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Q.What is nanotechnology, and do you think it is truly the future of dietary supplementation? A. Nanotechnology will play a role in the future of supplements, but the key word is future. Nanotechnology, at this stage, is technology that we should avoid, in relation to edibles, supplements, or anything else you put in your mouth.

My research team first started working with nanotechnology and picotechnology in an Environmental Protection Agency laboratory while working on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a class of organic compounds with 2 to 10 chlorine atoms attached to 2 benzine rings (just in case you were curious). PCBs were banned by the United States Congress in 1979, largely as a result of our research, after being labeled as a carcinogen and neurotoxin in humans and animals.

Since then, we have focused on safe nanotechnology and have developed fruit glycosides that do not have any negative effect on blood glucose, insulin levels, or adipose tissue fat storage. The key to safe nanotechnology is the application of soft versus hard particle science. Soft particle science embraces the use of safe, human-edible-grade ingredients (non-enhanced, non-genetically modified biological materials) imbedded or integrated into nanofoods, beverages, and supplements. Soft particles are completely safe for carbon-based mechanisms, such as mammals, including humans.

The human body is adept at processing soft particles, and holds them as harmless because they look like normal cells. Hard particle science embraces the use of non-organic, synthetic substances embedded into nanofoods. Hard particles are potentially dangerous to life forms because the human body does not recognize them and does not know how to process them. As the body attempts to biologically process unknown agents, highly toxic reactions can occur at a molecular level.

These reactions may not be evidenced immediately, but can result in kidney, liver, and organ damage as well as lifespan reduction. Since the metabolic outcome of synthetically driven nanofoods is speculative at best, scientists are extremely cautious about their introduction into the food chain. Much more research is needed before accepting the use of hard particle science. Unfortunately, many new fake nanotechnology products have already entered the supplement market, and some have been exposed as fraudulent. This exposes the public to a confusing dilemma.

Here’s the bottom line: Currently the FDA is working vigilantly to create new laws regarding the use of nanotechnology. Until these laws are put into place and adhered to, it’s too risky to use any supplement or edible product that incorporates nanotechnology. To do so makes the user a human guinea pig.

Written by Dr. Ann de Wees Allen

Dr. Allen is the Chief Of Biomedical Research at the Glycemic Research Institute and Director of Nutritional Neuroscience

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