Medical foods are becoming increasingly popular as patients and doctors alike search for alternatives to traditional medications. Medical Foods are in their own FDA regulated category and are defined as “a product specifically formulated for the dietary management of a nutritional need to manage a disease or health condition.” Unlike dietary supplements, medical foods are labeled to correct the nutritional deficiency related to a specific health concern. Dietary supplements, on the other hand, can only carry broad claims such as, “improves heart health,” but can’t state that they will, “prevent heart disease.” Medical foods must be proven to correct a nutritional deficiency in a specific patient population before they can be sold and are usually only available with a prescription.
Clinical research shows that ADHD may be associated with lipid imbalances. Vayarin® contains the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, which is believed to improve the behavior and mood of children with ADHD.
Vascazen® corrects an Omega-3 deficiency in patients with cardiovascular disease. Vascazen® is different from fish oil supplements sold over the counter because it has a unique 6:1 EPA: DHA ratio and is 90% pure omega-3s.
FOLTX® is used for the dietary management of hyperhomocysteinemia. Homocysteine is an inflammatory marker that is often increased in people with cardiovascular disease. It consists of folacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Chronic Pain and Osteoarthritis
TheramineTM influences the neurotransmitters that inhibit neuronal firing and reduce inflammation. TheramineTM acts synergistically with aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and contains the nutrients and neurotransmitter precursors that individuals with chronic pain are often deficient in. It is recommended for use in people suffering from fibromyalgia, headaches, back pain, joint pain, and muscle strain. TheramineTM does not contain any medication and carries no risk of addiction.
Limbrel® is formulated to meet the unique nutritional requirements of individuals with osteoarthritis. It contains a blend of natural ingredients from phytochemical food source materials; these ingredients can be found in everyday foods including soy, peanuts, cauliflower, kale, apples, apricots, cocoa and green tea.
Deplin® contains the active form of folate that many people suffering from depression need. Active folate helps the body to produce neurotransmitters and works in tandem with traditional antidepressants.
Diabetic Nerve Pain
MetanxTM contains active folate and other B vitamins necessary to improve blood flow and improve symptoms of diabetic nerve pain such as pain, numbness, and uncomfortable tingling.
Banatrol® Plus helps with the control of diarrhea caused by C. diff and other infectious diseases, antibiotics and other medications, gastroenteritis and enterocolitis, cancer treatment, and intolerance to tube-feeding. It consists of banana flakes (which thicken stool) and prebiotics.
Early Memory Impairment
Vayacog allows lipids to easily pass the blood-brain barrier and is used for the dietary management of complex lipid imbalances in early memory impairment.
AppTrim is formulated to manage the increased nutritional requirements of obesity and is said to provide specific amino acids and nutrients required to stimulate the production of the neurotransmitters that control appetite and hunger and encourage us to feel full after eating. AppTrim is supposed to be used in combination with an exercise and nutrition plan to reduce appetite, carbohydrate cravings, and weight. AppTrim does not require a prescription but should be taken under physician supervision. A two-capsule serving of AppTrim contains slightly less caffeine than a cup of coffee. AppTrim-D contains no caffeine.
GABAdone is intended for use in people who experience difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep, falling back to sleep after awakening at night, feeling tired upon awakening, and snoring. GABAdone provides the neurotransmitters that modulate the sleep cycle. To be specific, GABAdone contains, “a proprietary blend of neurotransmitter precursors (glutamate, 5-hydroxytryptophan, and choline bitartrate), neurotransmitters (GABA and glutamate), polyphenolic antioxidants (grape seed extract), an amino acid uptake stimulator (gingko biloba), activators of amino acid utilization (glutamate, cocoa powder), and an adenosine antagonist (cocoa powder).”
SentraPM is similar to GABAdone and induces sleep, promotes restorative sleep and reduces snoring in people with sleep problems related to depression. It contains Choline Bitartrate, Cocoa Extract, Glutamic Acid, Acetyl L-Carnitine HCL, Whey Protein Isolate (Milk), Dextrose, Ginkgo Biloba, Hawthorne Berry, and Griffonia Seed”.
There are many medical foods not discussed here, such as those that are critically important for individuals with complex metabolic disorders. The medical foods listed here are generally meant to be used in addition to traditional medication. The market will undoubtedly continue to grow as the population continues to age. Options are usually a good thing, though I do hope that the regulation of these products is made even tighter as they become more widely used. Someone who doesn’t have a medical background might think, “what’s the worse that could happen?” When you’re talking about the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in the brain or the increased consumption of nutrients that can interact with other medications or treatments, however, it’s easy to see why physician supervision is absolutely necessary.