The Metabolic Matrix: Re-engineering ultraprocessed foods to feed the gut, protect the liver, and support the brain

OK, everyone! Welcome to Food 3.0. I’m not a purist; I’m a practicalist. As much as I hate processed food (and I do) for all the reasons you know, I also know it’s not going away. And I’m not even sure we WANT it to go away because we have to feed 10 billion people by 2050, and we don’t have enough land or ocean to be able to grow real food for that many. So it’s either processed food or famine.
We can’t afford to get rid of it, but we can reduce its metabolic risk. For the past three years, a Scientific Advisory Team composed of Tim Harlan (head of Culinary Medicine at GWU), Rachel Gow (UK fatty acid expert), Andreas Kornstadt (data scientist from Stanford), Wolfram Alderson (food systems engineer and entrepreneur), and I have been working with the Kuwaiti Danish Dairy Company to evaluate each of the 180 items in their portfolio, submit them to physico-chemical analysis, and re-engineer them to be metabolically healthy by adhering to three precepts: feed the gut, protect the liver, and support the brain.
This article is the fruit of this labor.
We believe this is the path forward for all CPG companies to make processed food healthier. And as always, no conflict of interest—I didn’t take a dime, and this isn’t a propaganda snow job. It’s a long, dense article with a lot of science AND food politics, so I don’t blame you if you don’t read it. JUST READ THE TITLE! And then think: what if we actually had “healthy” processed food?

The Metabolic Matrix: Re-engineering ultraprocessed foods to feed the gut, protect the liver, and support the brain

Ultraprocessed food is established as a metabolic disruptor acting to increase adiposity, reduce mitochondrial efficiency, drive insulin resistance, alter growth, and contribute to human morbidity and mortality. Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are beginning to understand the detrimental impact of the food they market, and have employed substitution strategies to reduce salt, sugar, and fat. However, the harms of ultraprocessed foods are far more complex than any single component, and are not ameliorated by such simple substitutions. Over the past 2 years, the authors have worked with the Kuwaiti Danish Dairy Company (KDD) to conduct a comprehensive scientific evaluation of their entire commercial food and beverage portfolio. Assay of the macronutrients, micronutrients, additives, and toxins contained in each of their products was undertaken to determine the precise nature of each product’s ingredients as well as the health impacts of processing. The authors formed a Scientific Advisory Team (SAT) and developed a tiered “Metabolic Matrix” founded in three science-based principles: (1) protect the liver, (2) feed the gut, and (3) support the brain. The Metabolic Matrix categorizes each product and provides the criteria, metrics, and recommendations for improvement or reformulation. Real-time consultation with the KDD Executive and Operations teams was vital to see these procedures through to fruition. This scientific exercise has enabled KDD to lay the groundwork for improving the health, well-being, and sustainability of their entire product line, while maintaining flavor, economic, and fiscal viability. This process is easily transferrable, and we are sharing this effort and its approaches as a proof-of-concept. The key aim of our work is to not only make ultraprocessed food healthier but to urge other food companies to implement similar analysis and reformulation of their product lines to improve the metabolic health and well-being of consumers worldwide.

Click here to view the METHODS article

Front. Nutr., 30 March 2023
Sec. Nutrition and Food Science Technology
Volume 10 – 2023 |

Subscribe for news and updates...

Join this mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Dr. Robert Lustig.

You have Successfully Subscribed!