ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
'Snowbirds' Beware the Climate Changes
New Clues to How Fish Oils Help Arthritis Patients
More Faces Being Spared in Motor Vehicle Accidents
CANCER
Smokeout '08: The Perfect Time to Quit
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
CAREGIVING
Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors
New Guidelines for Treating Heart Failure
Flu Strikes a Milder Blow This Season
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
DIET, NUTRITION
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Are Medical Meetings Environmentally Unfriendly?
Green Areas Lower Health Inequities Between Rich, Poor
EYE CARE, VISION
Cases of Age-Related Farsightedness to Soar
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
Vision Test for Young Children Called Unreliable
FITNESS
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Smog Tougher on the Obese
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not
Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
Folic Acid Reduces Infant Heart Defects
MEN'S HEALTH
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Omega-3 May Reduce Endometriosis Risk
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
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Functional Foods Uncovered

From calcium-fortified orange juice to acai-spiked smoothies, functional foods have slowly become a mainstream part of our modern food supply. It seems healthy, natural and organic are not enough anymore as companies are adding additional claims to help differentiate their products in a competitive market place. The Nutrition Business Journal, a trade publication that tracks functional foods, defines functional food as “any modified food or food ingredients that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.” This has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the food industry. But often times, functional food label claims do not tell the whole story of what’s in the product. Ingredients like refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, or artificial ingredients may be hidden behind healthy catch phrases.

The origin of functional foods in the U.S. can be traced back to the 1920’s, when iodine was added to salt to prevent goiters. Credited with starting the current movement, the Japanese government began implementing an official approval system for functional foods in 1991. In Japan, “Food for Specified Health Use” or FOSHU are approved products that make specific health claims on product labels. There were 755 FOSHU approved products in Japan at the end of 2007. In an attempt to capture the market share in healthy foods, many products in the U.S. are being marketed in a similar vein. While there are specific FDA-approved health claims companies can use, most will utilize the loophole of a “structure-or-function claim”, a claim that a food can affect the structure or function of the body. This does not require FDA approval. The reality is most functional foods have not been clinically tested or the claims are loosely supported by clinical data.

When it comes to making food choices these days, many people find themselves in the midst of a marketing circus. This can be seen in the popularity of yogurt and yogurt drinks with added probiotics, juices and teas with added herbs and super foods, and omega-3 enriched table spreads. With companies making alluring and sometimes-outrageous claims, it is ultimately up to the consumer to figure out what is best for them. Therefore, it is imperative to read the Nutrition Facts Label and ingredients list when judging the overall quality of a product. For example, look for naturally processed sweeteners (unrefined cane juice powder, agave, fruit juices, and rice syrup) over chemically processed sweeteners (white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup) and artificial sweeteners. But most importantly, don't forget about nature's "functional foods". Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality protein ultimately provide the best support for the structure and function of the body. And best of all, no labels, advertising, or marketing gimmicks are needed!

-Dr. Christine Gonzalez (Integrative PharmD, CHC)