Functional Medicine & Functional Foods (Food As Medicine)

This Topic Covers a thorough understanding of the powerful nutrient benefits and antioxidant properties of certain foods.  Which foods are considered power foods and how food as medicine can be  conformed to your lifestyle with foods that taste great and provide optimum health benefits too.






The concept of consuming foods for health dates back centuries to Hippocrates’ famous quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

"By identifying the underlying causes of chronic health conditions, Functional Medicine has been considered the Future of Medicine.", ©  Institute for Functional Medicine. All rights reserved.

Functional medicine offers a new approach to management and prevention of chronic disease that embodies the art and science of medicine. It integrates what we know about how the human body works with patient-centered, science-based care. Functional medicine addresses the causes of chronic disease, which are rooted in lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and genetic influences

Functional medicine emphasizes the therapeutic partnership, which engages the heart, mind, and spirit of both practitioner and client, and encourages moments of deep insight that contribute to more comprehensive answers to stubborn, complex medical problems.,  Copyright ©  | Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, All Rights Reserved.


It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that functional foods, including whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods, have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels. The Association supports research to define further the health benefits and risks of individual functional foods and their physiologically active components. Dietetics professionals will continue to work with the food industry, the government, the scientific community, and the media to ensure that the public has accurate information regarding this emerging area of food and nutrition science.

Knowledge of the role of physiologically active food components, from both phytochemicals and zoochemicals, has changed the role of diet in health. Functional foods have evolved as food and nutrition science has advanced beyond the treatment of deficiency syndromes to reduction of disease risk...

Foods can no longer be evaluated only in terms of macronutrient and micronutrient content alone. Analyzing the content of other physiologically active components and evaluating their role in health promotion will be necessary. The availability of health-promoting functional foods in the US diet has the potential to help ensure a healthier population. However, each functional food should be evaluated on the basis of scientific evidence to ensure appropriate integration into a varied diet.


   Alarming Statistics, ©  Institute for Functional Medicine. All rights reserved.

Today’s Landscape: An epidemic of chronic disease threatens to compromise the health of our population and the effectiveness and economics of our healthcare system. Alarming projections suggest that future generations may have shorter, less healthy lives if current trends continue unchecked.1  Because of its focus on acute care, the current medical model fails to confront both the causes of and solutions for the chronic disease epidemic, and must be replaced with a model of comprehensive care and prevention that is systems-based, integrative, patient-centered, and much more effective. AFMCP (Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice) has been designed to meet that challenge.


  What is Functional Medicine, Copyright  Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine

Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:

Patient-centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care promoting health as a positive vitality; beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.

An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.

Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes considered “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.


   The Approach of Functional Medicine, Copyright ©  Sequoia Education Systems, Inc.- All Rights Reserved

Functional Diagnostic Medicine is a growing field of modern medicine. It offers a giant step forward in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of many of society’s chronic diseases. Doctors practicing functional diagnostic medicine are able to identify the real causes of many health conditions by combining the results of scientifically documented tests.

These are not your standard medical tests but go the next level investigating the biochemical and metabolic glitches likely to cause a specific disease process.

Based on the results of these tests, physicians are then able to develop personalized patient specific treatment protocols designed to reverse, stop or prevent the disease and its related symptoms.

Unlike the disease specific approach which is geared to suppress the expression of symptoms, physicians practicing functional diagnostic medicine are delighted to discover that many diseases have a real underlying cause which when found and corrected, can have a dramatic impact on the health of their patients.


What You Can Expect From Functional Medicine,  ©  Institute for Functional Medicine. All rights reserved.

A patient visiting a functional medicine practitioner will likely have a lengthy interview, fill out questionnaires on a variety of topics, and undergo laboratory tests. The extensive information collected is used to determine the underlying imbalances and influences (whether genetic, environmental, or psychosocial) that have produced the context for disease or dysfunction. The clinician evaluates seven key functional/biological systems to understand the full network of vectors underlying the disease. Then, customized interventions are initiated to reestablish balance and functionality, and a comprehensive treatment plan is created to restore health. Tools are drawn from both conventional and integrative medicine, including lifestyle adjustments based on clinical scientific research

Functional medicine offers a paradigm shift in clinical practice, thus producing a more effective response to chronic disease.
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  Working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner

Reference -, ©  Institute for Functional Medicine. All rights reserved.

