Can Disease-Fighting Foods Replace Medicine?

Over 2,000 years ago, the father of Western medicine Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While his words certainly ring true, was he really predicting we’d actually use food in the same manner as medicine to combat disease? Some people seem to think so.

According to a presentation at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago, foods created and marketed for the specific purpose of fighting diseases is the “new frontier.”

The Big Food manufacturers will very soon (if not already) be focusing their efforts on creating foods designed to combat and prevent disease — specifically foods that contain natural inhibitors of the inflammation that damages blood vessels and promotes disease.

Anti-angiogenesis foods

President of the Angiogenesis Foundation Dr. William Li told IFT: “Blood vessels are critical to the health of every cell, every organ and for every function in the body. Research is now showing it’s possible to promote health and wellness using foods and beverages that influence angiogenesis.”

Now foods that have been modified to promote health are not actually a new thing.

Known as “functional foods” they’ve been used to promote public health — and by the food industry as a marketing tool — for some time now. For example, iodised salt is used when baking bread to help address low iodine levels population-wide. Plus there is a clear market for products that provide health benefits beyond their natural nutritional value.

But the “new frontier” – anti-angiogenesis foods – would be designed to go one step further, marketed as health products with the potential to replicate the effects of medicine.

Dr. Li went on to say, “Food is the medicine we consume three times a day. Can we use the same process (to modulate angiogenesis) at an earlier stage in healthy individuals? Can we get away from drugs and medical devices?”

Innovation can be trouble

Another major problem would be the regulation of food safety and marketing of anti-angiogenesis foods. The current regulatory framework doesn’t do a good job in covering the expanding catalogue of health claims by new products. I fear the regulation of food labelling laws would struggle to control and categorize medicinal food claims.

And just imagine how much the supplement industry could milk this.

Perhaps changing our dietary habits – what we eat and how much – is the path we should follow, rather than reliance on eating more food — even if it is a “functional food.”

So, would a food labelled “anti-angiogenic!” convince you to take out your credit card?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa1 years ago


JOSE HONRADO1 years ago

Not in the near future. We still need our medicines.

Olivia S.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks. Food safety is a big problem worldwide. Additionally I have read about horrible testing on animals by tea companies that want to label their products as addressing certain health issues.

Elke Hoppenbrouwers

frequent farmers' markets and you don't need medicine enhanced foods. What an idea if not GMO then supplements in food. What are we doing or better what are 'they' doing to us???

Maria S.
Maria S.2 years ago

Quite obviously! Food is is your body. Feed it what it IS not something that is going to work against its natural defenses.

Abbe A.
Azaima A.2 years ago

of course. Medicine replaced them, but they did fine before that.

Anna Undebeck
Anna Undebeck2 years ago

Yeah, thanks.

Kath P.
Kath P.2 years ago

Organic food is your first line of defense.

Sheyla Ventura
Sheyla V.2 years ago

Hmm... don't consider this to be a shock, really!

John De Avalon
John De Avalon2 years ago

Yes, the body functions on the nutrients found in natural, healthy food. So many illnesses are solely down to nutrient deficiency.