Natural Food Nanostructures
The development in the early 1980s of new nanoscience tools such as probe microscopy and, in particular, atomic force microscopy, has provided new methods for probing food structures at the molecular level, under near native conditions. The development and use of microscopic techniques in food science has always led to new scientific understanding of food structure and has spawned new technological applications. The availability of probe microscopes has allowed the investigation and solution of previously intractable problems in food science. Such understanding provides a basis for selecting or manipulating the natural nanostructures formed by food molecules, but through rational, rather than empirical selection of new raw materials, or the improvement and new design of food materials through conventional processing methods. Nanoscience thus enables the improvement of natural nanostructures, through the use of standard and accepted selection and processing methods. This approach is illustrated through studies on starch and protein-stabilised foams and emulsions. It is shown how improved understanding of food structure at the molecular scale can be used to select, modify, or design food structures to meet current challenges in regard to nutrition and health. The use of nanoscience to enable the selection of new improved raw materials, and to modify conventional processing methods, provides a basis for designing new functional foods. The status of such products is discussed in the light of the wider debate on nanotechnologies and food.