Functional medicine practitioners promote wellness by focusing on the fundamental underlying factors that influence every patient’s experience of health and disease.

The Functional Medicine Approach to Assessment: The Institute for Functional Medicine teaches practitioners how to assess the patient’s fundamental clinical imbalances through careful history taking, physical examination, and laboratory testing. The functional medicine practitioner will consider multiple factors, including:

Environmental inputs – The air you breathe and the water you drink, the particular diet you eat, the quality of the food available to you, your level of physical exercise, and toxic exposures or traumas you have experienced all affect your health.

Mind-body elements – Psychological, spiritual, and social factors all can have a profound influence on your health. Considering these areas helps the functional medicine practitioner see your health in the context of you as a whole person, not just in terms of your physical symptoms.

Genetic makeup – Although individual genes may make you more susceptible to some diseases, your DNA is not an unchanging blueprint for your life. Emerging research shows that your genes may be influenced by everything in your environment, as well as your experiences, attitudes, and beliefs. That means it is possible to change the way genes are activated and expressed.

Through assessment of these underlying causes and triggers of dysfunction, the functional medicine practitioner is able to understand how key processes are affected. These are the body’s processes that keep you alive. Some occur at the cellular level and involve how cells function, repair, and maintain themselves. These processes are related to larger biological functions, such as:

  • how your body rids itself of toxins

  • structural integrity

  • regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters

  • digestion and absorption of nutrients and the health of the digestive tract

  •  immune system function

  •  psychological and spiritual equilibrium

  •  inflammatory responses

  •  how you produce energy

All of these processes are influenced by both environmental factors and your genetic make-up; when they are disturbed or imbalanced, they lead to symptoms, which can lead to disease if effective interventions are not applied.

A Comprehensive Approach To Treatment: Most imbalances in functionality can be addressed; some can be completely restored to optimum function, and others can be substantially improved.

Prevention is paramount. Virtually every complex, chronic disease is preceded by long-term disturbances in functionality.

Changing how the systems function can have a major impact on the patient’s health. The functional medicine practitioner examines a wide array of available interventions and customizes a treatment plan including those with the most impact on underlying functionality.

Functional medicine expands the clinician’s tool kit. Treatments may include combinations of drugs, botanical medicines, nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets, or detoxification programs. They may also include counseling on lifestyle, exercise, or stress-management techniques.

The patient becomes a partner. As a patient, you become an active partner with your functional medicine practitioner. This allows you to really be in charge of improving your own health and changing the outcome of disease.


What Makes a Functional Medicine Practitioner Effective? - American Board of Functional Medicine © Copyright  All Rights Reserved

Every patient is unique - Every patient is biochemically different, these variations can be simple or quite complex. Western medicine has struggled to find a 'one size fits all' treatment for conditions. However not all symptoms are of the same etiology. While the symptoms can be categorized and compartmentalized, routing out the etiology is where the functional medicine physician shines brightest.

Treat the patient not the disease - So many physicians and patients refer to the disease and not the person with the symptom. One might say that "He's diabetic". Each patient is unique and because of this, the greatest gift we can give a patient is to understand the cause of their reactive disorder. Find out how this patient's biochemistry isn't being supported.

Homeodynamics - This is physiology 101 and yet many physicians fail at appreciating the intricate balance of negative feedback in the body. Since the 1920s, western medicine has adopted very short sighted treatments that do not take into consideration the basic homeodynamics of the patient. This leads to misdiagnosis of many patients. In 2007, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that as much as 50% of diagnosis and treatments are incorrect in the US.

