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Title: Functional foods and their expanding applications in the improvement of human health

item GAZZANI, GABRIELLA - University Of Pavia
item Grusak, Michael

Submitted to: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2012
Publication Date: 4/1/2012
Citation: Gazzani, G., Grusak, M.A. 2012. Functional foods and their expanding applications in the improvement of human health. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 23(2):127-128.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: During the last few decades, various epidemiological investigations have reinforced the concept that diet plays an important role in human health. These analyses have demonstrated that the types of food consumed, the composition of those foods, and the amounts consumed can all be linked to the promotion and/or maintenance of a healthy state of being. Thanks to these studies, foods are no longer just considered for their nutritive value, but also for their potential positive effects in preventing or protecting against serious chronic diseases, especially those associated with a Western lifestyle. These include neoplastic, cardiovascular, or neurodegenerative diseases, cataracts, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and inflammatory processes associated with aging. With respect to certain cancers, the World Health Organization estimates that cancer incidence could be reduced by at least 30% by adequately increasing the dietary intake of fruits and vegetables. The foods producing specific beneficial effects on human health are generally referred to as functional foods. At present, although this term is frequently used, it does not have a uniquely accepted definition. Neither the United States nor the European Union has a legal definition of a functional food. In the US, as in the member states of the EU, this term is strictly used as a marketing tool, even though specific health claims are recognized for some foods in the EU. In light of the ongoing interest in functional foods, we have assembled a series of articles by experts in their fields that collectively cover a range of issues relevant to this topic. In the accompanying articles, we present an overview of the current health-related benefits of a selected list of functional foods. While only a handful of functional foods could be covered in this issue, we are pleased to provide specific information on foods ranging from oil sources, to herbs and vegetables, to fruit, and to various beverages. Because functional food components are increasingly being used as additives or ingredients by the food industry, we also offer opinion pieces that cover some of the analytical methods and applications that are relevant to specific health-beneficial compounds. Finally, we include current reports on prebiotics and probiotics, which are gaining growing interest from consumers, and therefore are stimulating a burgeoning response of new products from food manufacturers. In combination, we believe that the articles in this issue serve as complementary pieces that will give the reader a broad overview of the food functionality landscape of today, especially as it relates to infectious diseases, and a firm perspective on future developments in the functional foods arena.