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How 3D printed food is saving lives

Recent developments in 3D printing techniques have changed the world. We now have 3D printed prosthetic limbs, a 3D rock-climbing robot that will help law-enforcement in critical situations, and even 3D printed ovaries that have restored fertility in infertile mice.

So, why not 3D printed foods? Dysphagia, or swallowing disorders, affect about 8% of the world’s population. This includes such things as cancers of the mouth or throat, physical or intellectual disabilities, and neurological conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Dysphagia can affect nutrition, breathing and quality of life including mental health. It’s often recommend that those suffering from dysphagia eat texture-modified foods, which include soft, bite-sized, minced, and liquified foods. It’s also generally advised that those suffering from dysphagia avoid any food that can be stringy, chewy, crunchy or solid.

Deakin University’s Disability and Inclusion Chair, Prof Susan Balandin says that ‘the problem is that traditionally modified meals are often considered mushy and unappealing, which leads to food refusal and poor nutrition, or refusing to eat modified foods which then increases the risk of choking or aspiration pneumonia, particularly in older people in aged care facilities. 3D printed food could change that.’

Prof Balandin further explains that this unappealing look and taste of traditional modified meals can result in anger or depression from those it is made for. This is due to the loss of control that those who sufferer from dysphagia feel over something as simple as their personal meal choices.

When food is 3D printed, it’s possible to layer different tastes, textures and colours into a desired shape, without needing food additives. This makes the food look and taste better, which immediately alleviates some of the issues that are faced. Food such as pizza, pasta, hamburgers, chocolate and even a pavlova have been 3D printed. Meaning that even people who have dysphagia can enjoy their favourite meals.

Watch below to see how 3D printed foods have the potential to positively change the lives of millions of people around the globe.

 

Read more about how 3D printing is helping people live fuller lives.

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Prof Susan Balandin
Prof Susan Balandin

Chair in Disability and Inclusion, Faculty of Health, Deakin University
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