Pro-Active Care - The idea of prevention in functional medicine is not merely catch the disease early, it is truly based on the vital capacity of the body to prevent the disease in the first place. When the biochemistry of the body is supported, it works amazingly well; when the biochemistry of the body is not supported or is interfered with, reactive conditions begin to manifest. Functional Medicine is compelled to ensure that nutritional biochemistry is provided while minimizing toxic exposure to interfering compounds.

Organocentric - Humans are one of the few species that find it difficult to live 10 times longer than their age of puberty. The body is designed to live 120 years, yet most Americans are finding it difficult to live past 60. Functional medicine is profoundly considerate of the idea that the patient is only as good as their organs. Just one organ failure can terminate the patient's life, longevity, or happiness. We are all going to die, but we sure want to feel great till the end.

Happier Doctors, healthier patients! Imagine a world where 80% of patients are not just chronically managed, where the national healthcare system isn't ranked 37th in the world, where up to 90% of bankruptcies weren't due to unpaid medical bills, where 1 out of 2 Americans didn't die of heart disease, 1 out of 2 didn't achieve cancer, 1 out of 3 didn't die of cancer, 1 out of 6 didn't die of diabetes, where the healthcare costs of a company's employees wouldn't bankrupt one of the largest corporations in the world.

Many physicians are sick and tired of not feeling like they are helping patients, not trained well enough to understand the etiology of disease, and not seeing the success they felt medicine provided. Functional medicine has provided a beacon of hope to these physicians and health care practitioners. All over the country medical doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, dieticians, nurses and physician assistants are seeking out more and more education on functional medicine and how to apply it in clinical practice. They see the success it brings, come join them.


Search for a Qualified Functional Medicine Practitioner - As a public service, IFM provides a list of practitioners who have completed our five-day course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice. We are interested in helping patients find healthcare professionals who are familiar with the concepts and approaches of functional medicine.

“Find an Integrative RDN” database. Search for a Nutrition Professional in your area who practices integrative and functional nutrition. - - Functional Medicine University (F.M.U.) makes available to the general public a list of health care practitioners who have completed training in the Functional Medicine Training Program offered by F.M.U.


Why is Functional Medicine Called the Future of Medicine, Copyright ©  Sequoia Education Systems, Inc.- All Rights Reserved

"By identifying the underlying causes of chronic health conditions, Functional Medicine has been considered the Future of Medicine."

Functional Medicine approach is designed to significantly improve health. While the specific disease a person may have is not ignored, the focus of therapy is to improve health through optimizing biological, biochemistry and psychological function.

This is a highly individualized process. Two people with the same diagnosis may require different diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions to promote health and well-being.

When successful, many of the symptoms that are the primary concern of the individual will diminish in severity and the individual will begin to experience a renewed sense of well being and a significant increase in health and vitality.


    Power and Functional Foods Defined

Reference -,  Copyright  Dairy Council of California. All Rights Reserved.


Functional foods are foods and food components that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Functional foods do more than just provide nutrients – they may play a role in reducing your risk of disease or in improving your health. These foods include health-promoting ingredients or natural components found in conventional, fortified, enriched or enhanced foods. There are many potential health benefits of consuming functional foods. Nutritional research has shown that eating functional foods on a regular basis, as part of a balanced and varied diet, can enhance health and reduce the risk of many acute and chronic diseases.


Reference source -

The concept of consuming foods for health dates back centuries to Hippocrates’ famous quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Since then, nutritional science has evolved from a focus on identifying nutrients and amounts needed to prevent deficiency diseases, to a focus on improving health and quality of life. Although people have been consuming foods for specific health reasons for years, the term “functional foods” was not commonly used until the early 1990s…

The term “functional foods” arose as nutritional science evolved from identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies to designing foods that promote optimal health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Focus group research showed that “functional foods” was recognized readily and was preferred by consumers over other terms such as “nutraceuticals” or “designer foods.”

