Friday, May 20, 2016

FDA to Re-examine What Makes a Food ‘Healthy’

Which of these foods, if any, should be labeled “healthy”? Raisin bran? Avocados? Granola Bars?
Going by current – and perhaps outdated – U.S. food-labeling regulations, it’s impossible to know, food makers and legislators contend. But that’s about to change under a U.S. Food and Drug Administration plan to redefine the definition of “healthy” foods.

“We believe now is an opportune time to reevaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term ‘healthy,’” the FDA said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.

The process could take years, and will likely rely on public input. A bill in Congress, if approved, would urge the FDA to make this matter a priority, according to the news report.

The nutritional landscape and knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet has changed considerably since 1994, when the FDA first officially used the term “healthy.” Back then, health advocates were taking aim at fats – not sugar or gluten – which are among today’s targets.

By those old standards, sugary cereals like raisin bran might be considered a healthier option than an avocado, which contains “good” monounsaturated fat.

Among food makers urging a reevaluation of “healthy” is Kind LLC, a producer of granola bars, which was warned by the FDA last year to stop labeling its bars as “healthy” because of fat content, the Journal reported.

“We very much hope the FDA will change the definition of healthy, so that you don’t end up in a silly situation where a toaster pastry or sugary cereal can be considered healthy and a piece of salmon or bunch of almonds cannot,” Kind’s Chief Executive Daniel Lubetzky told the newspaper.

The FDA has since allowed Kind to keep using the phrase “healthy and tasty” on its bars, the Journal reported.

Sharon Zarabi is a nutritionist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She pointed out that in the early 1990s, fat was “demonized” for causing heart disease and obesity. Then sugar started to replace the fat in foods for enhanced flavor, “which may be responsible for our country’s rise in metabolic syndrome,” she said. By the early 2000s, “carbs got a bad rap so we followed the Atkins Diet, South Beach and other trends of low-carb, high-protein diets,” she added

Zarabi’s suggestion: “Why not just go back to eating clean and simple? Single-ingredient foods that are not bound together by sugar, and not enhanced with ingredients we cannot pronounce. Remember when fruits and vegetables were the snack Mom used to put in our lunch box and our only source of calories – aka fuel?

My Take:
Fat was “demonized” in the 1990s to sell statin drugs. The food industry jumped on the bandwagon by manufacturing processed food that “reduced” the fat. Of course these “low-fat foods” were not only high in sugar, but loaded with trans-fats, the really dangerous fat, and a host of artificial ingredients.

Zarabi is correct and I love the term “single-ingredient” food. A granola bar may contain healthy fat, but an avocado is a single-ingredient food that is healthy. A whey protein shake is not necessarily unhealthy, but it is a processed form of protein. Why not eat an egg?

The diets of the early 2000s were not just a response to the increase in carbs in our diet. They were also a response to mainstream medicine’s contention that fat is bad and the cause of heart disease.

The Bottom Line:
Don’t wait on the FDA to come up with new, equally out dated recommendations on “healthy” food. Just review my blogs on diets from the past two months and pick one that suits your lifestyle.

Source: May 10, 2016 National Institutes of Health

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