Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Categories and Management of Functional Food

Written By

Anvi Rana

Submitted: 12 March 2022 Reviewed: 24 March 2022 Published: 26 October 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.104664

From the Edited Volume

Current Topics in Functional Food

Edited by Naofumi Shiomi and Anna Savitskaya

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Functional foods are any whole, fortified, enhanced, or improved foods that provide health benefits beyond the availability of fundamental components when consumed in effective amounts as part of a varied diet regularly (e.g., minerals and vitamins). Based on the type of evidence, this review segregates a range of functional foods. Furthermore, not even all foods labeled as functional foods on the market today are backed up by enough data to substantiate such claims. In the food and nutrition sciences, functional foods are presently one of the most thoroughly researched and encouraged fields. This topic evaluates the complex nature of trying to define functional foods, and also the categorizations of food products introduced to the market as functional, legislation of functional foods, science-based supporting evidence and development of functional ingredients investigation, and a statement to registered dietitians and dieticians specialists on how to keep up to date on nutritional and functional investigation and its interpretation to buyers.


  • functional food
  • food ingredient
  • health
  • food security

1. Introduction

Food that is useful when taken as part of a diverse diet on a routine basis, whole foods, and fortified, enhanced, or improved foods can improve health, and they are an exciting contemporary development in the food and nutrition sector [1]. The significant research acceptance level of proof should be used to support health claims on food items, particularly functional foods. The fast-developing trend of functional foods raises a slew of new concerns and opportunities for public health, particularly in terms of giving truthful data [2]. Nutritional study advanced slowly until the 1940s when several deficiency disorders and the nutrients that may “treat” them became the focus. Top Scientists and others found nutrients that were important for many existing disease illnesses during this golden period of biochemistry [3].

Companies that make functional foods and dietary supplements began to clash with scientists who demanded scientific proof to increase their profitability. Organic food shops expanded in quantity and power to the point that they produced major chain stores that competed with regular supermarkets [4]. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which sponsored university-affiliated research institutions, was established inside the National Institutes of Health in 1998, further cementing government acknowledgment of the unconventional proactive health approach advocated by functional foods [5]. This time of life Hippocrates phrase, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,” is the credo of today’s modern health-conscious populace. Following that, Metchnikoff’s “Law of Longevity” was linked to extended youth and healthful old age, as seen mostly in the Russian population. Commoners in the Balkans at the time consumed cultured kinds of milk [6].

Since that day, researchers have been working to better understand the impact of a variety of food components and nutrients in improving health and avoiding chronic illnesses. Functional foods are the product of this field’s study, which has culminated in a slew of new brands for foods that have been linked to certain health advantages [7]. The notion of functional ingredients stresses that food is important not only for sustenance but also for preventing and reducing potential risks for a spectrum of ailments, as well as increasing some critical physiological activities. Functional foods also supply the body with essential nutrients, lipids, proteins, carbs, and other nutrients. Now we’ll delve deeper into the topic of Functional Foods [8].

Registered dietitians obey Hippocrates’ lead by advocating food as medical nutrition treatment to cure a variety of illnesses and/or to protect, recover, and enhance wellness and health. As a consequence, understanding and incorporating functional foods within their treatment is crucial. They serve as a link between scientific proof studies and overall wellness for consumers. The number of functional food items on the market will keep growing. RDs must know how these foods get to market and how they are marketed [9].


2. Interpretation of functional food

Functional foods became initially coined in Japan in the early 1980s, and they allude to manufactured meals that incorporate components that, in conjunction with just being nutritious, enhance various biological processes. Japan is currently the only country that has established a governmental authorization for functional foods [10].

Certain foods, known as Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU), are qualifying for the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare’s mark of approval. Functional foods are referred to as nutritional supplements, designer foodstuffs, crucial foods, pharma-foods, medicine types of food, medical foods in the United States and Europe. A plant-based diet can lower the incidence of chronic illnesses, according to mounting evidence from epidemiology, in vivo, in vitro, and clinical study evidence [11].

The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the US National Institute Of health (NHS) defined functional foods as “every food or food component which may provide a medical benefit far beyond typical nutrients it provides” in 1995 [12].

Table 1 shows an overview of the characteristics of functional food in several organizations as shown below [13].

