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Chinese scientists create starch from scratch

hei

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I didn't even know this was a problem. Soon there won't be any real food left to eat.

By Zhang Zhihao | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-09-24 08:04
Chinese scientists have created starch, a type of complex carbohydrate found in plants, using carbon dioxide, hydrogen and electricity, according to a study published in the journal Science on Friday.

Experts said if such technique can be scaled-up to the level of industrialization, it may revolutionize how this key nutrient and industrial ingredient is made, since it does not require farming and processing large quantity of starchy crops such as sweet potato and maize, thus saving more water, fertilizer, and arable land.

It may also be used to recycle carbon dioxide, a common industrial waste and a greenhouse gas, into a consumable product. This will help reduce carbon emission and combat climate change, especially if the electricity used is from renewable sources like solar and wind.

In space exploration, it may provide a sustainable food source for astronauts as they travel long distances in space and try to colonize other planets where growing food is unviable. Future space travelers may simply turn the carbon dioxide they breathe out into food they eat.

Ma Yanhe, the director of the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said starch and other complex carbs make up of 60 to 80 percent of the human diet.

"Our breakthrough demonstrates that synthesizing complex compound like starch is achievable in a lab, and there are many industries that can benefit from this technology," he said.

Starches are widely used in sugar production, food and beverage processing, printing, drug-making, textile, animal forage and dozens of other industries, according to Bric International Group, a global agricultural data firm. This prompted the manufacturing of corn starch and its derivatives into an 80 billion yuan ($12.4 billion) industry in China.

Plants create carbohydrates like starch through photosynthesis, which is an extremely complex and inefficient process, said Ma, adding it would take a plant about 60 steps of metabolic reactions to turn carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into starch.

Cai Tao, one of the first authors of the study, said for six years, his team has been focusing on a single project: how to make starch like plants, but do it much faster.

Creating carbohydrate via more effective means is so important for sustainability on Earth and future space exploration that NASA listed converting carbon dioxide to glucose, a simple sugar, as one of its centennial challenges in 2018. Starch is made of a much more complex chain of glucose molecules.

Cai said their method involves first converting carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas into methanol, which is molecule that contain a single carbon atom.

Scientists then piece these single-carbon molecules like a puzzle into bigger and more complex molecules via enzymatic processes.

With the help of supercomputing, Chinese scientists have streamlined the natural starch making process from about 60 into 11 steps, with the final product being starch. Cai said the lab-made starch is chemically identical to starch in nature, whose solution can turn blue with iodine.
 
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I didn't even know this was a problem. Soon there won't be any real food left to eat.

By Zhang Zhihao | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-09-24 08:04
Chinese scientists have created starch, a type of complex carbohydrate found in plants, using carbon dioxide, hydrogen and electricity, according to a study published in the journal Science on Friday.

Experts said if such technique can be scaled-up to the level of industrialization, it may revolutionize how this key nutrient and industrial ingredient is made, since it does not require farming and processing large quantity of starchy crops such as sweet potato and maize, thus saving more water, fertilizer, and arable land.

It may also be used to recycle carbon dioxide, a common industrial waste and a greenhouse gas, into a consumable product. This will help reduce carbon emission and combat climate change, especially if the electricity used is from renewable sources like solar and wind.

In space exploration, it may provide a sustainable food source for astronauts as they travel long distances in space and try to colonize other planets where growing food is unviable. Future space travelers may simply turn the carbon dioxide they breathe out into food they eat.

Ma Yanhe, the director of the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said starch and other complex carbs make up of 60 to 80 percent of the human diet.

"Our breakthrough demonstrates that synthesizing complex compound like starch is achievable in a lab, and there are many industries that can benefit from this technology," he said.

Starches are widely used in sugar production, food and beverage processing, printing, drug-making, textile, animal forage and dozens of other industries, according to Bric International Group, a global agricultural data firm. This prompted the manufacturing of corn starch and its derivatives into an 80 billion yuan ($12.4 billion) industry in China.

Plants create carbohydrates like starch through photosynthesis, which is an extremely complex and inefficient process, said Ma, adding it would take a plant about 60 steps of metabolic reactions to turn carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into starch.

