Meat products provide opportunity for functional foods

Posted by James Ferre on 11th June 2009

Research on the disease-preventing, health-promoting benefits of meat and meat products makes them a viable contender in the functional food arena, according to the Institute of Food Technologists.

Enriching meats with fibre, probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids could help consumers readily associate meat with a healthy lifestyle.

“Meat contains many important nutrients, including bioactive compounds such as taurine, L-carnitine, creatine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and endogenous antioxidants,” said Yeonhwa Park, Ph.D., and Secretary for Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Food Chemistry Division.

Meat and meat products may be made more functional with some simple modifications, according to Frederic Leroy, Ph.D., professor in nutrition, meat technology and quantitative and predictive microbiology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

“Modification of fatty acid and cholesterol levels in meat may be influenced by selection of breeds and genetic lines, changes in animal feeding practices and additional ingredients added during meat processing,” Dr Leroy claimed.

Adding probiotics to fermented meat products (i.e. sausage) may lead to health benefits, although this application is still marginal.

“Several disadvantages exist when using fermented meats as a probiotic carrier,” Dr Leroy said. “For one, fermented meats are not generally considered ‘health food’ by consumers. Plus technical issues exist. It requires careful selection of probiotic strains since, for example, they would need to have a resistance to bile salts.”

Fibre-enriched meat products may also offer health advantages, although they can elicit a grainy texture and have a restrictive digestive tolerance. Further studies are needed in this area, however.