They’re putting vitamins in our cereals, calcium in our orange juice and omega-3 fatty acids in eggs. These new products are coming to a store near you. Are they right for you?
By Diane Spivak
First published in Chatelaine’s March 2003 issue.
© Rogers Publishing Ltd.
Pass on the herbs
Manufacturers have cashed in on the health-food craze by adding medicinal herbs to teas, soups and snack foods. Popular additives include St. John’s wort, a natural antidepressant; ginkgo biloba, a memory enhancer; and echinacea, an immune system booster.
Are they worth it?
Experts are concerned about the efficacy and safety of herbal-based food products because there are no government regulations to monitor their manufacture. In fact, it’s difficult to know if an herb works when it’s mixed in a food or liquid, says Julie Conquer, director of the human nutraceutical research unit at the University of Guelph. And dosing is a hit-and-miss proposition, according to Anthony Godfrey, a doctor of naturopathic medicine in Toronto. Are you getting too much echinacea if you drink 10 iced teas a day? As well, some people have had allergic reactions to the herb. Ginkgo biloba appears to boost memory only in those with circulatory problems, but it can react with blood thinners.
Are they for you?
Most experts suggest you avoid foods with herbal additives. It’s unlikely they have any benefit.