Will this be the new ‘Vitamin M’?? Well…no… but they could potentially become fortified with vitamins, falsely leading us to believe that eating them is good for us.

Fortified junk food may soon be appearing on grocery shelves, according to a recent proposal from Health Canada. The proposed policy change would allow food manufacturing companies to add vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium to their junk food, in order to make their product appear healthier to us, the consumer. Health Canada’s thinking behind this is that if we are going to eat junk food, we might as well be getting some kind of ‘nutritional benefit’ out of it. The problem with this plan is that it runs the risk of leading us to believe that eating junk food is good for us.

In a society where we are battling an ever increasing prevalence of obesity, we are fighting hard to decrease consuption of high calorie junk food. If this Health Canada policy is put into action, the concern is that this will actually lead to an increase in junk food consumption.

For example: You might have been told by your doctor that you are not getting enough calcium in your diet, so if you saw a bag of chips on the shelves fortified with calcium, would that make you more likely to buy them? Whereas if those chips hadn’t been on the shelves, you would have continued down and past the chips aisle, and on to purchase some skimmed milk or a bottle of Tums (both great sources of calcium).

Canada does fortify a limited number of foods already, such as adding vitamin D to milk, and folic acid to flour. However, the key differences here are:

1. These fortifications were designed to replace specific deficiencies in the population; and
2. These fortifications were added to foodstuffs that are generally healthy staples of our diets.

In contrast, adding iron to a chocolate bar is not replacing a specific deficiency in the population, nor is a chocolate bar a healthy daily staple in our diet! We are not a nation plagued with a multitude of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies in need of rapid correction – a multivitamin is a calorie free way to get most of what you need (be sure to speak to your doctor about your specific requirements).

Human nature, based on thousands of years of evolution, drives us to want to eat high calorie, good tasting foods, to store fat for times where food is not readily available. In a world where food is abundant at all times, we have to let our brains override our genetic drive, in order to make the conscious choice to walk by the unhealthy, high calorie junk food in favor of healthier choices.

There are enough excuses to eat junk food out there – who needs another one?

Dr. Sue © 2009 www.drsue.ca drsuetalks@gmail.com