Current Trends

Consumer demand for foods capable of promoting good health and preventing or alleviating diseases is growing. This demand is likely to increase as baby boomers strive to manage the chronic health problems associated with aging and seek cost-effective alternatives to drugs. Also, with the ongoing legislative changes that permit claims for foods and associated components, and with the new and exciting scientific discoveries, many more companies, including multinationals, are and will continue to put more resources into the development and marketing of functional foods (27). Table 2 lists selected functional foods and bioactive food ingredients currently under active development in North America and around the world. In the process of developing new and improved functional products, a better understanding of food, nutrition, and health will likely emerge. Nonetheless, to gain wide acceptance, functional foods must offer health benefits that consumers can understand. Although terminology used in the functional food area can be confusing, it is generally agreed that the primary goal is to develop foods with added health benefits, rather than to rely on supplements. Any claim about the benefits of foods, however, must be based on sound and accurate scientific information. The development of functional foods also requires careful attention to safety, labeling, and claims as well as to nutritional and physiological rationale, cost, and sensory quality and should depend heavily on scientific substantiation.

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