Although there are a number of definitions for functional foods, the most widely accepted is: “Foods and food components that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition for the intended audience.” Examples include conventional foods, fortified, enriched or enhanced foods. General features of functional foods include:

  • functional foods address specific dietary needs or health conditions and are thus designed for specific consumer groups in mind;

  • they are consumed as part of the regular diet;

  • their physiological functionality is based on bioactive compounds;

  • the documentation of their safety and efficacy is essential; and

  • any health claims or planned health claims are based on scientific research and are consistent with regulations.

The use of functional foods can be considered a continuum that ranges from the goal of maintaining optimal health to treating disease.

The top ten benefits that consumers look for in functional foods are:

  • reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases

  • reduced risk of cancer

  • weight loss/management

  • improved health in general

  • improved memory

  • reduced risk of other diseases

  • reduced osteoporosis

  • improved mental health

  • quicker reaction time

  • improved fetal health


Unlocking the Secrets of Functional Food Components - Copyright  Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine

Excerpts for IFT Expert Report - Food technology and improved nutrition have played critical roles in the dramatic increase in life expectancy over the past 200 years, but the impact of diet on health is much broader than basic nutrition. A growing body of evidence documents positive health benefits from food components not considered nutrients in the traditional definition.

Scientific advances have allowed researchers to better characterize the biological basis of disease states, understand the metabolism of food at the cellular level, and identify the role of bioactive components in food and assess their impact on metabolic processes. New powerful analytical tools can enable scientists to unlock the biological functions of vast numbers of food components and their role in disease prevention and health promotion.

Functional foods can take many forms. Some may be conventional foods with bioactive components that can now be identified and linked to positive health outcomes. Some may be fortified or enhanced foods, specifically created to reduce disease risk for a certain group of people. Consumers can already select from a wide spectrum of foods that contain functional components either inherently (e.g., soy protein, cranberries) or via fortification (e.g., folate-fortified foods). Health benefits may result from increasing the consumption of substances already part of an individual’s diet or from adding new substances to an individual’s diet.


 Shifting the Food Paradigm for Health and Wellness -  Copyright  Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine

Functional foods should be integral components of established public health programs to reduce the risk of specific diseases (Clydesdale, 1998)

A growing number of consumers perceive the ability to control their health by improving their present health and/or hedging against aging and future disease. These consumers create a demand for food products with enhanced characteristics and associated health benefits.

In one study, 93% of consumers believed certain foods have health benefits that may reduce the risk of disease or other health concerns. In addition, 85% expressed interest in learning more about the health benefits offered by functional foods (IFIC, 2002).

Using foods to provide benefits beyond preventing deficiency diseases is a logical extension of traditional nutritional interventions… Creating a scientifically valid distinction between food and medicine has never been easy. Centuries ago, Hippocrates advised, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Early nutrition research resulted in cures for numerous widespread deficiency-based diseases. Recent scientific advances have further blurred the line between food and medicine, as scientists identify bioactive food components that can reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve quality of life, and promote proper growth and development.



  The Traditional Paradigm vs. a New Paradigm of Food -  Copyright  Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine

Traditional fortification of foods with vitamins and minerals has been accepted by consumers and regulators, but consumers should recognize the clear distinction between the use and purpose of foods vs. drugs (see Fig. 1).

Food has traditionally been viewed as a means of providing normal growth and development…

A new self-care paradigm (adapted from Clydesdale, 1998) recognizes that foods can provide health benefits that can co-exist with traditional medical approaches to disease treatment. Science has clearly demonstrated additional dietary roles in reducing disease risk, and consumers have learned that food has a greater impact on health than previously known. At the same time, consumers recognize problems with the current healthcare system, perceiving that it is often expensive, time-constrained, and impersonal.

Functional foods fit into a continuum that ranges from health maintenance/promotion to disease treatment (see Fig. 2)… Functional foods should be integral components of established public health programs to reduce the risk of specific diseases (Clydesdale, 1998).

