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How Marketing is Making Junk Food Healthier

May 24, 2011

Often times, picking out the healthiest food for you and your family can be harder than it seems. When TV commercials are constantly selling us the health benefits of everything from low-fat, frozen meals to yogurt with added probiotics, it’s hard to know what to put in your shopping cart at the grocery store anymore.

Large food companies, such as Kellogg and General Mills, are doing all they can to sell products in a world experiencing an economic slump to people that are looking for cheap, added health benefits.  In the article “Food With Benefits, or So They Say” The New York Times analyzes the actual health benefits of so called “Functional Foods.” What they found is that several claims are based on loose studies.

For example, Activia’s claim that their yogurt will help regulate your digestive track if eaten every day for 2 weeks, was tested by scientists who found that the yogurt needed to be eaten three times a day for 2 weeks to show even the slightest improvement to a person’s digestive track. Another unrealistic marketing push is General Mill’s claim that kids who eat Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast have 20 percent better attentiveness in the morning. However, in this study, the attention span of children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats is compared to children who only had water for breakfast. 

Misleading health claims on “Functional Foods” packaging, are hard to ignore and can lead to a lot of confusion for consumers that have limited knowledge on the value of whole foods and proper nutrition.

The best way to be assured that you are eating for your health, is to incorporate fresh whole foods into your diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, are natural sources of nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

What are your thoughts on the “so called” added health benefits of “Functional Foods?” Should large food corporations be allowed to market in this way? What measures should the F.D.A use to regulate marketing health claims on food packaging?