  1. Complete foods and fortified, enhanced, or boosted foods, have a theoretically positive impact on health when taken regularly in optimum amounts as a component of a diversified meal.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - (AND)
  1. A diet that, despite appropriate nutritional benefits, has a good effect solely on a single or maybe more target functions in the body in ways that is pertinent either to better health status and well-being or a reduced risk of illness.” It’s part of the regular eating routine. It is not a tablet, a pill, or any other type of vitamin supplement.

The Commission of the European (EC)
  1. A serving of functional food resembles but is not identical to, a traditional meal is taken as part of a regular meal, and has been shown to offer physiological advantages and/or lower the risk of a chronic condition in addition to fundamental nutritious requirements.

Canada’s Department of Health (CDH)
  1. Foods or food supplements may give health benefits beyond basic nutrition, such as lowering or reducing the risk of certain illnesses and other health complications.

Food Information Council of the United Nations (FICUN)

Table 1.

Versions of the word “functional foods” that are currently in use.


3. Categories of functional food

Food companies can now use four different types of cases on labeling to transmit medical messages to consumers [14]. As indicated in Table 2, these categories include improved commodities, modified and unmodified products, enhanced products, and fortified products [15]:

The specialty of functional foodDescriptionExamples
Improved commoditiesfood that has been supplemented with new minerals or ingredients that are not ordinarily found in that foodPrebiotics, probiotics, and plant sterol esters margarine
Modified and Unmodified productsModified - Foods that have had dangerous chemicals eliminated, decreased, or replaced with a chemical that has positive benefits
Unmodified - Foods that have extremely high levels of minerals or elements
In modified - In meat and ice cream, fiber acts as a lipid reliever.
In Unmodified - Fish products (LCn-3 PUFA)
Enhanced productsFoods that have had one constituent organically boosted through unique producing circumstances, foods that have a new composition, foods that have been genetically changed, or foods that have been transformed in various ways.Eggs with a higher omega-3 concentration as a result of a change in chicken feed
Fortified productsFood that has been supplemented with extra nutrientsvitamin C-fortified fruit juice

Table 2.

Functional foods are divided into several categories.

The understanding that the outcomes of this research knowledge support “assertions,” which will be transformed into communications to users, is an apparent inference of investigation and progress in the field of food products. Furthermore, assertions are critical to the creation of functional foods, and there are two types of depictions that are particularly important, Type A and Type B [16].

  1. Type A - Benefits for improved function:

An enhanced statement (type A) references the good connection between a healthy food pattern and particular physical duties without even implying a direct relationship to a reduction in illness risk. One use of antioxidants is to prevent oxidative stress [17].

  1. Type B - Appeals for lower disease risk:

An illness risk mitigation claim (type B) refers to the possibility of illness being reduced by ingesting a single or a combination of specified dietary components or food products. The lowering of the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer is an instance of these assertions. Although it may vary depending on the disease that functional food promised the decreased the risk, demonstrating such benefits remained a tough challenge that may need lengthy tests based on strong hypotheses backed by decent knowledge on the understanding the mechanisms of the impact to be predicted [18].

Those now deployed in clinical trials for medication creation will be required to demonstrate an impact to substantiate claims for humans. Undoubtedly, the majority of this nutrient based on the researchers’ key populations are “healthy people” or “ostensibly healthy people,” for whom the “usual” (ideally stable) diet will be altered in order to assert a (statically significant, but more pertinently, biologically) significant change in criteria reflective of a state of “excellent health.” These paradismfood iseters/ (bio) markers were being identified and, most importantly, verified in the great majority of instances [19].


4. Functional foods scientific advancement

The content and morphology of a meal typically referred to as the feed solution, has been proven to influence the digestibility of minerals within that nourishment [20]. Numerous research looking into the development of flexible meals have discovered that interaction between micronutrients and non-nutrient within the food matrix can be multiplicative, complementary, or negating. Vitamin C, for instance, rejuvenates vitamin E and boosts the antioxidant effects of carotenoid molecules. In vitro studies have also shown that flavonoids, a subclass of phenolic phytochemicals, work in tandem with vitamin E to inhibit the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins. Given the different relationships between nutritional and non-nutrient components, the correlation coefficients of such components must always be completely explained to design functional meals with the greatest potential to benefit people’s health synergistically [21].


5. Functional food management

Country management of functional food is important for effectiveness and safety, but it varies in each country. Japan has been a pioneer in the field of multifunctional food standards. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare of Japan, for instance, was the first regulatory agency to designate food products as a distinct food section as discussed before in the above topic [22]. The Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) program, which launched in 1991, was the first one to enable health decisions for functional foods backed by scientific data. The Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) seal of approval may be used on the labeling of commodities that have been acknowledged as FOSHU [23]. The volume of Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) approved foods has continuously increased to around 950 as of 2011 [24].

