Boosts your immunity. Good for digestion. Improves attention. These are some of the common claims made by major food companies to market their "functional food."
This phenomena has been explained by a recent NY Times article (5/14/11).
But how healthful are they? Is there actually science behind these claims?
Usually there is at least one scientific study which the companies use as a marketing springboard for their "functional food" product. But as far as how healthy the food item may be, the "for your health" advertising is often misleading and incomplete.
One such example is American Heart Association-approved Welches Grape Juice. It is approved because it is fat free (as opposed to those lard-laden juices?). Welches Grape Juice earns the AHA red "Healthy Heart" logo on the front of the juice containers, even though it contains 36 grams of sugar per serving (eight ounces). This amount of sugar falls somewhere between a Mountain Dew and a Pepsi- not what I'd call healthy, and probably not the best for your cardiovascular system.
In another particularly egregious use of research to promote "functional foods," Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats was marketing their cereal as improving children's attentiveness. These results were obtained by comparing children's attentiveness in the morning before their breakfast and after three hours. The control group got water for breakfast. Only half of the Mini Wheats kids showed better attentiveness than the water-fasted kids.
So it doesn't appear that concerned parents should be loading their kids up on those sugar bombs just quite yet. After whole wheat, the three remaining primary ingredients in Frosted Mini Wheats are sugar, high fructose corn syrup and gelatin. I can think of just a few better ideas for improving a child's attention than those food items.
So, how to tell what's what when grocery store items are being branded and sponsored by national disease associations faster than NASCAR drivers? First take a look at the ingredients, and turn a discerning eye to those which are "enriched" or include ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring (like red # 40). If the food has a longer ingredient list than you have an attention span for reading, the processed nature probably outweighs the health benefits.
Lastly, if the brand is a billion-dollar international company, they're probably not too concerned for your digestive health. Just look to that food critic in you to sift the food that's actually good for you from the bright colors and cartoon figures promising health benefits.
Thanks for reading!
New changes to the Alzheimer's diagnosis to include a spectrum of three phases: outright Alzheimer's, mild cognitive (brain) impairment, and the new phase of sub-clinical Alzheimer's (no cognitive symptoms) .
Tests still in clinical trial phase include brain scans and cerebrospinal fluid tests which may identify lab markers corresponding with future development of outright Alzheimer's (New York Times article here).
Since there is no anti-Alzheimer's drug (yet?), early identification does not give much hope to our conventional medical counterparts. But with all the natural approaches Naturopathic Doctors offer to optimize brain function and nervous system health, get in touch with one if you have any cognitive performance concerns for yourself or family members. If you need help in finding your local Naturopath, look here!
Thanks for reading. Support from my readers is much appreciated!
Research looking at Tai chi versus heart failure-related education in recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (LA Times summary article here). When looking at lowering depression, increasing vigor, mood, quality of life and daily activities, who came out ahead?
Tai chi, on all counts!
This form of movement is part exercise, part meditation and part stress reducer. While practicing tai chi, one is moving, balancing and culminating the energy within and beyond the practitioner.
The control group for the tai chi research, education on heart failure, actually caused increased levels of depression and decreased levels of vigor by the participants.
So if you're looking to add a movement/meditative practice to your schedule, consider looking into local tai chi classes. If you're looking to maximize the tai chi ambiance, Portland's downtown chinese garden (recently renamed Lan Su) has weekly group tai chi practice, free with admission (information here).
Get that chi flowing, your body will thank you!
Comments? Questions? I'd love to hear it!