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Functional Foods

In Australia, the term food includes all items normally eaten plus beverages like soft drinks, tea and coffee as well as confectionary items and chewing gum.

The description functional food can be applied to any of these products if they have been shown to have evident health benefits beyond the normal provision of nutrition. Examples: Breakfast cereals fortified with iron; orange juice or soy drinks fortified with calcium; bread fortified with iron and folate; margarine containing plant sterols; yoghurt made with specific strains of bacteria. Manufacturers of functional foods generally want to advertise their health benefit on the food label. For example, if a food rich in calcium presented the claim that this food ‘reduced the risk of osteoporosis’ it would have to contain a specified amount of calcium per gram.

The Real Question is: Are functional foods of real benefit or are they a marketing exercise? 🔺Fortified foods and drinks can allow you to consume much higher levels of a particular nutrient than you would get from a general diet. One example here is Weetbix fortified with plant sterols. These have benefits in helping lower LDL-cholesterol and therefore can help lower the risk of heart attack. Plant sterols are natural products found in vegetables, nuts and grains.

🔺The dose must be appropriate to the consumer- what is good for an ageing man may not be good for a young child. This is not a problem usually encountered if you just eat a good varied diet.

🔺There are often several variants of each vitamin or mineral in foods (for example there are five types of vitamin E) and the variant chosen for fortification may not be the type that is most easily digested and absorbed by the body. It may not even get to be consumed at all! #functionalfoods


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