Health Claims on the Label

Another bit of nutrition information might appear on food labels: a health claim. Health claims link food— or food components—in your overall eating plan with a lowered risk for some chronic diseases. Since this information is optional, many foods that meet the criteria don't carry any health claim on their label.

Strictly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), health claims are supported by scientific evidence. So far these health claims have been approved on food, linking food, food substances, or nutrients to these health conditions:

  • Calcium and osteoporosis
  • Sodium and hypertension
  • Dietary fat and cancer
  • Saturated fat and cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Fiber-containing grain products, fruits, and vegetables and cancer
  • Fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber, particularly soluble fiber, and their risk of coronary heart disease
  • Fruits and vegetables and cancer
  • Folate and neural tube defects
  • Sugar alcohol or sucrolose and dental caries (cavities)
  • Soluble fiber from certain foods and the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Soy protein and the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Plant sterol/stanol esters and the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Whole-grain foods and the risk of heart disease and certain cancers
  • Potassium and the risk of high blood pressure and stroke
  • Moderate fat whole-grain foods and the risk of coronary heart disease
  • A few other health claims are approved for supplement labels; see chapter 23.) See the Appendices for specifics.

With so much emerging science on nutrition and health, some qualified health claims have been approved, too, showing the relationship between a food component and health or reduced disease risk. But a caveat, or qualifying language, must appear with it since scientific evidence isn't conclusive. Check the Appendices for a Web site to find permitted qualified health claims.

When you read health claims, remember: your food choices are just one factor that can reduce your risk for certain health problems. Heredity, physical activity, and smoking are among other factors that affect your health and risk for disease.

Nutrition Essentials

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