During his time in the INNO-vation Program, Kouhei Yamaguchi was working on how to make meals at nursing homes more enjoyable by implementing a 3D food printer to create full-course French cuisine. The reality he discovered during that process was that there aren’t very many chefs that can provide such meals to those who have lost their ability to feed or swallow due to aging or illness.
If there were more restaurants with chefs that could support people suffering from dysphagia, it would lead to more opportunities for them to eat outside the home. Ideally, this could help with an increase in physical activity, connecting dietary habits with life expectancy, thus reducing overall long-term health care costs.
“Chefs and restaurants are resources of society that hold such incredible potential,” Yamaguchi stated. “But the reality is that those suffering from various forms of dysphagia don’t typically go to restaurants, and there aren’t many chefs out there that know special cooking is required for them. That’s why I’ve begun speaking with culinary schools to include such education in their curriculums and teach chefs how to make food appropriate for those with dysphagia.”
Yamaguchi is continuing to work on his research on food created with 3D food printers. Our sense of taste is often influenced by our sight. Round, heart-shaped, and pink foods are all generally perceived as sweet. 3D food printers can take advantage of these properties to create appealing foods in many different shapes and colors.
“Even if there’s no particularly severe disease, one of the challenges of dysphagia involves the loss of appetite as people get older. People can start to suffer from malnutrition from a simple lack of eating. It’s said that there are types of dysphagia that can and cannot be improved with training. Dysphagia due to loss of appetite is one of those that can be fixed just by practicing more. But there’s probably a certain design of food that could arouse the appetites of these people. I’d really like to come up with a beneficial solution for them by using a 3D food printer,” Yamaguchi explained about his vision.
Yamaguchi says that his biggest concern with the production of such food isn’t the shape, color, taste, or nutrients. The most important thing, he says, is letting people enjoy life again.
“In the end, I think being able to enjoy life to its fullest even with a disability is more important than the flavor or nutritional value itself. Food is a vital component to one’s enjoyment of life, so I want to make something using food that makes people happy all the way to the end. That’s the main reason I’m continuing my research,” Yamaguchi said.
As Yamaguchi’s challenge continues, he reminds us all that food not only fills our stomachs but our hearts and minds as well.