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NHM Health Focus: Functional Foods

Study says Functional Foods are at the threshold of unprecedented influence on public health.


"Food's impact on disease prevention poised to leap forward; regulatory innovation benefiting consumer health is urged." IFT

View the Archived Webcast:
Originally broadcast live March 24, 2005
1:30pm Eastern Time

Read IFT Report:
Functional Foods: Opportunities and Challenges
-- Full Report
-- One Page Summaries
-- Frequently Asked Questions
-- Backgrounders
-- News Releases


The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has announced the release of a new report saying that researchers have identified food components that may improve memory, reduce arthritis, and provide other benefits heretofore limited to drugs. It also suggests that that future benefits might include foods for increased energy, mental alertness, and better sleep.

Known as “Functional Foods,” they are defined as foods and food components that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. These foods are thought to enhance performance and deliver benefits for conditions such as coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and neural tube defects, and include conventional foods, fortified, enriched or enhanced foods, and dietary supplements.

The IFT report is entitled Functional Foods: Opportunities and Challenges, and can be found at http://www.ift.org/ExpertReport. It was presented in a March 25 video Webcast from the National Press Club in Washington DC available that is available for viewing at http://www.connectlive.com/events/foodtech/.

The press conference featured the following persons:
– Fergus Clydesdale, Ph.D., Expert Report chair and co-author
– Diane F. Birt, Ph.D., Expert Report co-author
– Gilbert A. Leveille, Ph.D., Expert Report co-author
– C. Ann Hollingsworth, Ph.D., Past-president IFT
– Barbara Byrd Keenan, CAE, Exec. Vice President, IFT

The report finds that functional foods are at the threshold of unprecedented influence on public health and disease prevention. It says that advances in science and food technology are growing so rapidly that the food industry and government must quicken their pace to ensure food's greatest benefits on public health.

Discoveries in genetics make it possible to understand the effects of nutrients in processes at the molecular level in the body and also the variable effects of dietary components on the individual. The report predicts that consumers could tailor their diets to meet changing health goals and different requirements at different ages.

IFT's report is an exhaustive review of current methods, and emphasizes recommendations to accelerate future research and development, regulation and marketing of functional foods. The report calls for expanded research on traditional nutrients, other bioactive food components, and the intersection of genomics and molecular nutrition.

Additional information about research into functional foods and their actions can be found at Purdue's Center for Enhancing Foods to Improve Health, Phytochemical Learning Resource and University of Illinois' Functional Food for Health.


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