An innovative mineral supplement could help food makers overcome the poor nutritional value of food that is currently undermining consumer health, claims a nutrition expert.
Dr David Thomas, a primary healthcare practitioner and independent researcher who recently made a comparison of government nutritional tables published in 1940, and again in 2002, argues that the gradual degradation of the micronutrient value of food must be tackled by industry, consumers and regulators.
"We seem to be responding in a symptomatic matter without understanding the problem in the first place," Dr David Thomas, a primary healthcare practitioner and independent researcher told FoodNavigator.
"It seems to me we dont need to be so sophisticated we just need to step back and look at the reasons why we are unhealthy. Usually it's the bodys response to environmental stresses. We need a common sense approach."
He believes that the food industry has a vital role in reversing this trend.
"I work with supplements. But a while ago, it occurred to me that functional food ingredients would be a much better way of bridging this gap between a recognition of the need to consume micronutrients and the lack of these in everyday food."
Thomas argues that food manufacturers need to promote not just good looking, wonderful tasting and great smelling food, but also nutrient-rich food.
"This is the way forward," he said. "From an economic point view, food makers are selling added value products, and ultimately improving the health of consumers."
Thomas has a commercial interest in this. He is the European distributor for ConcenTrace, a mineral supplement developed from the Great Salt Lakes in the US. The company behind the product, Trace Minerals Research, says that it uses a natural process to remove the sodium to leave a formula about 26 times more concentrated than other liquid trace minerals on the market.
"When I was working in Africa, I was surprised to see evaporated seawater being used as medicine," he said. "Later I came across a similar product from the salt lakes that had been evaporated to remove sodium chloride crystals, to leave a kind of soup that contained trace elements of magnesium, selenium, boron and lithium.
"All these have roles in physiology. Magnesium is vital for example in the Krebs Cycle.
"This is basically what ConcenTrace is. I see huge potential for this product in the functional food sector. Were just at the beginnings of it. But I can see possibilities for its use in smoothies, energy bars, its an ideal product."
Minerals and trace minerals are the catalysts for all the vitamins and other nutrients your body uses for developing and maintaining good health. The minerals contained in ConcenTrace are ionic, which means that they are readily assimilated into the body.
And because it is salt-based, it has a flavouring aspect.
Thomas says that the poor nutritional value of food is an issue that must be tackled. His recent conclusions on the micronutrient value of food, which were published by the Food Commission this month, certainly make for alarming reading.
For example, the iron content in 15 different varieties of meat had decreased on average by 47 per cent, with some products showing a fall as high as 80 per cent, while the iron content of milk had dropped by over 60 per cent.
Copper and magnesium, essential for enzyme functioning, also showed losses in meat products. Magnesium levels have typically fallen by 10 per cent while copper levels have fallen by 60 per cent.
But things are slowly getting better. "There are also more and more functional drinks," said Thomas. "Silver Spring for example has just launched an omega 3 drink. There is quite a lot of innovation this niche, value added market is increasingly becoming the norm."
Ultimately says Thomas, education is the key, both children and parents.
"Little by little, as they say. What my background in geology taught me is that everything is an evolutionary process. There isn't always a way of forcing things."