-treated biofilm
Source: Dr. Yvonne Kapila

Is cheese the answer to a longer life? Well, it appears that it just might brie, er, be.  Recent research from the University of Michigan has revealed that nisin, a naturally-occurring food preservative that commonly grows in cheese and other dairy products, kills both cancer cells and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.

Now, before you start “working on your night cheese” à la Liz Lemon, you should know that this was a small-scale study conducted on mice dosed with large, concentrated amounts of nisin—a “nisin milkshake”, to be exact. If humans were fed the same “milkshake” it would contain nisin amounts 20 times what’s typically found in a serving of cheese. Still, the results are promising—70-80% of the rodents’ cancerous head and neck tumor cells died after nine weeks, considerably extending the animals’ survival.

Although less is understood about Nisin’s lethal relationship with cancer, past research has determined that its role as a superbug assassin is two-fold. First, it quickly binds to bacteria, allowing it to work before the bacteria have an opportunity to develop potentially antibiotic-resistant properties. Next, nisin also kills bacterial “biofilms”, which are colonies of bacteria that join together to thwart antibiotics. As researcher Dr. Yvonne Kapila highlighted in her study findings, no one has yet discovered a bacterium in humans or animals that is resistant to nisin, making it stand the test of time as a treatment.  “Mother Nature has done a lot of the research for us; it’s been tested for thousands of years,” said Kapila.

More research is needed to determine exactly if and how nisin can best be used in human medical applications to fight disease, but the research done so far on the biomedical use of nisin is promising. Regardless, this is the kind of gouda news that makes just about everyone feel a whole lot cheddar.

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Back to Cow-llege

cheesecertificateSix years ago, I had the honor of going back to school. Before you start envisioning a Rodney Dangerfield ‘80’s movie, I can assure you that it wasn’t that kind of school. Yes, it took place at the renowned party academic institution of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but this was cheese school. The Wisconsin Cheese Tech Short Course, to be exact. I had just joined Nelson-Jameson, Inc. after working in the retail and merchandising industry for a decade, and I needed to learn about the core business of my new employer. So, like many of my colleagues before me, I was sent to Madison for a week of immersive classes provided by the UW’s Center for Dairy Research, one of the world’s premier dairy research institutions with which Nelson-Jameson has always held a close relationship.

Taught over the course of a week, the Cheese Tech Short Course covers cheese making production principles and technology and includes an optional cheese making lab that offers hands-on experience in cheese production. When the CDR describes the course as “intensive”, they aren’t kidding. I used every bit of my high school and college knowledge of chemistry, biology and algebra to comprehend the over two dozen lectures that included topics such as “Secondary Microflora”, “Pasteurization” and “Starter Cultures”. Even seemingly easy-sounding subjects (“Shredding and Slicing”, I’m looking at you), proved to be much more complicated than one would think. I took comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only novice in our class whose previous experience with cheese mostly revolved around consumption. My classmates ranged from Marketing Directors for Fortune 500 food companies to novice Cheesemakers to QA Managers at local dairies to R&D Executives from foreign countries. To someone new to the food processing world, the diversity of our group clearly demonstrated the importance of the cheese and dairy category in the global food industry and solidified my choice to join a company that contributed so greatly to what was clearly a dynamic and important part of the food production world.

It was a fascinating week that I’ve never forgotten, and the information that I learned served me well in my early days in sales. Now, as a marketer, it’s provided an intellectual foundation for my creative process in communication and promotions. And, as I grow with Nelson-Jameson, the knowledge taken from the Wisconsin Cheese Tech Short Course will surely supplement any role that I may undertake. Turns out that not only does the cheese stand alone, it also stands out.

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Science Fare

Food Science Blog Pic

Source: Institute of Food Technologists

The science of sustenance. Diet developments. Munchie modification. Whatever alimental alliteration you choose, it’s all covered under a food processor’s “Research and Development” department. Almost all food manufacturers have an R&D division whose responsibility it is to improve existing products and manufacturing processes, extend current product lines and develop entirely new foods. Today we highlight some of what’s trending in food development.

Apples and Orange (Bananas)
Color is extremely important when it comes to food perception. Studies have shown that when it comes to our experience of food, food color is more important than food labeling or food taste. On a related note, food presentation garners similar results. Enter the “Arctic Apple”, a new breed of non-browning apple. Arctic Apples look and taste like a regular apple, but do not brown like traditional cut apples unless they sustain significant damage, like a fungal or bacterial infection. Proponents of the Arctic Apple feel that nonbrowning apples are more attractive to consumers, and thus will reduce food waste and increase fruit consumption.

Bananas are also getting a makeover. Scientists are currently testing a “super banana” with orange flesh that’s derived from genetically-modifying the banana’s amount of beta-carotene. The peel is yellow and it tastes like a normal banana, but the inside fruit is an attractive shade of cantaloupe orange. The hope is that the super banana will eventually help to prevent blindness in malnourished children around the globe.

A new variety of “Burgundine” asparagus is currently being trialed in the United Kingdom. Burgundine asparagus is the result of crossing normal green asparagus with an heirloom breed of purple asparagus. The resulting violet-hued stalks contain less lignim, the substance that makes asparagus fibrous, and can be eaten raw or cooked. Bring on the dips!

There’s Diamonds in Them Thar Jars
Put down the spoon and back away from the jar. That peanut butter that you were about to lick might be better suited for your home safe than for your cupboard. By mimicking the conditions of the earth’s mantle, a researcher in Germany has turned peanut butter into diamonds. What the what? Yes, peanut butter diamonds. Diamonds need carbon combined with intense heat and pressure in order to form, and, as it turns out, peanut butter is a pretty good source of carbon. Don’t run to Costco just yet, though. The peanut butter diamonds are small, fragile and impure, and eventually disintegrate.

Lick Or Treat
A Google search for “licking the yogurt lid” yields over 90,000 results, Facebook pages and blogs are dedicated to the activity, and ad campaigns by Yoplait and Muller have been based around it. Until recently, however, there was no solution to the obligatory-yogurt-stuck-on-the-lid phenomenon. Morinaga Milk, a Japanese company, has changed that. They’ve developed a nonstick technology for yogurt lids that’s inspired by the lotus leaf, which is known for repelling water and staying dry and clean. As to the obvious question as to why no one’s thought of this before, apparently it’s quite difficult to simultaneously repel yogurt while maintaining container sealability. Pesky physics.

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