Cai Tao, one of the first authors of the study, said for six years, his team has been focusing on a single project: how to make starch like plants, but do it much faster.

Creating carbohydrate via more effective means is so important for sustainability on Earth and future space exploration that NASA listed converting carbon dioxide to glucose, a simple sugar, as one of its centennial challenges in 2018. Starch is made of a much more complex chain of glucose molecules.

Cai said their method involves first converting carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas into methanol, which is molecule that contain a single carbon atom.

Scientists then piece these single-carbon molecules like a puzzle into bigger and more complex molecules via enzymatic processes.

With the help of supercomputing, Chinese scientists have streamlined the natural starch making process from about 60 into 11 steps, with the final product being starch. Cai said the lab-made starch is chemically identical to starch in nature, whose solution can turn blue with iodine.

Sounds like they are making food for aliens 😳
 

Ben.

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I can already see the future headlines of people being severly ill, suffering from deficiencies or mystery ailments.

There could be uses to this, technically speaking but it is nonetheless a good example of the arrogance of some scientists, thinking they know all there is to know about what makes up our food and our body ...
 

BodhiBlues

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I bet this will be used in processed foods eventually as it will probably end up being very cheap if it is as efficient as they say. I wonder if the effect on the body will be the same, does all starch behave the same way in the body no matter what it is derived from?
 
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I bet this will be used in processed foods eventually as it will probably end up being very cheap if it is as efficient as they say. I wonder if the effect on the body will be the same, does all starch behave the same way in the body no matter what it is derived from?

True food starches have nutrition to them, but I can't see chemicals coming together having any benefits except binding things together, like glue, to create more chicken nuggets, imitation crab and pastries.
 

BodhiBlues

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....

True food starches have nutrition to them, but I can't see chemicals coming together having any benefits except binding things together, like glue, to create more chicken nuggets, imitation crab and pastries.
Yea, you mostly see it used in foods like that. I often see something like "modified maize starch" in ingredient lists. It doesn't sound very appealing!
 
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Yea, you mostly see it used in foods like that. I often see something like "modified maize starch" in ingredient lists. It doesn't sound very appealing!

I wonder what attractive name they will give to fool people into thinking it is good?
 

Peater

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It may also be used to recycle carbon dioxide, a common industrial waste and a greenhouse gas, into a consumable product.

Congratulations, you invented a less efficient potato plant.

Raw materials don't just form out of the ether at production facilities, and machines need electricity, operatives and maintenance, as do the buildings themselves
 

JanW55

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I recall reading back in the 1970s that "modified starch" was first invented to put into baby food (the jarred vegetables type) because it would not be digestible by human saliva. Seems that the adults feeding the infants were finding that the contents were getting "digested" due to the spoons being repeatedly placed back in the jars and this "didn't look good" so there were complaints. (Presumably the baby food manufacturers originally assumed the adults would toss out the jars after one feeding and therefore would not reopen the jars and dish out the contents on a second occasion, the next day or whenever. Therefore they invented this "starch.") I just searched on these terms and there are patents around creating "stabilized baby food" and so on . ALSO, I see that tapioca is mentioned which I recently found out is the same as cassava, which is a cyanide-containing goitrogen.
 
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I recall reading back in the 1970s that "modified starch" was first invented to put into baby food (the jarred vegetables type) because it would not be digestible by human saliva. Seems that the adults feeding the infants were finding that the contents were getting "digested" due to the spoons being repeatedly placed back in the jars and this "didn't look good" so there were complaints. (Presumably the baby food manufacturers originally assumed the adults would toss out the jars after one feeding and therefore would not reopen the jars and dish out the contents on a second occasion, the next day or whenever. Therefore they invented this "starch.") I just searched on these terms and there are patents around creating "stabilized baby food" and so on . ALSO, I see that tapioca is mentioned which I recently found out is the same as cassava, which is a cyanide-containing goitrogen.

Wow that is so enlightening! So if "modified starch" keeps saliva from digesting it that would be a big reason why it is hard on human digestion, as digesting in the mouth is really important. Why am I ever surprised by this stuff, our food system disfunction never ends! I am gonna post what you just posted in my "No Wonder Babies Are Sick" thread. No wonder babies are so colicky!
 

