HEALTH BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL FOOD LUIZA GHARIBYAN Ph.D. Wellness Center, GA.U.S.A.
Functional food is a food where a new ingredient(s) (or more of an existing ingredient) has been added to a food and the new product has a new function (often one related to health-promotion or disease prevention). Functional foods are one of the fastest-growing segments of the food industry. In some countries, functional foods have already become part of the dietary landscape. Millions of Americans already eat functional foods. (1) http://nutrition.about.com/od/nutrition101/a/functionalfoods.htm
Functional foods, according to their generally accepted definition, are foods including whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods or dietary components that may reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide a health and physiological benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains(2).
Health Canada defines functional foods as being "similar in appearance to, or may be, a conventional food, is consumed as part of a usual diet, and is demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions.
European Commission Concerted Action on Functional Food Science in Europe considers foods to be functional if they have a beneficial affect on one or more functions of the body and are still in the form of food, not a dietary supplement.(3)
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) defines functional foods as foods "that include whole foods and fortified, enriched or enhanced foods have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels.“ The ADA breaks down functional foods into four categories: conventional foods, modified foods, medical foods, and foods for special dietary use.
Conventional Foods Conventional foods are the most basic of the functional foods because they haven't been modified by enrichment or fortification; they're still in their natural state. Most whole fruits and vegetables fall into this category because they're rich in phytochemicals such as lycopene and lutein, as well as other beneficial compounds.
Modified Foods Modified foods have been enriched, fortified or enhanced with nutrients or other beneficial ingredients. Calcium-fortified orange juice,folic acid enriched breads and margarine enhanced with plant sterols are functional foods that have been modified. Energy drinks that have been enhanced with herbs such as ginseng and guarana, as well as other potentially controversial foods, also fall into this category.
Medical Foods The FDA defines medical food as "food which is formulated to be consumed or administered enterally under the supervision of a physician and which is intended for the specific dietary management of a disease or condition for which distinctive nutritional requirements, based on recognized scientific principles, are established by medical evaluation."
Foods for Special Dietary Use Foods for special dietary use are similar to medical foods, but they're available commercially and don't require the supervision of a health care provider.
The healing power of foods is a popular concept that focuses on how "super foods" can have health protecting properties. Functional food products typically include health claims on their label touting their benefits: for example: "Cereal is a significant source of fiber. Studies have shown that an increased amount of fiber in one's diet can decrease the risk of certain types of cancer in (4)individuals.“(http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/nutrition/fiber.php)
Some countries, such as Canada, Sweden, the United States and the European Union, have specific laws concerning the labeling of such products. In the United States, the kinds of claims which are allowed are overseen and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Ninety-five percent of functional foods haven’t been clinically tested and are making claims unsupported by clinical data,” says Steven DeFelice, chairman of the Foundation of Innovation in Medicine in Cranford, New Jersey. (5,21) Are functional foods safe? Do they deliver what they promise? You’ve got to evaluate each one on its own merits. Here are some questions to ask:
The first question we need to ask is does functional food work. We have to pay attention for information about how much beneficial ingredients does it contain. Some food products contain only a fraction of the amount that may be beneficial.(6)
The next question should concern the safety of functional food .(7)Many herbs or other ingredients used in functional foods are not tested for governmental approval. Meanwhile some of them may create several health problems.
It is also very important to be sure that processed functional food is healthy. For instance a calcium-fortified functional food with sugar and water is less healthful because the additional nutrients found in orange juice are missing.
During evaluation of functional food we have to check the information provided through nutritional labeling on food products, which may serve as useful guide in finding foods that have nutrient density and are healthful choices.
The Daily Value(DV) for a single serving on a food label represents the percentage of nutrient such as saturated fat or carbohydrate ,that is recommended for an individual consuming 2,000 Calories daily.
We can chose the product which contain less amount of cholesterol ,high percentage of protein, or no artificial colors. If the food is unprocessed ,it must be in its raw state, having not been frozen or subjected to other forms of processing. Fresh does not apply to processed food such as fresh milk or fresh bread. We have to know that health claims may be placed on food labels only if they have been approved by the FDA and are supported by adequate scientific data.(8)
Health Claims and the FDA The FDA allows certain health claims to be placed on food labels. Nutrient content claims, structure and function claims, or health claims can be placed on labels. Nutrient content claims describe the content of the foods and can include words like "free," "low," and "reduced."
Calorie-free foods, low-fat foods and reduced-sodium foods display these types of claims. Structure and function claims describe the role of a nutrient in the function of your body. A yogurt label, for example, can claim "calcium builds strong bones." Health claims must be approved by the FDA. For example, foods that contain olive oil or oats and oatmeal can make specific claims about how those ingredients affect health.
Since 1993, the FDA has approved ten health claims. But most functional-food-makers have figured out how to short-circuit the rules. Instead of making a health claim, which mentions a disease, companies make claims that a food can affect the structure or function of the body. The FDA doesn’t have to approve them, and they can appear on any food, no matter how unhealthy. And they’ve gotten bolder.
No matter how impressive-looking a functional food’s name or package claim, check the Nutrition Facts label before deciding whether it’s good for you. Fortified junk foods are still junk.
Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat milk and yogurt are packed with nutrients or phytochemicals that may cut the risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, eye disease, and other health problems. Chips, candy bars, and cookies—even if they’re fat-free, low-salt, and contain no preservatives—can’t take the place of foods that come with no label, no advertising, and no gimmicks.(8)
The best foods are those that are the most nutrient-dense. Nutrient-density is a measure of the amount of nutrients a food contains in comparison with the number of calories it has. The higher the level of nutrients compared to the number of calories, the more nutrient-dense a food has. By eating the healthy foods, we'll get all the essential nutrients that we need for excellent health, including vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, fiber and more.(8a)http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php)
Examples of natural functional food: 1. Blueberries are often referred to as a super-food. - What health benefits are associated with the consumption of blueberries? What component of blueberries are beneficial to health? Blueberries are flowering plants of the genus Vaccinium with dark-blue berries.
Especially in wild species, blueberries contain anthocyanins(flavonoids), the antioxidantpigments and various phytochemicals possibly having a role in reducing risks of some diseases, including inflammation and certain cancers.(9) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blueberries#cite_note-19)
Potential anti-disease effects. Researchers have shown that blueberry anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, and tannins inhibit mechanisms of cancer cell development and inflammationin vitro. Similar to red grape, some blueberry species contain in their skins significant levels of resveratrol, a phytochemical.
At a 2007 symposium on berry health benefits were reports showing consumption of blueberries (and similar berry fruits including cranberries) may alleviate the cognitive decline occurring in Alzheimer's disease and other conditions of aging.
In a USDA Human Nutrition Research Center laboratory, neuroscientists discovered that feeding blueberries to laboratory rats slowed age-related loss in their mental capacity, a finding that has important implications for humans.(10 ) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlueBerries
2. Cacao bean, the seed of Theobroma cacao, is known to be rich in polyphenols, such as the procyanidin monomers ((+)-catechin and (−)-epicatechin) and oligomers (B-type procyanidins that are linked by C4–C8 bonds) .
There is now a large body of information that supports the idea that cacao flavanols and procyanidins have the ability Cacao flavonols and procyanidins exert strong antioxidant effect in vitro.
Several in vivo studies have provided strong support for the hypothesis that consumption of flavonol –rich foods, such as certain cocoas and chocolates may be associated with reduced risk for vascular disease.(11)
Fiber 3.Fiber is a functional food because it may reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide a health and physiological benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains
Total Fiber is the sum of Dietary Fiber and Functional Fiber. Dietary Fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. Functional Fiber consists of isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans.
There are three physiological effects of dietary fiber that currently have sufficient scientific evidence to be recognized as characteristics of dietary fiber—a positive effect on laxation, attenuation of blood cholesterol levels, and/or attenuation of blood glucose levels; increasing the water-binding capacity of the feces, and softening stools. (12)
Consumption of spices and herbs for their health benefits has traditional historic habits in many countries. Ginger- Health benefits: The active ingredient in ginger is gingerol, a compound that's thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. It's commonly used as a digestive aid and contains compounds that ease motion sickness and nausea and inhibit vomiting. This makes it a helpful spice for morning sickness or for people suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy.(13)
Cinnamon is an anti-microbial food that can stop the growth of bacteria, fungi and yeast. It also has anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, which help prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets. Cinnamaldehyde (also called cinnamic aldehyde) has been well-researched for its effects on blood platelets.(13,14,15)
Dairy Products: Milk and dairy products have been associated with health benefits for many years containing bioactive peptides, probiotic bacteria, antioxidants, vitamins, specific proteins, oligosaccharides, organic acids, highly absorbable calcium, conjugated linoleic acid and other biologically active components
Cheese Cheese is manufactured by various methods of coagulating milk and thus removing liquid called whey, rennet is normally added to this "curd" to make it stabilize Cheese is a very good source of protein and calcium. It is also a good source of phosphorus, iodine and selenium. (17)
In recent studies, calcium has been shown to: Help protect colon cells from cancer-causing chemicals Help prevent the bone loss that can occur as a result of menopause or certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis Help prevent migraine headaches in those who suffer from them Reduce PMS symptoms during the luteal phase (the second half) of the menstrual cycle
Calcium is best known for its role in maintaining the strength and density of bones. In a process known as bone mineralization, calcium and phosphorus join to form calcium phosphate. Calcium phosphate is a major component of the mineral complex (called hydroxyapatite) that gives structure and strength to bones. One ounce of low-fat mozzarella cheese provides 18.3% of the daily value for calcium along with 13.1% of the DV for phosphorus( 18)
Conclusion Functional foods offer great potential to improve health and/or help prevent certain diseases when taken as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. The subject of health claims is becoming increasingly important and there is broad consensus that there needs to be a regulatory framework that will protect consumers, promote fair trade and encourage product innovation in the food industry.
The research opportunities in nutrition to explore the relationship between a food or a food component and an improved state of health and well-being, or reduction of disease, present the greatest challenge to scientists now and in the future
The communication of health benefits to consumers is also of critical importance so that they have the knowledge to make informed choices about the foods they eat and enjoy. (21,22)
Bibliography 1.From The July 2000 Issue of Nutrition Science News Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals by Mary Mulry, Ph.D. 2.What you need to know about health benefits of functional foods. Iowa State University Adapted from “Focus on Functional Foods” (Melinda Hemmelgarn, University of Missouri, 1999) by Elisabeth Schafer, extension communication specialist……..