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Functional foods

Related Terms

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Background

  • Functional foods, also called nutraceuticals (a combination of the words "nutrition" and "pharmaceuticals"), are considered to be any food that possess beneficial health and wellness properties beyond the well proven nutritional benefits a person might find on the food label. The supposed benefits of functional foods go beyond the dietary needs listed on the USDA's food pyramid. The USDA defines functional foods as "any food, modified food or food ingredient that provides structural, functional or health benefits, thus promoting optimal health, longevity and quality of life." Foods might inherently possess these supposedly beneficial qualities, or they may be fortified and/or genetically modified.
  • The concept of functional foods first became popular in Japan in the 1980s. The Japanese government developed a regulatory agency to oversee the approval of functional foods in 1991. The name of this agency is called Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU).
  • Functional foods are increasingly popular in the United States. A significant number of popular, mainstream brand name products are available on the market. The Nutrition Action Healthletter notes that an increasing number of major brands are planning or developing labels that purport the benefits of eating their functional foods. Furthermore, functional foods are reported as one of the fastest growing segments of the food economy in United States. In the past decade, functional foods have become so popular that other governments, including Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom have devoted major health initiatives to investigating the usefulness and safety of functional foods.
  • Some foods are said to be inherently functional foods, such as green tea, which has antioxidants, and salmon, which contains omega 3 fatty acids.
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Practice

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Theory/Evidence

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Safety

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.