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The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to halt sales of so-called functional foods. I hope that you are educated consumers and are not fooled by the unbelievable advertising that some foods are using. Take a look at the labels on Snapple Ginseng Tea or GinkOs cereal. They claim they will promote sharp thinking.

Anyone who buys this nonsense is just wasting his money. Do you really believe that you can think better and have higher brain power just by eating a cereal? Unfortunately, many people are naive enough to waste their money on nonsense. How about Gourmet Echinacea Shells, that are promoted as "an effective antibiotic". There are no foods that can be used to treat an infection.

There is no solid evidence that ginseng or gingko improves thinking, but for this discussion of functional foods, let's assume they do. Do you really believe that Snapple Ginseng Tea will contain enough ginseng to promote clear thinking? Ginseng is a stimulant just like amphetamine. If you were to take too much ginseng, you would get diarrhea and a headache; a massive overdose could raise your blood pressure, cause a stroke and even death. If the correct dose of ginseng is contained in one cup of the tea, that means that you are taking a drug; two cups can give you a headache and three may kill you. Any reasonable person has to realize that it's the dose that makes a poison. If a food causes a health benefit, you have to eat an exact dose. If you eat less, you don't receive the benefit. If you eat too much, you can die.

Drugs and supplements specify the dose on the bottle; if you take a whole bottle-full instead of one pill and die of an overdose, the manufacturer will not be held responsible. But nobody measures exact doses of food. What happens if you drink the Ginseng Tea all day to quench your thirst? The same applies to New Morning GingkOs Cereal. How much cereal do you have to eat to improve your mind? What happens if your child like the flavor and eats the whole box? Foods that truly contain medicines could harm or kill you if you ate too much. Of course the functional food manufacturers are not that stupid, so they put in so little of the substance that it cannot possibly harm you in any amount – and therefore, of course, cannot have any benefit. This is deceptive advertising at its very worst.

Checked 7/3/09

June 2nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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