Future Foods For Thought Scientists are developing ordinary food that can help you lose weight and improve your health.

By Robert Hager
January 7, 2000
NBC News

Imagine an egg that doesn't make your cholesterol soar. Instead it actually helps you shed pounds, by making you feel full. That's just what Mark Cook is working on at the University of Wisconsin. He hopes it will be a food for the future.

"You could probably put it in cookies and, hopefully, after a person eats one or two cookies they have had enough," claims Cook. "And they don't sit down and eat the whole bag."

Then there's Bob Buchanan at the University of California-Berkeley. He's trying to make milk that's easier for allergic kids to digest.

And others are working on strawberries with extra antioxidants that could prevent cancer or rice with more vitamin-A - to keep people from going blind.

They're called designer foods. Some find them controversial. Others say they're the wave of the future - foods that are changed to do more than meet basic nutritional needs, changed to provide extra health benefits.

Already on the market are margarines with natural compounds to reduce your cholesterol. One is called "Take Charge"; the other is "Benacol."

In Europe there is a new line of juices and cereals with natural compounds, claiming to fight heart disease and strengthen bones.

Tufts University's Johanna Dwyer sees promise here: "(They are) possibly making nutritional standards better for a lot of people."

But she urges caution as well: "We want to make sure that what we do is safe and really has a benefit."

So what's Bob Buchanan hope to do to milk, to make it safe for the one in 20 kids who can't drink it? He treats it with a natural enzyme that seems to neutralize the allergy-causing substance.

"Everything looks fine at the moment, especially for experimental animals," says Buchanan. "We're able to remove the allergy from milk, and from all we can tell it will work for humans."

And how does the egg-man, Mark Cook, hope to find a product to keep people thin?

He starts with hen feed and enhances a natural substance in the eggs that fools people who eat those eggs into feeling full. The egg, or powder made from it, would be a natural appetite suppressant.

"You could put it in potato chips," says Cook. "You could put it in a whole package meal, which, when the person finishes a small portion of a meal they no longer have an appetite."

Some of these ideas will fail, but others may work and redesign foods to not only satisfy the pallet, but improve our health as well.

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