Functional food

Fitmacher or Mogelpackung?

Functional Food MMCD
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Bread with omega-3 fatty acids, yoghurt with probiotic cultures, margarine with phytosterols, fitness drinks with ACE more and more foods are today not only food, but at the same time also "health-giving". Eating to be full is no longer enough. The trend of the future is food as medicine.

True to the motto of Hippocrates: Lass food be your medicine and medicine your food shopping in the supermarket seems to replace the walk to the pharmacy today almost. Additions of vitamins, trace elements or enzymes in more and more foods keep us healthy, fit and young jeden that promises advertising at any rate.

A multitude of tailor-made "functional foods" are supposed to provide the stressed-out people of today with everything they actually or supposedly do not get enough with their food. And not only that: The additives make, according to the promises of the industry, also slim, strengthen the immune system, lower the cholesterol or even work against cancer. Who wants to say no?

Because the people in the industrialized countries are getting older, but also getting sicker: Never before have there been so many overweight, diabetics or cardiovascular patients. And a large part of these diseases are attributed to our diet: Experts estimate that more than a third of all vascular disease, a quarter of all diabetes cases and even up to 35 percent of all cancers would be preventable through proper nutrition. As a result of the empty coffers in health care, efforts and appeals for a healthy diet are mounting.

But this is precisely the problem: Although lactobacilli, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid or vitamin C can also be found in many conventional foods such as yoghurt, vegetables, fruit or fresh fish, who has the time to buy everything fresh and prepare? In the age of fast food and microwave, things have to be quick and easy. The small bite in between is trumps, for long cooking in the daily working life usually no time anyway. display

This is where the new "nutraceuticals" come in: they add lemonades, yoghurt or sweets with the corresponding additives and consumers can enjoy their healthy diet without having to change their diet. Practical - especially for food producers: While the rest of the industry is more ailing, the manufacturers of functional foods are experiencing double-digit growth rates. Already one in six yoghurt is probiotic and ACE drinks multiplied their sales in Germany from 1996 to 2002 from nine to 226 million liters.

The business with health professionals is booming. Science too has jumped on this train long ago. In Germany, however, with considerable delay to Japan and the US. Meanwhile, there is even a "Functional Food Competence Center" at the University of Hanover, which aims to coordinate and promote the work of research institutions and companies in this field.

But what about the promises? Are the functional foods really "enjoyment without remorse"? Or are there risks and side effects, of which the pharmacist knows nothing? Which additives are useful, which are not?

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Nadja Podbregar
As of: 23.04.2004