Forbes feature on "snake oil in your snacks"

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Nice piece on how “Foods masquerading as drugs have become a $160 billion business” and how even products that flop in clinical trials continue to be marketed as if their evidence was golden. Excerpts:

Foods masquerading as drugs are the hot spot in the packaged-food business. The world’s biggest food companies are stuffing ostensibly beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids and other additives into packaged foods. They are funding clinical research in order to justify health claims–often deliberately vague–that blur the line between nutrition and medicine. The foods promise to boost immunity, protect your heart and digestive system or help you sleep. In some cases, like the ProBugs kefir, manufacturers aren’t adding new ingredients but merely repackaging old foods with bold new health claims.

But most of the claims “are completely unsubstantiated,” says Steven Nissen, head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. “Medical attention does not come from a Cheerios box.” Designer foods can be a way for clever marketers to lure people away from real health foods–fresh fruits and vegetables. “It plays on our psychology,” says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. “We want to consume sugar; we want to consume fat; we want to consume salt. These products give us an excuse to binge.”

Read the entire column to run the gamut from probiotics to pomegranates.

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