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Nutrition in the 21st century.

Predicting the future is not an easy endeavor, and nutrition is no exception. However, it may be of benefit to spot trends which appear to be developing, especially if these trends enable us to take steps which will prepare us to deal with future developments. Which nutritional trends appear to be important in the next century?

A. Designer Foods. There is a unique alliance between nutritionist, chemists, botanists and physicians to help "design" new food which will either:

1. Increase health giving benefits known to exist in certain foods.

2. Reduce detrimental factors found in foods we eat.

An example of the first type is the attempt to identify cancerfighting aspects of certain vegetables. The second type of alteration is exemplified by production of eggs with reduced cholesterol content. We can expect to see more attempts to produce such "designer foods."

A word of caution: The public should insist on extensive testing before widespread use of such new foods is permitted. At present, the broad outlines of the "food and health" connection are becoming increasingly clear. To be avoided are artificial substances as well as excessively processed and refined foods. Highly nutritious foods are vegetables, especially those rich in beta-carotene, natural fiber, whole grains, and members of the cabbage family. If nature can be "coaxed" to produce more protective foods, we should applaud this step. Prudent investigation can assure us of the safety of these "improved" foods.

B. Nutrients Against Disease. The future will justify the efforts of those pioneering physicians and nutritionists who proposed nutritional therapy for many health problems. What more should we look for in the future?

1. Major clinical, scientifically controlled studies to test the efficacy of nutrients against specific diseases. Virtually the only studies in this area have been in the limited field of "Vitamin C versus the common cold." There are a host of nutrients waiting to be tested against many health problems. Unfortunately, from an economic point of view, because nutrients cannot be patented, there is little support coming from industry. Perhaps such funds will come from other sources and a comprehensive wholistic nutritional approach will be institutionalized, replacing more expensive and possibly dangerous medicinal drugs.

2. It is also to be hoped that major insurance companies will pay for nutritional therapy when practiced by competent nutrition-oriented physicians, enabling them to attract enough patients to impress both their colleagues and the world at large.

C. Accessory Nutrients. In addition to the basic nutrients known to be essential in human nutrition, the public is confronted with an immense array of accessory nutrients such as herbs, plant extracts, animal extracts, fish by-products, exotic mushrooms, unusual aminoacids, and various "co-factors." What developments will we see in this area?

1. The sorting-out process: It is to be hoped that nutrition-oriented physicians and researchers will find their way through a maze of products, unfettered and able to determine which can be of major benefit, which are useful, which are generally useless and which can actually be harmful. It is a task that may take several decades.

2. Standardization: We are already seeing the broad outlines of a new campaign by the progressive elements of the nutritional and health-food industry. This campaign is meant to standardize items which are now neither regulated nor stardardized. An example will make this clear. If a manufacturer sells "vitamin B1, 100 mg," he must be certain that the product contains what the label lists (within the upper and lower limits set by the government). Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is a clearly defined substance that can be tested and identified precisely. However, the same manufacturer marketing "bioflavonoids 100 mg." need meet no such standards, although tests are available. Depending on the honesty, integrity and competence of the maker, a product by Manufacturer "A" may have a high content of bioflavonoids or (or Manufacturer "B") contain little more than dried fruit rind with a minimum of active ingredients.

If two physicians tested bioflavonoids for capillary fragility and one used the high potency product of Manufacturer "A" while the other used the product of Manufacturer "B," it is clear that a fair and scietific test of this substance would not have been conducted.

The nutrition industry is now taking first steps toward standardization of these products, which will allow them to be researched for possible benefits without fear that critics will say "apples are being compared with oranges." The public can assist by insisting that manufacturers conform to standardized products as they become available.

The future is promising in the sciences of nutritional therapy. An enlightened, informed public can contributed significantly to success.

Note: Call or write for a free copy of Dr. Zimmerman's pamphlet, Nutrients For Memory. Contact: Freeda Vitamins, Inc., 36 East 41 Street, New York, New York 10017 -- 1-800-777-3737.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Vegetus Publications
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Zimmerman, Philip W.
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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