ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
CANCER
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
HPV Vaccine Has Higher Allergic Reaction Rate
Papaya Could Be a Cancer Fighter
CAREGIVING
High Rate of Rehospitalizations Costing Billions
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
DIABETES
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
DIET, NUTRITION
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Go Healthy, Not Hungry for Holiday Eating
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Disinfectants Can Boost Bacteria's Resistance to Treatment
Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
FITNESS
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
A Little Alcohol May Help the Heart: Studies
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
SENIORS
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Natural Therapies for Menopause
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
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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)