…Interest in functional foods skyrocketed in the last decade due to a number of key factors, including the growing self-care movement, changes in food regulations and overwhelming scientific evidence highlighting the critical link between diet and health. The interest in functional foods has resulted in a number of new foods in the marketplace designed to address specific health concerns, particularly as regards chronic diseases of aging. In addition to new foods designed specifically to enhance health, however, functional foods can also include those traditional, familiar foods for which recent research findings have highlighted new health benefits or dispelled old dogma about potential adverse health effects. An excellent example is the American egg-Nature's original functional food. Eggs have not traditionally been regarded as a functional food, primarily due to concerns about their adverse effects on serum cholesterol levels. Furthermore, it is now known that there is little if any connection between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels and consuming up to one or more eggs per day does not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels. Finally, eggs are an excellent dietary source of many essential (e.g., protein, choline) and non-essential (e.g., lutein/zeaxanthin) components which may promote optimal health.

Nutrition in the new millennium will be dramatically different than it was in the 20th century. Completion of the human genome project will facilitate the identification of humans predisposed to diet-related diseases. Targeted or 'prescription' nutrition will become the norm, enabling the food and medical industries to provide timely and individualized approaches to disease prevention and health promotion. The egg will continue to play an important role in the changing face of functional foods.



Tailoring Diets for Special Needs

Functional foods can address many consumer needs within the new paradigm when used as part of a diet tailored to address the special health needs of a specific group of consumers. In addition to those with needs because of chronic medical conditions, other groups with special needs include women of childbearing age, adolescent girls and boys, athletes, military personnel, and the elderly.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM, 2000) reported that poor nutritional status is a major issue for older citizens and that at least four health conditions (under nutrition, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis) would benefit from nutritional intervention in either “preventative or treatment modes.” Some functional foods are already available for each of these purposes, but more are needed. Many elderly individuals may benefit by expanding their use of functional foods and supplements, particularly where new research can guide their selection of those foods to meet specific needs.

It would be unreasonable to expect functional foods to address all of the elderly’s medical needs, but functional foods can improve health and wellness, minimize costs, and provide consumers with greater control.


The Intersection of Food and Genes - © Institute of Food Technologists 

Understanding of human dietary requirements results from developments in many scientific disciplines, including food science, nutrition, chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, and genetics. New research in proteomics, nutrigenomics, metabolomics, and other disciplines may help identify the biological basis by which food components promote health and wellness. Continuing and accelerating this research will reveal the effects of nutrients on the molecular-level processes in the body and document the variable effects of nutrients under different conditions.

Nutrigenomics - For the purposes of this discussion, nutrigenomics is defined as the interaction of dietary components with genes.

The dietary components of interest can be essential nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, fatty acids), other bioactive substances (e.g., phytochemicals) or metabolites of food components (e.g., retinoic acid, eicosanoids). On the one hand, nutrigenomics represents a logical extension of biotechnology, molecular medicine, and pharmacogenomics; on the other hand, it represents a revolution in how nutrition and diets are viewed in relation to health (Fogg Johnson and Merolli, 2000; Patterson et al., 1999). Read the full report and panel’s recommendations here. -  The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).


What the Future Holds for Functional Food

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With the advance of nutritional genomics, it may be possible in the future to design foods and diets to regulate gene expression, change metabolism and thus prevent specific diseases to which an individual is prone. As a result, the ability to tailor diets to meet specific needs and health goals will become more highly individualized. Consumer awareness and demand for such personalized diets will undoubtedly increase.

Research will continue to identify foods and food components that can play a role in optimizing health and preventing disease. Expanded research on the benefits of specific nutrients and bioactive components, levels of consumption needed to reap health rewards, and biomarkers and physiological endpoints will further our understanding of functional foods.


Education & Application - the Health Professional’s Role

Retrieved from -

Specific suggestions on how the health professional can guide consumers to incorporate appropriate levels of functional foods into their diets to optimize health and reduce disease risk include:

  • Stay abreast of research showing benefits of specific foods and food components, distinguishing between the study types (animal, laboratory, epidemiological, randomized clinical trials) and strengths and limitations of each. Often, a single study can be misconstrued as the final word without considering the whole body of research on the food or component in question.

