Introduction to Functional Foods by gregoria


									                                             Functional Foods:
                                             Opportunities and Challenges
                                             Introduction to Functional Foods
     While food has long been used to          from whole foods and apply different re-         Shifting the Health Care Paradigm
improve health, our knowledge of               quirements for benefit claims and sup-                “An apple a day keeps the doctor
health is now being used to improve            porting scientific documentation. The            away” could perhaps be considered the
food. Strictly speaking, all food is func-     panel considered this legal distinction          first functional food advertisement. Func-
tional, in that it provides energy and         and decided that, from a scientific per-         tional foods offer opportunities to reduce
nutrients necessary for survival. But the      spective, dietary supplements should be          disease risk and promote wellness with
term “functional food” in use today            included in the definition of functional         minimal health professional involvement.
conveys health benefits that extend far        foods. Supplements merely constitute a                A growing number of consumers per-
beyond mere survival. Food and nutri-          different delivery vehicle for a bioactive       ceive the ability to control their health by
tion science has moved from identify-          component, and therefore the scientific          improving their present health and/or
ing and correcting nutritional deficien-       demonstration of efficacy and safety re-         hedging against aging and future disease.
cies to designing foods that promote           mains the same.                                  These consumers create a demand for
optimal health and reduce the risk of                                                           food products with enhanced characteris-
disease.                                       Applying Scientific Advances                     tics and associated health benefits. The
     The costly and complex process of              Creating a scientifically valid distinc-    combination of consumer interest, ad-
translating scientific advances and nu-        tion between food and medicine has nev-          vances in food technology, and new evi-
tritional innovations into consumer            er been easy. Early nutrition research fo-       dence-based science linking diet to disease
products is not without pitfalls. Sound        cused on establishing the necessary intake       and disease prevention provides an un-
science must underlie the development,         levels for vitamins and minerals, result-        precedented opportunity to improve pub-
marketing, and regulation of these new         ing in cures for numerous deficiency-            lic health.
functional foods to protect and inform         based diseases. Recent scientific advances            A new self-care paradigm recognizes
consumers. Regulatory oversight must           have further blurred the line between            that foods can provide health benefits that
ensure the safety and efficacy of prod-        food and medicine, as scientists identify        can coexist with traditional medical ap-
ucts and the accuracy of their market-         bioactive food components that can re-           proaches to disease treatment. Science has
ing claims.                                    duce the risk of chronic disease, improve        clearly demonstrated additional dietary
                                               quality of life, and promote growth and          roles in reducing disease risk, and con-
Defining Functional Foods                      development.                                     sumers have learned that food has a
    The term “functional food,” al-                 Traditional definitions of and divi-        greater impact on health than previously
though arbitrary, is nonetheless useful        sions between food and medicine should           known. At the same time, consumers rec-
to convey to consumers the unique              not restrict consumer access to knowl-           ognize problems with the current health
characteristics of the food and its asso-      edge about the benefits of functional            care system, perceiving that it is often ex-
ciated health benefits. The Expert Re-         foods. Likewise, the framework for               pensive, time-constrained, and imperson-
port defines functional foods as foods         strong regulatory oversight should not           al.
and food components that provide a             present unnecessary barriers to the devel-            Functional foods fit into a continuum
health benefit beyond basic nutrition          opment and marketing of functional               that ranges from health maintenance/pro-
(for the intended population). Exam-           foods. Where existing terminology and            motion to disease treatment. On one end
ples may include conventional foods;           regulatory frameworks are inadequate,            of the continuum are public health pro-
fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods;        they must be modified.                           grams aimed at reducing disease risk in a
and dietary supplements. Functional                 Research currently underway will re-        large segment of the population through
foods provide essential nutrients be-          veal how a myriad of substances can be           self-directed lifestyle changes. On the oth-
yond quantities necessary for normal           used as functional food components. In           er end of the continuum is individualized
maintenance, growth, and develop-              some cases, advances are as simple as            treatment of disease by health care profes-
ment, and/or provide other biologically        better understanding the role and opti-          sionals, using drugs and other medical in-
active components that impart health           mal levels of traditional nutrients, espe-       terventions.
benefits or desirable physiological ef-        cially for specific subpopulations. New               Our health care system has a role for
fects.                                         research in proteomics, nutrigenomics,           all these treatment options. Functional
    When defining functional foods, a          metabolomics, and other disciplines is           foods should be integral components of
word about dietary supplements is nec-         helping to identify the biological basis by      established health programs to reduce the
essary. Some current legal standards           which food components promote health             risk of specific diseases while enhancing
classify dietary supplements separately        and wellness.                                    consumer control and minimizing cost.

 Recognizing the tremendous health benefits offered by functional foods, the Institute of Food Technologists commissioned an expert
 panel to review the available scientific literature related to functional food development. The panel’s report is divided into nine sections:
 Definitions, Introduction, Food and Genes, Current Legal Standards, Scientific Standards, Policy Limitations, Bringing Functional Foods to
 Market, Role of Research, and Conclusions. Copies of the report are available at Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food
 Technologists is a 26,000-member international not-for-profit scientific society for food science and technology.

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