Functional Food concept overview
That foods might provide therapeutic benefits is clearly not a new concept. The tenet, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” was embraced ∼2500 years ago by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. However, this “food as medicine” philosophy fell into relative obscurity in the 19th century with the advent of modern drug therapy. In the 1900s, the important role of diet in disease prevention and health promotion came to the forefront once again.
In 1912, Casimir Funk presented a seminal paper proposing the ‘Vitamine’ theory (McCollum, 1957). He proposed that the absence of certain minute substances in foods rather than the presence of germs caused disease. The theory and concept that he developed has had a direct bearing on the development of functional foods. The concept of functional foods has now been extended to include food constituents that reduce the risk of chronic disease (Plat and Mensink, 2001). Today we are at a new frontier in nutritional science. The transition from ‘adequate’ to ‘optimal’ nutrition. It is here that functional foods will have a pivotal role in reducing diet-related chronic diseases.
The conviction to develop functional foods first emerged in Japan in the 1980s when faced with escalating health-care costs. The Ministry of Health and Welfare initiated a regulatory system to approve certain foods with documented health benefits (Arai, 1996). Its primary objective was to improve the health of the nation's ageing population. In 1984, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, an ad hoc group in Japan commenced a national project to explore the link between food and medical sciences (Ohama et al., 2006). The term ‘functional food’ first appeared in 1993 in the Nature news magazine under the heading ‘Japan explores the boundary between food and medicine’ (Swinbanks and O’Brien, 1993). [By www.nature.com]
Definitions for functional foods
Today, Japan is the only country that recognizes functional foods as a distinct category, and the Japanese functional food market is now one of the most advanced in the world. Known as foods for specified health use (FOSHU), these are foods composed of functional ingredients that affect the structure and/or function of the body and are used to maintain or regulate specific health conditions, such as gastrointestinal health, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels (Hosoya, 1998). As of July 2008, nearly 500 food products had been granted FOSHU status in Japan.
Functional foods represent one of the most intensively investigated and widely promoted areas in the food and nutrition sciences today
Functional food is essentially a marketing term and globally, it is not recognized by law. Several definitions for functional foods exist. These include, that given by Health Canada: ‘Similar in appearance to conventional food, consumed as part of the usual diet, with demonstrated physiological benefits, and/or to reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions’ (Health Canada, 2000). Other definitions include that from the International Food Information Council (IFIC), that is functional foods are, ‘foods or dietary components that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition’ (Bagchi, 2008). The International Life Sciences Institute of North America (ILSI) has defined functional foods as, ‘foods that by virtue of physiologically active food components provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition’ (Bagchi, 2008). The European Commission Concerted Action on Functional Food Science in Europe regards a food as functional, ‘if it is satisfactorily demonstrated to affect beneficially one or more target functions in the body, beyond adequate nutritional effects, in a way that is relevant to either an improved state of health and well-being and/or reduction of risk of disease’ (Consensus document, 1999).
Functional foods represent one of the most intensively investigated and widely promoted areas in the food and nutrition sciences today. However, it must be emphasized that these foods and ingredients are not magic bullets or panaceas for poor health habits. Diet is only one aspect of a comprehensive approach to good health. functional foods health claims dietary supplements phytochemicals bioactive
During the first 50 years of the 20th century, scientific focus was on the identification of essential elements, particularly vitamins, and their role in the prevention of various dietary deficiency diseases. This emphasis on nutrient deficiencies or “undernutrition” shifted dramatically, however, during the 1970s when diseases linked to excess and “overnutrition” became a major public health concern. Thus began a flurry of public health guidelines, including the Senate Select (McGovern) Committee’s Dietary Goals for the United States (1977), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (1980, 1985, 1990, 1996, 2000— a joint publication of the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services), the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health (1988), the National Research Council’s Diet and Health (1989) and Healthy People 2000 and 2010 from the U.S. Public Health Service. All of these reports are aimed at public policy and education emphasizing the importance of consuming a diet that is low in saturated fat, and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and stroke.
Functional food Health Benefits Discovery
Scientists also began to identify physiologically active components in foods from both plants and animals (known as phytochemicals and zoochemicals, respectively) that potentially could reduce risk for a variety of chronic diseases. These events, coupled with an aging, health-conscious population, changes in food regulations, numerous technological advances and a marketplace ripe for the introduction of health-promoting products, coalesced in the 1990s to create the trend we now know as “functional foods.” This report includes a discussion of how functional foods are currently defined, the strength of the evidence both required and thus far provided for many of these products, safety considerations in using some of these products, factors driving the functional foods phenomenon, and finally, what the future may hold for this new food category.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, diet plays a role in 5 of 10 of the leading causes of death, including coronary heart disease (CHD), certain types of cancer, stroke, diabetes (noninsulin dependent or type 2) and atherosclerosis. The dietary pattern that has been linked with these major causes of death in the United States and other developed countries is characterized as relatively high in total and saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and refined sugars and relatively low in unsaturated fat, grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. An accumulating body of research now suggests that consumption of certain foods or their associated physiologically active components may be linked to disease risk reduction (6). The great majority of these components derive from plants; however, there are several classes of physiologically active functional food ingredients of animal or microbial origin.
Claims linking the consumption of functional foods or food ingredients with health outcomes require sound scientific evidence and significant scientific agreement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlined the criteria for “significant scientific agreement” in a guidance document released on December 22, 1999 (7). As summarized in the schematic shown in Figure 1, there is a clear discrepancy between “emerging evidence” (characterized by in vitro or animal studies, uncontrolled human studies, and inconsistent epidemiological evidence) and “significant scientific agreement.” To reach such agreement requires the support of a body of consistent, relevant evidence from well-designed clinical, epidemiologic and laboratory studies, and expert opinions from a body of independent scientists. Claims about the health benefits of functional foods should be based on sound scientific evidence, but too often only so-called “emerging evidence” is the basis for marketing some functional foods or their components. Table 1 categorizes a variety of functional foods according to the type of evidence supporting their functionality, the strength of that evidence and the recommended intake levels.
The FDA’s schematic of significant scientific agreement released in December 22, 1999 guidance document. This scheme differentiates “emerging evidence” on the left (e.g., animal and in vitro studies, uncontrolled human studies) from data on the right which represents “consensus” and includes evidence accepted by federal scientific bodies responsible for public health recommendations. Thus, the strength of the evidence for a diet disease relationship strengthens as one moves from left to right on the schematic. [ From By http://jn.nutrition.org]
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