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Why is Michael Pollan worried about you inhaling your coffee, electronic cigarettes, and chocolate?

Le Whif - The new sweet treat Le Whif - The new sweet treat

Ok, dudes and dudettes, I know what you absolutely crave…so now, take a deep breath and inhale caffeine, chocolate, coffee. Not cups of coffee. Not smelly cigarettes. Not chocolate bars. Just new technology that doses you faster and easier.

Ahhh, yes, inhale it and feel the rush enter your brain and tickle your taste buds. It’s a jet engine to the inside of your neuroreceptors, it’s calorie-free, and it’s 100% legal.

I kid you not- this is the invention that heralds a new era of breathing as “eating.” It comes to you via an invention called “Le Whif,” invented by a Harvard University biomedical engineering professor.

Professor David Edwards sees himself on the vanguard of a breakthrough in how humans view and use food. That’s why he founded a Paris-based experimental design center in 2007 dedicating to using  “contemporary science to commercialize breakthrough products at the interactions of culinary arts and design.”

Le Whif is a small device, almost like an asthma inhaler, except that Edwards promises that his device’s aerosolized particles of coffee and chocolate won’t travel into your lungs.

Instead, he claims you get all the flavor and fun of coffee and chocolate, without any calories.

The essence of caffeine and chocolate magically waft out of Le Whif and settle on your tongue. And with the Le Whif device costing about $5, it’s likely to be a hot seller.

Frankly, I’ve seen this before. Not the exact device, but a similar concept. It’s called electronic cigarettes.

What we’re witnessing is part of an ongoing move to technologize food so it resembles technology.

The industrial food industry, so well documented by author-investigator Michael Pollan, has a goal of making “Old Food” seem unsophisticated, inefficient, and even harmful.

Pollan appears in the movie Food Inc., which documents how powerful profit-motivated folks are seeking to reengineer our concept of what food is.

They’re trying to get us to accept “New Food,” which is not at all like the food humans consumed for 99% of their history. Instead, New Food is a recombination of materials (mostly salt, sugar and fat) designed to look and taste like food.

New Food has the distinction of being almost totally devoid of natural vitamins, minerals, proteins and other substances imparted by Old Food. What little nutrition is in New Food is added in, and it’s usually artificial.

Pollan’s books give us simple warnings and advice about how to be healthier regarding food:

"Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
"Don't eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce."
"Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot...There are exceptions --- honey --- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food."
"Always leave the table a little hungry.'"
"Eat meals together, at regular meal times."
"Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car."
"Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk."

But in today’s fast food world, it’s no surprise that caffeine, nicotine, and chocolate “addicts” would want their fix delivered efficiently. That’s why e-cigarettes and devices like Le Whif are increasingly popular.

It’s the same as New Food’s fast food concept, except taken to the next level. Let’s eliminate all that work you have to do with your teeth and jaw. Why chew or drink… when you can merely inhale and get your dose?

Of course some people (probably the ones who are reading this while drinking a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette and eating fast food) may object to my stating that there’s anything wrong with this trend.

But the trend is fueled by what I call addiction marketing- get somebody hooked on something so you can make money off them.

Take caffeine, for example. It’s the world’s most widely used psychoactive substance, producing a noticeable jolt, acute psychophysiological effects, and in some cases, a serious addiction.

Caffeine messes with your body’s neurotransmitter systems, and for many people, trying to kick caffeine is almost as hard as trying to kick nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms can be brutal and long-lasting, relapses are common.

Chocolate is a particularly interesting substance because it contains theobromine, phenylethylamines and cannabinoids. All three of these affect neurochemistry, and one of them, cannabinoids, is found in the illegal drug marijuana.

Perhaps this explains why some people become “chocoholics.” Indeed, neurological and neurochemical testing indicates that chocolate can produce a “high.”

Pollan probably wouldn’t be much of a fan of Le Whif or most other attempts to technologize food, and he recognizes as most of us do that what we eat and drink can have seriously negative health consequences.

Just look around the next time you’re at the beach and have fun keeping tally of the percentage of people who have good muscle tone, and are obviously lean and fit, compared to the percentage of people whose bodies look like they’re causing pain to their owners.

You could wonder where it’s all leading to, but then again, you already know we’re on our way to a science fiction world where people living in domed cities on a dying planet inhale doses of chocolate, caffeine, and nicotine while eating engineered materials that only resemble real food. At least Pollan can say he warned us!

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Last modified on Tuesday, 09 November 2010 23:27

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