Food is governed in the United States by the Food and drug administration (FDA), Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, which does not include a description of functional foods. This seems to be due to the belief that there are currently sufficient rules regarding the use of food ingredients to cover functional food elements. The main determinant of changes in the laws, as per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the original function of food, and foods in their basic way are regulated. The Nutritional Labeling and Education Act of 1990 covers equally common goods and products for certain health purposes [25].

However, food companies can now make four types of claims on labeling to transmit health messages to consumers. These are some of the subgroups [26]:

  1. Claims about the nutritional content

  2. Assertions about the framework

  3. Claims about the health

  4. Trained healthcare claims

On functional labeling requirements, all four kinds of assertions are permitted if they match the established requirements for each benefit to the customers [27]. The FDA webpage has further information concerning the sorts of decisions that can be made on functional foods in the United States. After a rigorous assessment of scientific data submitted to the FDA, food is permitted to bear a health benefit, as per the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act. Extraordinary statements are allowed if there is sufficient scientific consensus or if a single expert of the US government or the National Academy of Sciences issues an acceptable declaration. Whether they may be used on food labels, health claims must always be approved by the FDA. There are now 12 health claims that achieve this important scientific requirement, as well as health claims that are backed up by authoritative statements. The FDA webpage highlights these health decisions [28].

Whenever the statistical backing for a statement has not achieved the greatest degree of scientific proof, trained healthcare claims are used to give details about the diet-disease association [29]. Dermatitis risk, cancer risk, cardiovascular disease risk, cognitive function, diabetes, and hypertension are among the six illness areas for which qualifying health claims are now permitted. Table 3 lists the dietary components that can be used to make a trained healthcare statement for cardiovascular disease, as well as the statement’s particular wording and degree of scientific proof [30].

A nutritional elementSource of competenceHealth claim wording that is justified
  1. Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid

vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and nutritional supportCholesterol, folic acid, and vitamins B6 and 12 may mitigate the chances of vascular disease when consumed in conjunction with a well-balanced, low-saturated-fat diet. Although it is well established that foods reduced in saturated fat and cholesterol lower the incidence of heart disease and other vascular disorders, the FDA considered the data supporting that statement to be unclear.
  1. Omega 3 fatty acids

Supplements, fish, and other traditional mealsConsumption of EPA and DHA n-3 fatty acids may lower the incidence of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), according to a preliminary but no definitive study.
  1. Walnuts

Walnuts, in whole dicedFindings suggest that consuming 1.5 ounces of walnuts each day, as half of a reduced saturated fat, low cholesterol regimen that does not result in higher calorie consumption, may lower the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).
  1. Canola oil contains unsaturated fats.

Canola oil, vegetable oil mixes, condiments, shortenings, and items incorporating canola oilAccording to the unsaturated fatty acids of canola oil, modest and inconclusive scientific data shows that ingesting roughly 11 /2 tbsp. (19 g) of canola oil, every day may lower the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). To obtain this potential advantage, canola oil should be used to replace a similar quantity of saturated fat without increasing your daily calorie intake.
  1. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats.

Dressings for salads, vegetable oil, foods incorporating olive oil, and shorteningsAccording to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil, modest and inconclusive scientific data shows that ingesting roughly 2 tsp. (23 g) of olive oil, every day might lower the incidence of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). To obtain this potential advantage, olive oil should be used to substitute an equivalent circuit of saturated fat without increasing your daily calorie intake.

Table 3.

Cardiovascular disease trained healthcare benefits in terms of dietary element, qualifying authority, region, and claim levels.


6. Consequences

As a consequence of recent progress in science and technology, the functional food industry has risen dramatically, and the panorama of the food and nutrition area continues to evolve.

People’s interest in the medical benefits of foods or food ingredients is also at some all peak and is expected to continue to increase. Registered Dietitians (RD) are particularly suited to convert research discoveries on functional foods into pragmatic dietary applications for consumers, other healthcare providers, legislators, and the press. As a result, they should proactively stay up with new studies on functional foods and their functions in human health, as well as communicate what they have learned.


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Written By

Anvi Rana

Submitted: 12 March 2022 Reviewed: 24 March 2022 Published: 26 October 2022