Health food is food marketed to provide human health effects beyond a normal healthy diet required for human nutrition. Foods marketed as health foods may be part of one or more categories, such as natural foods, organic foods, whole foods, vegetarian foods or dietary supplements. These products may be sold in health food stores or in the health food or organic sections of grocery stores.
In the United States, health claims on nutrition facts labels are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while advertising is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Several other countries provide regulations on food labeling to address the quality of possible health foods, such as Canada and the European Food Safety Authority.
According to the FDA, "Health claims describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition".
In general, claims of health benefits for specific foodstuffs are not supported by scientific evidence and are not evaluated by national regulatory agencies. Additionally, research funded by manufacturers or marketers has been criticized to result in more favorable results than those from independently funded research.
While there is no precise definition for "health food", the FDA monitors and warns food manufacturers against labeling foods as having specific health effects when no evidence exists to support such statements, such as for one manufacturer in 2018.
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The following are examples of foods or dietary supplements marketed to be healthy, although no scientific evidence exists as of 2018 to support such belief:
- Broccoli sprouts
- Herbal extract, plants, often medicinal that are concentrated and standardized
- Herbal teas
- Honey, a naturally occurring whole sweetener
- Organic foods
- Certain oils, including olive oil and fish oil supplements
- Yogurt, traditional cultured milk product
- "Canada's food guides". Health Canada, Government of Canada. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- "Nutrition and health claims". European Food Safety Authority. 2017. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- "Claims That Can Be Made for Conventional Foods and Dietary Supplements". U.S. Food and Drug Administration. September 2003. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
- Lenard I. Lesser; Cara B. Ebbeling; Merrill Goozner; David Wypij; David S. Ludwig (January 9, 2007). "Relationship between Funding Source and Conclusion among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles". PLoS Medicine. 4 (1): e5. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040005. PMID 17214504. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors' products, with potentially significant implications for public health.
- Edmundo Garcia Jr. (9 March 2018). "Warning letter: Carol Bond Health Foods". US Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- Marette, A; Picard-Deland, E (2014). "Yogurt consumption and impact on health: Focus on children and cardiometabolic risk". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 99 (5 Suppl): 1243S–7S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.073379. PMID 24646821.
- Lazzerini, M; Rubert, L; Pani, P (2013). "Specially formulated foods for treating children with moderate acute malnutrition in low- and middle-income countries". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (6): CD009584. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009584.pub2. PMID 23794237.