Are Functional Foods in Our Future?

Americans may be increasingly cautious about the promises of drug companies and, therefore, significantly less enthusiastic about taking medicine. But, they'll never stop eating.

Functional foods are poised to enter the health and wellness scene as an alternative to taking drugs. Get ready for yogurt that can help ease constipation, and a flavored drink that alleviates the symptoms of arthritis. The manufacturers of these products — PepsiCo, Dannon and other names you know — have slyly dodged the FDA regulations that all drugs must adhere to by making claims that refer to the body's “normal, healthy structures and functions,” while never mentioning specific health conditions. Dannon can proclaim the digestive benefits of its Activia yogurt (Activia will be sold in the U.S. as of January 2006), but it cannot mention the word “constipation.”

Opponents of functional foods, like Alice H. Lichtenstein, a senior scientist at the Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University, believe that people who need extra nutrients, cholesterol-lowing plant sterols or even more fiber, should take a multivitamin or a supplement in pill form.

“The danger with this is that people will add food to their diet, rather than substitute, and then they’ll end up consuming more calories, which would not be good,” she said.


 

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