UK Heart Foundation cautious on ‘functional’ food, drink

Posted by Josette Dunn on 25th June 2010

A dietician for the British Heart Foundation has said the body would not routinely recommend functional food and drinks for health benefits.The comments to just-food come on the back of a report by market intelligence firm Key Note on Wednesday (23 June) that revealed the UK functional food and drinks market is expected to continue to grow over the next five years, but at a slowing rate.

The report found that the major issue in food and drink development and manufacturing remains health, boosted by the threat posed by the rising level of obesity.

Key Note predicted that the value of the functional food and beverage market will rise from GBP1.55bn in 2009/2010 to GBP1.9bn in 2013/2014, with fortified breakfast cereals and probiotic yoghurts contributing to most of that growth.

However, Victoria Taylor, senior dietician for Heart Health at The British Heart Foundation (BHF), said that the BHF would hold back from routinely persuading consumers to go for functional food and drink.

“Our view is always that a heart healthy diet has a range of different components and all of those include normal foods and the proportions in which you eat those foods,” Taylor said. “There are some foods that are beneficial to a heart healthy diet but they’re not necessarily marketed as a functional food, things like oily fish and changing the types of oils you have from saturated to unsaturated and so we would promote those first.”

She added: “We do get queries on functional foods related to heart health and we would follow NICE guidance in that we wouldn’t routinely recommend them to people. If they do want to try them then they can but they would need to be mindful of following the correct amount to make sure they have the best chance of gaining benefit from them.”

Taylor believes consumers can often find functional foods “confusing”, and the cost implications can have an effect on purchasing decisions.

“There is a cost implication to functional foods that we’re mindful of, obviously because in heart disease there is a strong link to inequalities in health. And so although some of the functional foods do have a research base to back up their claims or benefits, we still feel that people are able to eat a heart healthy diet without necessarily having to include these foods in it.

“They’re possibly nice to have rather than essential,” Taylor added.

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