Top five “functional foods” list has conventional foods on top

Posted by Editorial on 20th April 2009

The American Dietetic Association has suggested functional foods can benefit a person’s health when consumed as part of a varied diet, encouraged further research and urged continued efforts to educate the public on such foods, with their New York branch since compiling a list of their top five ‘functional foods’ based on proven health benefits.

“All foods are functional at some physiological level, but it is the position of the American Dietetic Association that functional foods that include whole foods and fortified, enriched or enhanced foods have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels,” the ADA said in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. “ADA supports research to further define the health benefits and risks of individual functional foods and their physiologically active components.”

“Health claims on food products, including functional foods, should be based on the significant scientific agreement standard of evidence and ADA supports label claims based on such strong scientific substantiation.”

The paper noted “functional foods” was not a legal term but a marketing term. The American Dietetic Association defines functional foods as those that “move beyond necessity to provide additional health benefits that may reduce disease risk and/or promote optimal health. Functional foods include conventional foods, modified foods (fortified, enriched or enhanced), medical foods and foods for special dietary uses.”

Examples of conventional food with functional properties include broccoli, nuts and tomatoes. Modified foods include calcium-enhanced orange juice, folate-enriched breads and foods formulated with bioactive ingredients like fish oils, plant sterol esters or lutein. Medical foods include PKU formulas free of phenylalanine. Foods for special dietary uses include gluten-free and lactose-free foods.

“Consumer interest in the health benefits of foods and food components is at an all-time high and will continue to grow,” the ADA paper concludes. “Food and nutrition professionals must continue to be leaders in this exciting and ever-evolving area of food and nutrition.”

Top 5 List

The New York State Dietetic Association recently announced their top five functional foods, which surprisingly only included one modified food. The list placed Salmon at the top of the pile, primarily due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids, with oats, blueberries, low-fat milk and low-fat yoghurt with active cultures rounding out the list. The top four are all conventional foods, while the Association is supportive of the addition of probiotics to yoghurt to make it a more effective ‘functional’ food.

ADA’s position statement and accompanying paper were written by Clare M. Hasler, PhD, MBA, executive director of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California – Davis; and Amy C. Brown, PhD, RD, Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.