Define functional foods, Chemistry

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Functional Foods

Traditionally, food products have been developed for taste, appearance and convenience for the consumer. With the increasing awareness of the role of diet in disease prevention there is an emergence of a new category of food products which provide health benefits. Generally, this type of foods, are called as functional foods. These foods provide nutrition as well as certain health benefits. A functional food is similar in appearance to conventional foods. It is consumed as part of a usual diet and has physiological benefits and / or reduces the risk of chronic disease. Functional food is also known as  " A food that has a component incorporated into it  to give a specific medical or physiological benefit, other than a purely nutritional benefit". In other words these are the food products having a defined and well established health claim.  
 
Health claim can relate to components of food or foods themselves. Three types of health claim are:
1.  generic 
2.  commodity specific and 
3.  product specific. 
 
Generic health claims are those that relate a nutrient of a food product to a particular disease or condition. One example of health claim permitted in USA is as follows: "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain some type of fibre, particularly soluble fibre, may reduce the risk of heart disease, a disease associated with many factors". On the basis of this statement, new products containing one or more of the above ingredients could be developed. 
 
Commodity claim describes the claim for  commodities or ingredients. Statements permitted in USA for oatmeal and oat bran reads: "Diets high in oat bran / oatmeal and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease". This highlights the health benefits of oat bran and meal. However, it does not indicate in the claim that the product on which the claim is placed is protective.

A product specific claim states that the product on which the claim is placed has a protective effect against a disease. For this type of claim,  the product itself, rather than the ingredients or nutrients in it, have to be shown to have benefit. In all the above three types of claims, it is essential to provide scientific evidence in support of the beneficial effect of the commodity or ingredient or the product in the prevention or treatment of a condition.
 
From the above information, we have a fair idea about how to plan development of a functional food. In order to do this, we must know about the special ingredients required for the formulations.  A few such ingredients are described here.


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