Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There is something fishy about this... or not fishy...

Orange juice laced with anchovies to give you a beneficial dose of Omega-3s and vitamin C? Fat burning waffles? Digestion regulating ketchup? Powdered beets, carrots and bananas in peanut butter? Ugh. Nothing says health like getting nutraceuticals - that are hardly proven beneficial after separation from the healthy whole FOOD - by way of processed concoctions like these.

NY Times reporter Julia Moskin weighs in on new "added value" health claims being made by uber-processors Tropicana (owned by PepsiCo), General Mills, Kraft and Dannon in her article Super Food or Monster From the Deep? From the article:

A new brand of peanut butter, Zap, is imperceptibly fortified with powdered beets, carrots and bananas. NutritiousChocolate
, a new product from Gary Null, a health-food marketer, includes the usual ingredients of chocolate: cocoa butter, cocoa beans, cane sugar, vanilla. Oh, and broccoli, cranberries, nectarines, parsley, pomegranates, watermelons, kale and more — a total of 30 additional plants, all in powdered form. But whether the nutritional benefits of the original foods survive in additive form is still to be determined. "Whether a tomato is good for you, that’s one thing,” Dr. Kessler said. “Whether the lycopene in a tomato is good for you, that’s another. And then whether synthetic lycopene and microencapsulated lycopene are also good for you, that’s yet another thing.” ... Eating the right nutrients is a complicated question, one that nutritionists say could most easily be solved by eating a wide range of basic foods. Dr. Lichtenstein of Tufts says that the recent setbacks and surprises in nutrition research have made her rethink the whole model of adding nutrients to the diet, despite the effectiveness of vitamin fortification. Maybe the true benefit of eating a lot of fish is that you are actually eating less of something else, like steak,” she said. “Maybe a subtraction model is the key. We have a long way to go to find out.”
(fun photo from NY Times, by Lars Klove)

Besides pointing out the obviously healthier choice, to opt for the whole food, Moskin draws a clear line between the triumph of fortified foods like Vitamin-B-enriched flour and Vitamin-D-enriched milk that were based in rigorous research and studies, and the carefully designed marketing campaigns whose claims often slip through the cracks and onto the shelves. She examines the economical reasoning behind adding value and leads the reader to a Pollan-esque conclusion: that there is a whole lot more to health and nutrition than these isolated nutraceuticals.

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