I'll have some of that

Omega3? I’ll have some of that.

Now I maybe pretty un-reconstructed but I shouldn’t give the impression that health consciousness and healthy eating are totally foreign to me – because they’re not. Having said this I still find it curious how my breakfast these days seems to leave old-fashioned muesli wheezing asthmatically in the dust.

Breakfast now resembles the multi-coloured aggregate we used to feed the guinea pig – who incidentally lost his appeal as a pet after about a week and a half, and then outstayed his welcome by about 3 years. Not that my breakfast has the same seemingly electric effect on my libido. Thank goodness – otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed on the bus.

Apart from the occasional Friday lapse – nuts, seeds, grains, oats, berries, dried fruits and other dried ascetica have now replaced the guilty pleasures of a sausage sandwich or a bacon roll. And this somehow goes to show how far the revolution in healthcare and personal well-being has advanced – far beyond the front lines of future featurers and early adopters, and well into the ranks of obdurate resisters skulking towards the rear.

With this and, for example, the resurgent media debate on GM foods in mind, it seems particularly timely that we have been working over the past few weeks on briefs for natural flower remedies and for foods (naturally) enhanced to deliver increased levels of Omega 3. So time spent looking at data, visiting gardens, talking to nutritionists and therapists, interrogating production processes – the usual drill – and also looking for hard evidence.

What brought it home to us is that, in just about every market sector you can think of, consumers are increasingly and quite rightly preoccupied with the integrity of what they’re buying. They seemingly go in relentless pursuit of guaranteed provenances, authenticity, assured quality, proven naturalness, carbon footprints, whether it was grown by someone called Geoff in Suffolk, and so on.

There is an increasing crescendo of desire and demand for products which can stand up to the hard light of forensic consumer scrutiny.

And yet…

It’s also fascinating to observe how the consumer’s thirst for hard evidence and proof of integrity can still, at the same time be easily short-circuited by illogical trust in received but un-interrogated wisdoms, or by their putting absolute faith in the word of friends, quasi-professionals or (worst of all) plausible celebrity.

Take Omega3 for instance – and indeed you should – it will, after all, make you cleverer, healthier, stronger, suppler and younger. And who knows it may also enable you to breathe under water, see in the dark, juggle, play the violin, and it may restore your hair.

What’s really astonishing is the way it is being added to an ever-widening range foods, particularly foods suitable for children, without consumers really understanding what it’s doing there. Of course, they understand that Omega 3 is good for you and that our bodies need it, but how it works in a particular enhanced food seems rarely to be questioned.

Do they know whether their bodies can actually use the Omega3 they are ingesting? Do they know what sort of Omega3 it actually is? Do they know why their bodies actually need Omega3? Do they know that a lot of the Omega3 that goes in one end fairly promptly leaves through the other? Do they realise exactly how much of the food substance they are consuming they’d need to achieve a recommended daily allowance?

The answer to all of these is almost certainly no. And when you start to do the calculations, the real answer to the last question is quite mind-boggling.

Omega3, like so many wonder ingredients that have also gained unimpeachable status with the cynical and sceptical consumer, has become a kind of universal truth. Good in many respects but, as a demonstration of the consumer’s appetite for rigorous analysis, perhaps it shows that things haven’t changed that much.

So then, some oily fish for lunch? I don’t know, though; the cheeseburger looks awfully good.

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