Food Scientists Make Their Case for Functional Foods
By Rick Moss
A newly released report, “Functional Foods: Opportunities and Challenges,” urges government officials to create economic incentives for the food industry to be more active in
producing foods designed to improve public health and prevent disease.
The report was commissioned by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a not-for-profit international scientific society with 26,000 world-wide members. The authors suggest
that “tax breaks, market exclusivity or a combination of both would serve as catalysts for increasing food company investment in functional food research,” according to a news
“The functional foods currently available represent only a fraction of the potential opportunities for consumers to manage their health through diet,” said Fergus Clydesdale,
Ph.D., co-author of the report and department head of food science at University of Massachusetts. “It is imperative to further research to validate full effectiveness and establish
appropriate dietary levels.”
Potential functional food benefits cited in the report include improvements for conditions such as coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and neural tube defects. Defined as “foods
and food components that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition,” these products are predicted to play a future roll in memory enhancement, reducing arthritis, increasing
energy, mental alertness, and improving sleep.
The report is available online at www.ift.org/ExpertReport.
Moderator’s Comment: Which segment(s) of the population will functional foods appeal to? How does the trend relate to the growing popularity of organics?
Could the functional foods consumer and the natural foods consumer be one and the same? The general philosophy seems consistent — better living through
good nutrition and more intelligent food choices. The demographics appear to be a match — aging Boomers, one would presume. However, it seems that the natural foods consumer
would cringe at statements like this, made in the IFT news release:
“The expert report calls for expanded research on traditional nutrients, other bioactive food components, and the intersection of genomics and molecular
Your typical Whole Foods-type would probably be attracted by the prospect that “consumers could tailor their diets to meet changing health goals and different
requirements at different ages,” but certainly not by the notion that we could get to that point because “discoveries in genetics make it possible to understand the effects of
nutrients in processes at the molecular level in the body.”
The benefits they promise are certainly worth investigating, but I would suggest the guys in the white lab coats get a good publicist. –
Rick Moss – Moderator
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