Before the next pandemic, let’s start to play our carbs right

Whatever the near future holds for the UK and the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing is agreed by epidemiologists to be certain: it won’t be the last such threat we face.

Our vaccines may or may not outpace the evolution of this particular virus, but either way, another will be along in its wake. We’ve designed things that way. Environmentally, socially and nutritionally, mankind has accidentally created the perfect circumstances for a virus to leap species, mutate and take hold.

It’s the nutritional aspect that’s of most relevance to Modern Baker, and it’s a drum we’ve been banging for years. If we humans don’t look after our gut health and overall metabolic fitness, our immune system won’t operate properly. While most of our carbs are ultra-processed and over-refined, while 70% of the food on supermarket shelves contains added sugar, and while governments won’t step in and force systemic change, our diets will continue to be the greatest ally a hostile virus could hope for.

For a while now, the ‘new malnutrition’ has meant that people are more likely to die from too much food than not enough. Hence the modern paradox of people who are very full, but dangerously under-fed, with compromised immune systems that leave them vastly more susceptible to becoming critically ill from diabetes, heart disease, cancers and strokes, with hundreds of other conditions not far behind.

Then add the side-effects of modern consumerism – more meals out, more marketing, less routine exercise – and fast-mutating hostile viruses, and we have a recipe for a hugely overworked health system and an unsustainable species. The NHS reports that, even putting the pandemic aside, the cost of treating a malnourished patient is two to three times more than treating one who eats healthily. We can’t afford to keep undoing all the harm we do ourselves. Prevention must be the solution.

But even in hospitals ravaged by coronavirus, it’s easier to find a chocolate bar than an apple. Manufacturers are not only allowed to deliver Krispy Kremes and HobNobs to NHS staff but actually applauded for it. And rather than march on Parliament demanding action, we stand by the perpetrators and prop up their profits. People just want to eat what they like, and won’t be lectured otherwise.

All this explains why Modern Baker long ago decided to concentrate efforts on fixing a staple food. If we can help people stay healthier while eating what they already like, that’s far more likely to succeed than anything that requires a more basic change of habit or self-image. SUPERLOAF is the first step in introducing smart, gut-friendly tech to a loaf of sliced bread, and we’re working to apply the same technology to all kinds of other staple foods, including pasta and pizza.

So whatever the wider future holds, we know ours will contain a lot more smart carbs, presented in ways people already like, at a price that makes sense.

   

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