Perhaps inspired by USA Today, the New York Times discusses DHA, an omega-3 fat sold as a food additive. “Magical or overrated?” is the question posed by the headline. According to Marion Nestle, overrated:
â€œMy experience in nutrition is that single nutrients rarely produce miracles,â€ said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and the author of â€œWhat to Eat,â€ published last year. â€œBut itâ€™s also been my experience that companies will put anything in their food if they think the extra marketing hype will help them sell more of it.â€
Single nutrients rarely produce miracles? There is a long history in nutrition of just that: The story of the discovery of vitamins. One single-nutrient miracle after another. Given that history, the claims for omega-3 are plausible. If Nestle has an alternative explanation for the many results that point to the benefits of omega-3, that would be interesting to hear. It wasn’t provided in the article. “Companies will put anything in their food if they think the extra marketing hype will help them sell more of it”? Well, B vitamin supplementation of flour has cut the rate of neural tube birth defects roughly in half, a huge benefit, a huge amount of averted misery. Given that success, it is reasonable to think that other supplementation might also be helpful — to everyone. I discuss derogatory treatment of food companies (“will put anything in their food if . . . hype will help them sell more of it”) in the last chapter of The Shangri-La Diet. Curiously enough, Jane Jacobs once said, you can only change something if you love it.