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Ask Tufts Experts August 2012 Issue

Q: I see that the Girl Scouts will be adding “Food State Nutrition” from NutriFusion to one of their cookies next year. Are these vitamins really better than those in other fortified foods? Can the addition of some vitamins make cookies healthier?

Answer :  Diane L. McKay, PhD, an assistant professor at the Friedman School and scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, answers: “I plan to buy a box of their new Mango Cremes ‘with NutriFusion’ because I want to support my local Girl Scout troop, not because I am under any illusion that they will meet my nutrient needs.

“‘Food State Nutrition’ refers to nutrients that are derived from the whole food. It is a term used by dietary supplement and food ingredient manufacturers, like NutriFusion, to market products that are created by removing the moisture (i.e., drying) from fruits and vegetables down to a powder. Of course, consuming foods in their whole form is the most efficient way to deliver the essential nutrients they provide. However, NutriFusion has not conducted any independent studies on its concentrates for their bioavailability or toxicity, and cannot make any claims regarding their absorption or utilization by the body.

“The amount of vitamins provided in a single serving (usually just two cookies) is not at all substantial, about 5% of the requirement for vitamins A, B6, C, D and E, and 15% for B1. It’s enough to give the cookies a healthy halo, or make you think the product is good for you.” But the bottom line, McKay says, is that fortifying any product made primarily of sugar, refined flour and fat is not going to make it healthy—it’s still a cookie. Enjoy Girl Scout cookies as a treat, not health food.

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