Don't Look for Magic from "Functional Food"

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A May 4, 2005 column by dietician Cinda Williams Chima in the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes ACSH among voices cautioning that "functional foods" are overhyped:

Some food manufacturers have fortified conventional foods with herbal supplements, marketing the products as dietary supplements with structure-function claims to avoid the arduous process of obtaining approval for the active ingredient as a food additive. For example:

--A few years ago, manufacturers added St. John's wort and echinacea to soups and juices, which then were sold as dietary supplements.

--A line of snack foods was enhanced with herbal ingredients such as kava kava.

The FDA issued warning letters to manufacturers when it judged the products were in fact conventional foods.

The American Council on Science and Health has evaluated the strength of the scientific evidence supporting the benefits of various functional foods. In the meantime, let the buyer beware.