Fortified foods aren’t necessarily the key to good health

Cannabis Market

According to Jo Robinson’s book Eating on the Wild Side, thousands of years of agriculture have drastically changed our food. By domesticating once-wild plants for easy cultivation, we have inadvertently stripped away a lot of the nutrients that once kept our bones strong, our brains sharp, and helped us fight disease.

The relatively low nutritive value of modern food is compounded by the long distances food has to travel before getting to us.

So now, ironically, the food industry is trying to put nutrients back into our food with functional foods and nutraceuticals. The global market for these fortified foods was worth $200.9 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $287 billion by 2020, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7.39%.

Functional foods and nutraceuticals are synonyms that refer to food and drinks that provide additional health benefits on top of their basic nutritional value. These usually come in the form of fortified food and drinks, and dietary supplements.

Global functional food and nutraceuticals market by product 2015-2020 ($ billions)

Source: Technavio

Increased sales of functional foods and nutraceuticals are a direct, if perhaps misguided, attempt to curb booming obesity worldwide. From 1980 to 2014, global obesity rates more than doubled. In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, with over 600 million of these qualifying as obese—that’s 13% of the global population.

While obesity was previously considered to be much more prevalent in high-income countries, changing lifestyles, unhealthy dietary habits, and modern agricultural practices have made it a global health concern.

In the US alone, lost work days due to obesity-related health issues are estimated to total losses of $4.3 billion annually, with lower productivity costing employers $506 per worker.

So critical eyes are turning towards the food industry as the main cause for these numbers. But not everyone has the knowledge, time, and wherewithal to painstakingly select the most nutrient-dense foods, store, and prepare them correctly to get all the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. So food manufacturers and consumers alike are turning to nutraceuticals as the quick-fix for a raft of modern health problems.

That’s not to say that fortified foods aren’t good—there’s a lot of benefits to be had from supplements. But the best way to absorb nutrients is still through naturally occurring phytonutrients and simply pumping sub-par foods full of extra vitamins is not the road to good health.

For more information on the functional foods and nutraceuticals market, view Technavio’s new report