Functional food

Functional food

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).[1]

The general category of functional foods includes processed food or foods fortified with health-promoting additives, like "vitamin-enriched" products. Products considered functional generally do not include products where fortification has been done to meet government regulations and the change is not recorded on the label as a significant addition ("invisible fortification"). An example of this type of fortification would be the historic addition of iodine to table salt, or Vitamin D to milk, done to resolve public health problems such as rickets. Fermented foods with live cultures are considered functional foods with probiotic benefits.

Functional foods are part of the continuum of products that individuals may consume to increase their health and/or contribute to reducing their disease burden.

Functional food continuum.png

Functional foods are an emerging field in food science due to their increasing popularity with health-conscious consumers and the ability of marketers to create new interest in existing products.

The term was first used in Japan in the 1980s where there is a government approval process for functional foods called Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU).[2]



The functional food industry, consisting of food, beverage and supplement sectors, is one of the several areas of the food industry that is experiencing fast growth in recent years.[3] It is estimated by BCC Research that the global market of functional food industry will reach 176.7 billion in 2013 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4%. Specifically, the functional food sector will experience 6.9% CAGR, the supplement sector will rise by 3.8% and the functional beverage sector will be the fastest growing segment with 10.8% CAGR.[3] This kind of growth is fueled not only by industrial innovation and development of new products that satisfy the demand of health conceious consumers but also by health claims covering a wide range of health issues.[4] Yet, consumer skepticism persists mainly due to the fact that benefits associated with consuming the products may be difficult to be detected.[4] The industry suggests the establishment of a health claim regulating agency, which may increase consumer confidence. Strict examination of some of the functional food claims may discourage some companies from launching their products.[4]

Health claims

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 individuals."

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). However, some claims will fall outside of the purview of the FDA and be accompanied by the disclaimer: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Such a disclaimer typically accompanies supplements rather than foods, but since the definition of functional food is still evolving and somewhat amorphous, a functional food may find itself bearing the warning.

Current research

The Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, which is part of the University of Manitoba, is dedicated to the discussion, discovery, and development of functional foods and nutraceuticals, with a focus on the crops of the Canadian Prairies. Research involves candidates for functional food ingredients by examining the efficacy of novel bioactive materials such as plant sterols -- natural components found in plants which can act as cholesterol-lowering agents. Some researchers, however, have concerns that food supplements with plant sterol esters might increase cardiovascular risk, therefore calling for randomized controlled trials before such supplements can be recommended to the general public.

New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research also have a dedicated research team that works on functional foods. Their focus is on both 'whole-foods' and food extracts - examining extracts from berries and their effect on sports performance and recovery, as well as the gut-health and immune function role of natural fruits and vegetables. The group also work with 'mood foods' and the delivery mechanisms behind components in foods and beverages designed to enhance mental performance, brain function and cognitive ability.

The Functional Food Centre at Oxford Brookes University is the UK’s first research centre dedicated to functional food. The centre is known internationally for its work on Glycaemic Index and is the largest testing centre in Europe. The centre provides customer-focused research and consultancy services to the food and nutrition industry, UN and government agencies in the UK and overseas. The research and consultancy portfolio not only concentrate on the scientific characteristics of food and nutrition, but also integrate both the science and social aspects of food. The centre also focuses on areas such as satiety, dietary interventions, female nutrition and aging.

See also


  1. ^ What are Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals? Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  2. ^ "FOSHU, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Japan". 
  3. ^ a b Roberts, W. "Benefiting Beverages." Prepared Foods August 2009
  4. ^ a b c Scholan, I. "Functional Beverages-- where next? Innovation in functional beverages market is set to continue." International Food Ingredients December 2007.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Functional Food — (auch Nutraceutical von nutrition = Ernährung und pharmaceutical= Pharmazeutikum), auf deutsch funktionelle Lebensmittel, sind Nahrungsmittel, die mit zusätzlichen Inhaltsstoffen angereichert sind und mit positivem Effekt auf die Gesundheit… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Functional food — Functional foods are those foods that encompass potentially healthful products including any modified food or ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains, as defined by the Institute of Medicine.… …   Medical dictionary

  • functional food — functional .food n [U and C] food that is designed to improve health and lower the risk of disease, for example by increasing the amount of ↑vitamins in it, or removing some of the ↑fat = ↑nutraceuticals …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Functional Food — Func|tio|nal Food 〈[ fʌ̣ŋkʃənəl fu:d] n.; od. s; unz.〉 Nahrungsmittel, das mit Vitaminen, Mineralien od. anderen Zusatzstoffen angereichert wird u. eine gesundheitsfördernde Wirkung ausüben soll [<engl. functional „funktionell“ + food „Essen“] …   Universal-Lexikon

  • functional food — funkcionalusis maistas statusas Aprobuotas sritis maistas apibrėžtis Maistas, į kurį gamybos metu yra įdedama funkcionaliųjų maisto dalių arba iš kurio išimamos tam tikros medžiagos, taip suteikiant maistui kryptingą teigiamą fiziologinį poveikį… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • functional food — n. A food product that has been enhanced with vitamins or pharmaceuticals to provide specific health benefits. Example Citation: Other functional food products include higher calcium yogurt, calcium added ice cream, anti oxidant enriched eggs,… …   New words

  • Functional Food — Func|tio|nal Food [ fʌnkʃənəl fu:d] das; [s] <aus gleichbed. engl. functional food, eigtl. »funktionelle Lebensmittel«> Lebensmittel mit gesundheitsfördernden Zusatzstoffen …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • functional food ingredients — funkcionaliosios maisto dalys statusas Aprobuotas sritis maistas apibrėžtis Į maisto produktus dedamos viena ar kelios papildomosios medžiagos (maistinės skaidulos, oligosacharidai, vitaminai ir mineralinės medžiagos, probiotinės bakterijos,… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • functional food — /ˈfʌŋkʃənəl fud/ (say fungkshuhnuhl foohd) noun a food containing a component which offers some specific health benefit beyond the provision of simple nutrients. Also, function food …  

  • functional food — noun Any fresh or processed food claimed to have a health promoting and/or disease preventing property beyond the basic function of supplying nutrients …   Wiktionary

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