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J Nutr. 2008 Jun;138(6):1216S-20S.

Health claims in the United States: an aid to the public or a source of confusion?

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Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Health claims in the United States have been a topic of intense controversy since the mid-1980s. Three categories of claims can currently be used on food and dietary supplement labels in the United States: 1) health claims, 2) nutrient content claims, and 3) structure/function claims. Structure/function claims were authorized under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act and describe the effect of a dietary supplement on the structure or function of the body. Nutrient content claims are used to describe the percentage of a nutrient in a product relative to the daily value. Health claims describe a relation between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition. Health claims are based on a very high standard of scientific evidence and significant scientific agreement. Are U.S. health claims really benefitting public health? Recent evidence suggests that this mode of communication has had limited success and in fact may be misleading to consumers.

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