Nutrition and Functional Foods

Nutrient requirements for optimum health and function of aging physiological systems are often quite distinct from those required for young people. The special nutrition problems of the aged are intensively researched and tested, especially as the elderly become a larger percentage of the population. Many chronic diseases and cancers are found with higher frequency in the aged, and it is also widely known that many elderly people use foods and nutrients well above the recommended daily allowance, which can be detrimental to optimal health. Functional foods deliver additional or enhanced benefits over and above their basic nutritional value. Some functional foods are generated around a particular functional ingredient, for example foods containing probiotics, prebiotics and sterols. Other functional foods or drinks can be foods fortified with a nutrient that would not usually be present to any great extent. Functional foods and drinks may provide benefits in health terms, but should not be seen as an alternative to a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Functional foods are fortified or enriched during processing and then marketed as providing some benefit to consumers. Sometimes, additional complementary nutrients are added, such as vitamin D to milk. Health Canada defines functional foods as “ordinary food that has components or ingredients added to give it a specific medical or physiological benefit, other than a purely nutritional effect.” In Japan, all functional foods must meet three established requirements: foods should be present in their naturally occurring form, rather than a capsule, tablet, or powder; consumed in the diet as often as daily; and should regulate a biological process in hopes of preventing or controlling disease. 

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