JanW55

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Indeed! Been going on for decades in plain sight: designer food and food-like (not really! but appearing) substances, flavors, aromas, for enormous money, profits, power, and control: market domination, multinational corporate influence and ALSO all the health-ramifications. Big Ag hand-in-glove with Big Pharma, I know I'm preaching to the choir here so to speak, but I get so mad at times.

Keep your eyes open, read labels (things can change too, from one month to the next, especially after products "disappear" briefly) -- it's always something. For instance, recently I've noticed that on the "lime" (masa corn) topic, the big chip makers are coming out with LIME (meaning a natural item similar to a "lemon" if you know what I mean) FLAVORED chips since I take it they've heard that people are wising up about CALCIUM CHLORIDE (confusingly called LIME also, in nixtamalized products' ingredient lists, but it is not the little green fruit they're talking about there, rather 'slakelime').

 
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Indeed! Been going on for decades in plain sight: designer food and food-like (not really! but appearing) substances, flavors, aromas, for enormous money, profits, power, and control: market domination, multinational corporate influence and ALSO all the health-ramifications. Big Ag hand-in-glove with Big Pharma, I know I'm preaching to the choir here so to speak, but I get so mad at times.

Keep your eyes open, read labels (things can change too, from one month to the next, especially after products "disappear" briefly) -- it's always something. For instance, recently I've noticed that on the "lime" (masa corn) topic, the big chip makers are coming out with LIME (meaning a natural item similar to a "lemon" if you know what I mean) FLAVORED chips since I take it they've heard that people are wising up about CALCIUM CHLORIDE (confusingly called LIME also, in nixtamalized products' ingredient lists, but it is not the little green fruit they're talking about there, rather 'slakelime').


So what do you think this ingredient list means with "lime".
 

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JanW55

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It says stoneground, and mentions lime, so I would think it is referring to the nixtamalized terminology. Therefore OK in that regard. (The new big-chip-company styles will say "lime flavored" and have cartoonish depictions or pictures of limes (fruit) on the packages which is why I had noticed those in the first place.)

BUT, it has guar gum, which is not a good thing in my opinion. It's hard in my area to get hold of Milagro tortillas DESPITE their having a plant outside of town (those are the only kind I will eat other than made-inhouse at a reliable restaurant). Whole Foods has lately had a version appear around here that might be OK but as long as I can still go to mercados (locally) and get Milagros then I will do that.

Milagro tortillas (and the Whole Foods ones too) are in the refrigerator case (don't know if yours there was) and a lot of times the Milagros are still warm from being just delivered fresh-cooked from their factory. The Mexican restaurants we go to around here will give out (with food orders) Milagros if requested, but keep them for themselves mostly, I do believe. I've mentioned those to a couple of different managers and they agree it's the best brand to eat (some places are still making THEIR OWN -- inhouse -- so that's fine with me, however that is seen less and less these days.)

Most of the chain restaurants have resorted to only having "flour tortillas" which are an abomination in my opinion (even when I was not GF) since they have no flavor and are like cardboard. Of course I have long since stopped attending those poison palaces (chains) -- it is amazing to see those places call themselves "Mexican" restaurants and have no corn tortillas, even crummy ones, at all! (Cooking shows are also pushing the "flour tortilla" motif / meme as are magazines' recipes.)
 
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It says stoneground, and mentions lime, so I would think it is referring to the nixtamalized terminology. Therefore OK in that regard. (The new big-chip-company styles will say "lime flavored" and have cartoonish depictions or pictures of limes (fruit) on the packages which is why I had noticed those in the first place.)

BUT, it has guar gum, which is not a good thing in my opinion. It's hard in my area to get hold of Milagro tortillas DESPITE their having a plant outside of town (those are the only kind I will eat other than made-inhouse at a reliable restaurant). Whole Foods has lately had a version appear around here that might be OK but as long as I can still go to mercados (locally) and get Milagros then I will do that.

Milagro tortillas (and the Whole Foods ones too) are in the refrigerator case (don't know if yours there was) and a lot of times the Milagros are still warm from being just delivered fresh-cooked from their factory. The Mexican restaurants we go to around here will give out (with food orders) Milagros if requested, but keep them for themselves mostly, I do believe. I've mentioned those to a couple of different managers and they agree it's the best brand to eat (some places are still making THEIR OWN -- inhouse -- so that's fine with me, however that is seen less and less these days.)

