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Functional Food What is That, Ask First

e trading on people's insecurity and looking for an insurance to give them better health, says Dr. Dr.Geoffrey Savage, a senior lecturer in Food Biochemistry in Lincoln University, Newzealnd.

The term functional food was a curious and confusing concept, he said.

Clearly all foods are functional, because they provide taste, aroma or nutritive value. But it is interesting to note that the majority of the foods being marketed as functional are plant based.

There is overwhelming evidence from epidemiological and clinical trials to show that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of chronic disease, particularly cancer, but this does not mean that meat, fish, or milk should be removed from our diets.

Functional foods were now popular because health-conscious baby boomers had made them the leading trend in the United States food industry, he said.

"When you extract something from a food and put into a pill, you don't necessarily know it is still active.

"It may be more concentrated but it may not be biologically active and in many cases this is not being tested."

When products were tested the results could prove disappointing and there should be more rigorous and regular testing of functional foods available in pill or other forms.

Original food offered the best and cheapest way to source the functional ingredients, Dr Savage said.

There was evidence foods such as oats, soy, flaxseed, tomatoes, garlic, cabbage-like vegetables, citrus fruits, cranberry, tea and red wine could all deliver impressive health benefits.

The problem was that considerable quantities of these would have to be consumed daily to achieve maximum effect and hence the shortcuts.

Researchers warn that the medicinal effects of some of the functional foods, also known as nutraceuticals or designer foods, could rebound to produce unexpected side-effects.
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