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Go Ahead, Inhale Your Food

Your mom was wrong. Here are some legal inhalants you can now choose from: chocolate, coffee, and vitamin (?).

David Edwards is a scientist who's looked into how various drugs can be delivered through our lungs and how the shape of nanoparticles in inhalers can extend the effects of insulin.


Edwards also helped found Artscience Labs, at Le Laboratoire in Paris and at Harvard University in Boston, where teams of artists and scientists have developed everything from plant-based air purifiers to edible bottles.

BoingBoing recently featured a lengthy excerpt from his latest book, The Lab: Creativity and Culture about his most widely publicized breakthrough: breathable chocolate. That's chocolate you can inhale. It started four years ago, when Edwards went to visit French restaurateur Thierry Marx:

The conversation swirled that day around wrapping flavor in particularly thin membranes. Having looked into the idea of inhaled aerosols for delivering drugs and vaccines, I brought up the idea of breathing these colloids into your mouth. Later in the fall I shared that notion with students at Harvard University. They would need to make the food particles small enough to get into the air, and large enough to avoid entry into the lungs under all conditions of breathing. We knew this much. But what did inhaling food mean? Would there be pleasure in it? After a semester of reflection, brainstorming, and quite a bit of coughing (even after designing the particles with a size to avoid the lungs, we discovered that, no matter how we breathed through straw-like inhalers, the particles flew to the back of the throat) I put a piece of tape over the paper cylinder my students had prepared to inhale things like carrot powder. The coughing stopped. And here we had the first prototype of the food inhaler we called Le Whif.

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Although Le Whif has been billed as a new way of eating (and also derided as one of the dumbest kitchen gadgets), Edwards isn't alone in experimenting with inhaled chocolates. Bernard LaHousse encouraged participants to snort chocolate at the International Chef's Congress—and as the concept appears to reach more people, it's bound to influence the way we think of the intrinsically linked senses of taste and smell. That alone is interesting, but apparently, it's only the beginning. What's next?

Edwards writes:

Le Whif traversed the entire idea funnel. It started as a catalyst of education, soon became a catalyst of cultural exploration, and went on to be a catalyst of commercial sales revenue that helped keep our labs running. It also inspired new culinary art and science experiments, from whiffed coffee, which launched in the spring of 2010, to whiffed vitamins, scheduled to launch later within the year. And on the horizon was yet another design, Le Whaf, which I conceived with the French designer Marc Bretillot as a new way to "drink by breathing." This was a new form of food—a standing cloud of flavor that falls between a liquid and a gas, just as whiffed food fell somewhere between a solid and a gas.

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I don't know if it's still food, but I'd be curious to try that.

Photograph from "Large Porous Particles for Pulmonary Drug Delivery." Science. June 20, 1997. Le Whif illustration via New Leaf Chocolates. Photograph of Le Whaf by Bruno Cogez.

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