Nutraceuticals lead wave of new food research
October 20, 1999
From Medical Correspondent Linda Ciampa
(CNN) -- Many U.S. food manufacturers are betting on the success of new foods supplemented with vitamins or minerals. These food products are known as functional foods or nutraceuticals and while they have some running to the market, others are concerned about too much of a good thing.
When Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon strip Dilbert, couldn't find nutritious fast food, he went back to the drawing board. He came up with the Dilberito, a burrito sprayed with 100 percent of all the vitamins and minerals a person needs in a day.
"It's just three minutes in the microwave, it's hand held, it works with a busy lifestyle," Adams said.
The Dilberito joins hundreds of other so-called nutraceuticals or functional foods which are now the leading trend in the U.S. food industry.
Some new ones to look for are salmon burgers with 50 percent more omega 3 fatty acids, chewing gums with calcium, and cookies with antioxidants and cakes with fiber.
"What we've done is we've fortified some of the traditional indulgent goods so people can have the foods they really want without feeling guilty," said Moira Watson of the Watson Foods Company.
But these vitamin and mineral supplemented foods have some wondering about overexposure to nutrients.
"We have a committee now looking at both coming up with dietary reference intakes which will include upper levels for iron, for vitamin A, for zinc and some of the other trace elements," said Allison Yakes of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Just an ounce of Total brand cereal and one Dilberito provide 200 percent of the recommended daily allowance for iron. For some, that could be dangerous.
According to Mark Kantor of the University of Maryland, "It's a very small segment of the population, but they have a genetic tendency to accumulate too much iron in their system. Iron is one of those minerals that once we take it in, it's hard to get rid of it, it stays with you."
With more functional foods entering the market, scientists advise eating them in moderation.i They say it's hard to measure how much active ingredient functional foods really have, and they cannot fully duplicate the benefits of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Still, food manufacturers are focusing a lot of attention on these foods, and American consumers are buying them. It is estimated sales of these designer foods will top $17 billion next year.
Functional foods may be key to food industry's future
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