Food & Pharma

This news headline in today’s Food Product Design caught my attention: “Nestle Aims to Blur Line Between Food, Medicine.” Nestle announced it will invest $500 million to pioneer a new industry between food and pharma.

Curious wording I thought. A “new industry between food and pharma.” Pharma is an abbreviation for medicine. Food being medicine is not a new thought. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.” Somehow I doubt this is Nestle’s intention.

Then, my mind took a detour. Isn’t Nestle the company responsible for processed breakfast foods, chocolate and candy like Smarties, power bars, nutritional support drinks and bottled Perrier water? Are they now saying whole food is the way to prevent and cure disease? I hardly think so.

It seems to me that Nestle wants to jump on the nutrition bandwagon. Vitamins and whole foods are big business. I don’t think they will stray from the way their current products are produced. For example, in their nutritional support drinks for kids and adults, the first ingredient is water. Second is maltodextrin, a sugar substitute.

Maltodextrin is widely used in meal replacements and quite possibly damaging to your body. Studies have shown that long-term use of the artificial sweetener sucralose, which is made from dextrose and maltodextrin, may shrink the thymus gland and enlarge the liver and kidney. Intial studies were done with mice. Basically, maltodextrin is nothing more than a blend of the sugars maltose and dextrose formulated commonly from corn starch (sometimes rice). The real problem is that maltodextrin has no nutritional value. In fact, maltodextrin has a Glycemic Index (the rate your insulin levels raise in response to consumed sugars) of a whopping 150. Maltodextrin comes in highest on the Glycemic Index of ALL sweeteners! Table sugar is has a GI value of 80!

Why don’t I feel comforted with the idea that food and pharma will make people healthier? Somehow, the two don’t go together. The vitamins added to processed foods are synthetic. Whatever happened to eating whole foods? Isn’t that the best nutrition? Science-based food is designed to make us feel better about the processed food choices we are making. I don’t believe they’re the best form of nutrition we can buy.

Hippocrates had it right, “Let food (not pharma) be thy medicine and medicine thy food.”

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