A survey of dysphagia patients’ attitude towards 3D printing for food personalization

3D printing has been used to modify the texture and nutritional content of foods. However, consumers’ insights are sometimes lacking in 3D food printing research. It is important to better understand the consumers’ attitude towards 3D printing and their special demands, to further develop this technology. This study aims to investigate the attitude of dysphagia patients towards food personalization using 3D printing, via an online survey. We collected results based on surveys filled in by 64 dysphagia patients.

Our results show that eating problems and dietary needs differ strongly per patient. Food texture modification was found the most needed types of personalization for dysphagia patients. Information on 3D food printing increased the acceptance of this new technology among patients. Reasoning for willingness to try were for example curiosity to 3D-printed food and its taste. In conclusion, this survey study shows that 3D food printing can potentially fulfill the special food needs of dysphagia patients. Further research could focus on how to efficiently manufacture 3D-printed food for dysphagia patients and how 3D-printed food will improve the life quality of those patients.

A presentation by Lu Zhang, Assistant Professor. Wageningen University and Research (Netherlands).

View of the Speaker

Question 1: What drives you?
My research focuses on autonomous, adaptive systems for food production. It is driven by two factors: 1) from a scientific point of view, I am interested in studying complex food systems. As food scientists, we often realize that food can be rather complicated to study because food materials vary in composition, shape and many other techno-functional properties. As a compromise, we study simplified model systems to gain fundamental insights about food. This is for sure a valid approach. However, I am curious whether we can use alternative approaches such as data-driven approach to study complex food systems. 2) from a societal point of view, the demand for personalized food products is increasing, especially among consumers like patients, children, sportspeople and even astronauts. Personalized nutrition can potentially bring health benefits to our consumers. As you can imagine, personalizing foods needs us to deal with the complexity in food production because we need to be able to quickly adjust our formulations and processes to produced highly-customized food products. Therefore, these two factors together drive me to study autonomous, adaptive systems.

Question 2: Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
In this talk, I will share the results of a study I did together with my colleague from Human Nutrition and a master student. We were curious about how consumers especially dysphagia patients perceive 3D food printing technology and what hinders the adoption of this new technology in food personalization. I hope my talk will trigger some discussions with the delegates.

Question 3: What emerging technologies / trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
I think autonomous, adaptive food production has a great potential. In such systems, we can adapt our production process to complex food materials but not the other way around, and we can personalize healthy and tasty foods for consumers based on their nutritional needs and sensorial preferences.

Question 4: What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
I hope the autonomous, adaptive food production can help us use our nature resources more efficiently and help our consumers improve their quality of life.

Question 5: What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
There is in general a lack of consumer insights in 3D food printing research.

About Lu Zhang
Dr. Lu Zhang is assistant professor on additive food assembly at the Laboratory of Food Process Engineering at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Her research interests include complex food systems, 3D food printing and material science. She and her team conduct research to advance the food printing technology for the personalization of healthy and tasty foods, by developing machine-learning predictive models to describe behaviours of complex food systems during printing, and designing control strategies to adapt the printer to changes in food materials’ properties and consumers’ demand. Lu received her PhD degree at Wageningen University in 2018. She investigated bioactive ingredients during mini-bread baking. She studied chemical engineering for her BSc and MSc degrees at Xiamen University in China. She is an active member of Digital Food Processing Initiative (DFPI).

About Food Process Engineering at Wageningen Universuty & Research
The Laboratory of Food Process Engineering aims at finding processes that are significantly more sustainable, producing products that combine excellent taste with better nutrition. Read more.

Lu Zhang is speaker at the 2022 edition of the 3D Food Printing Conference, part of the Agrifood Innovation Event.

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