Functional foods are foods with health benefits that exceed those attributable to the nutritional value of the food. The term is usually applied to foods that have been modified or combined in order to enhance the health benefits but may include any food that naturally possesses components with demonstrable pharmaco-logic activity. Functional foods are most often selected because they contain ingredients with immune-modulating, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitoxic, or ergogenic effects. The most widely studied functional ingredients are plant-derived phenolic chemicals, pro-biotic bacteria, and fiber or other poorly digested carbohydrates, but colostrum, egg yolk, and other nonplant foods may also serve as functional food sources. Although pharmacologic activity of most of these substances is well established in vitro or in small mammals, establishing clinical effects in humans poses a challenge for functional food research.
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