Most of the chain restaurants have resorted to only having "flour tortillas" which are an abomination in my opinion (even when I was not GF) since they have no flavor and are like cardboard. Of course I have long since stopped attending those poison palaces (chains) -- it is amazing to see those places call themselves "Mexican" restaurants and have no corn tortillas, even crummy ones, at all! (Cooking shows are also pushing the "flour tortilla" motif / meme as are magazines' recipes.)

"Poison Palaces" that's a good one! I know guar gum is no good, otherwise we would have tacos every week. I just haven't had good luck making pliable masa tortillas, yet.
 

JanW55

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I just realized I said Calcium Chloride somewhere up above but nixtamalization involves Calcium Hydroxide, "This is also known as pickling lime or calcium hydroxide." Sorry about the confusion there. On the tortilla-making front, I was just notified yesterday via email promotion, from King Arthur Flour (where I get my GF flour and GF cupcakes-in-mugs type things) who are out of Vermont, that they now have a new nixtamalized corn flour AND tortilla press, and it almost tempted me to get that and try to make them. (Masa from the mercado is in enormous bags and there are just 2 of us and it would be way too much to buy I think, plus it was very hard to make them in a skillet I found.)

 
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I just realized I said Calcium Chloride somewhere up above but nixtamalization involves Calcium Hydroxide, "This is also known as pickling lime or calcium hydroxide." Sorry about the confusion there. On the tortilla-making front, I was just notified yesterday via email promotion, from King Arthur Flour (where I get my GF flour and GF cupcakes-in-mugs type things) who are out of Vermont, that they now have a new nixtamalized corn flour AND tortilla press, and it almost tempted me to get that and try to make them. (Masa from the mercado is in enormous bags and there are just 2 of us and it would be way too much to buy I think, plus it was very hard to make them in a skillet I found.)


I have been buying the Bob's Red Mill Masa. Is that not a good one? It says corn and hydrated lime as the ingredients.

"Masa Harina is a flavorful flour made from nixtamalized corn (corn soaked in limewater)"
 

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JanW55

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I was going to mention Bob's Red Mill masa myself, but did not type it in there, as it turns out (in the King Arthur post above, I mean).

I've noticed it recently in Whole Foods and checked the label and it looked fine. The King Arthur appeal (to me) is ordering their press AND their masa, at the same time.

The Whole Foods around here have changed since their being taken over by Amazon, in my opinion, and I don't go in them much anymore.

King Arthur has had GF flour a long time (I've been GF since 2008 due to endocrinologist recommendation) and you have to be aware they have 2 different forms, and I avoid theirs that has more ingredients in it such as xanthan gum, is vitamin-fortified, etc. The other one (that is better and simpler) still has the tapioca but rice and potato lead the list at least.

To be honest I've just about given up GF "baking" at all, it is just down to the Milagros pretty much.

Cauliflower and filler junk and tapioca and cassava and "ancient grains" all are being put out there as "GF" these days and "nut flours" as well and ALL that is off my list, since they all totally disagree with my GI tract and cause all kinds of issues.

Rant on warning: Right when I had to go GF they'd finally gotten some retail downstairs, and the places were a sub-sandwich shop that had "lettuce wraps" at least, as bun substitutes, available, and a pizza place (local based place not a chain, and they do have "GF pizza").

HOWEVER, the ingredients inside those subs are certainly not advisable, and the pizza has gone to being the recent fad of "cauliflower GF crust" so can't support either place unfortunately.

Rant just about off now, but one more thing: Plus I'd JUST BOUGHT some new special (seasonal) cookie cutters, for the upcoming holiday season, at that time. (Favorite cookie of mine in those days, and my favorite cake was simple pound cake, neither being too sweet.) Used to be that baking was my thing and was the only type of cooking I enjoyed and was any good at. With "real" flour of course, meaning gluten-containing.

GF substitutes (as the flour for, or bought cookies and cakes and breads) are just not worth it: too gritty, brittle, off-tasting, ridiculous and non-nutritious anyway.
 

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