The International Herald Tribune has an interesting article on nutraceuticals, broadly defined as ingredients that are derived from food, and added to other foods as fortifiers. The ever-increasing trend began in the 1990s with garlic pills and similar products which were taken as supplements.
Now Kraft, Dannon, General Mills and many other companies are adding nutraceuticals to existing foods: "fat-burning waffles" made from a newly developed corn flour, cheese that kills intestinal parasites, even ketchup that regulates digestion, are on the shelves or in the works. New technologies in food processing, and a landmark 1999 court decision giving the makers of supplements broad leeway to advertise their health benefits, have brought this new class of enhanced foods to supermarket shelves.
One problem is that along with this growing trend, there's an increasing awareness that some of these tricks just do not work. Studies have shown recently that some extracted supplements, long used for cardiovascular health such as vitamin E, beta-carotene and folate (all of which fall into the broad category of "antioxidants") surprised everyone by showing no benefits whatsoever. It seems clear that the body's way of benefiting from these substances is more complicated than we thought.
All of this is of particular interest to me since I'm a vegetarian. The reason for that is ethical. I object to the treatment of animals on the mass scale necessary to fill the supermarket shelves. I admit to eating some cheese and eggs, the production of which is guilty of the same abuses, but let's just say I'm not a fanatic about the whole thing, and I certainly don't question or criticize other people's eating habits.
My problem, I'm afraid, is achieving proper nutrition. Perhaps these super-foods are the answer.
What do you think?