  • Be aware of foods and products in the marketplace that tout specific component(s) and health benefits, and the levels that are present in a typical serving. Keep in mind that availability of functional foods can vary based on geographical location.

  • Be ready to translate scientific evidence into practical and applicable dietary advice for clients. Offering clients accurate and personally relevant information will empower them to control their own health through the choices they make.

  • Discourage clients from the mindset that there is a single “magic bullet” food or product that can guarantee health or cure/prevent disease. The best advice is to choose a wide range of foods from each of the food groups to ensure consumption of a multitude of beneficial components. A change in lifestyle, including appropriate physical activity, may also be necessary to reach their goals.

  • Monitor your clients’ consumption of functional and fortified foods as well as use of supplements, to ensure they are not consuming excesses of any particular nutrient(s). Health professionals with minimal training in nutritional sciences can rely on dietitians as the primary resource to carry out this charge.

  • Age, gender, activity level, allergies and intolerances and disease risk are obvious factors influencing dietary recommendations. Consider also cultural and ethnic preferences, weight loss and performance goals, socioeconomic factors that might play a role in food procurement, availability and access, and family and work environments – all in a holistic fashion – to optimize buy-in and compliance with dietary advice.


  Assessing Claims of Functional Foods - ©  American Nutrition Association

With more and more products on the market claiming to have health benefits for the consumer, this panel will help you better understand how to evaluate these claims and separate fact from fiction. We will hear from experts who will shed light on the federal and state regulatory landscape covering these issues, as well as strategy and recent data to help you tackle functional food coverage with more accuracy and integrity.

Bruce Silverglade, legal director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), made these points...:

  • The FDA has been increasing enforcement actions recently. Most involved medical claims, not structure-function claims.
    • Misleading structure function claims:
      • Ocean Spray® Cranberries (“help cleanse and purify your body”)
      • DanActive™ dairy-based probiotic supplement beverage (“helps strengthen your body’s defenses”)
  • “While existing laws for health claims and food additive approvals are adequate, the FDA needs to update its enforcement policies to keep control of the marketplace”
  • For foods (dietary supplements already have these rules), CSPI wants a definition and pre-market notification of the use of “novel ingredients” used in fortified foods. Also for their claims, as well as a scientific standard for claims.
  • Novel ingredients should meet the FDA’s fortification policy and not be added to foods of low nutritional value.
  • There should be no distinction between structure-function claims and Health Claims, since consumers don’t “get” the difference. Both types of claims should be allowed based only on “Significant Scientific Agreement”, not industry selected studies.
  • Functional foods “must be regulated under the food safety and labeling laws, and not under laws pertaining to dietary supplements”…

Marilynn Marchione, AP Medical Writer, made these points...

  • Many functional foods are “little more than dressed-up junk food
  • We should be concerned about consuming “too much of certain nutrients, plus too many calories and fats”
  • The FDA “is paying more attention to health claims on functional foods”
  • Claims that fortified foods can “boost immunity” are vague with little science for back up…

Neil E. Levin, C.C.N., D.A.N.L.A., programs chair, American Nutrition Association; nutrition education manager, NOW Foods made these points...

FDA Regulated Health Claims

  • It’s not legal to market a DS [dietary supplement] as a treatment or cure for a specific condition
  • Functional food claims should be regulated
  • We don’t need new laws, we need to enforce the current laws
  • Agency priorities and resources have always been an issue in regulation
  • Natural doesn’t necessarily mean something is safe or effective
    • There is a bias that natural can be better utilized and is safer, but that’s not always true
  • They don’t require safety approval premarket
  • They can have side effects and interactions
  • Test tube studies don’t prove that the same effect will happen in the human body
  • Structure-function claims should primarily be based on human clinical studies
  • Be skeptical; bring the same skepticism to DS critics (medical interests, drugs, medical journals) as DS companies

Read in entirety…


  Scientific Criteria

Reference -

Many academic, scientific, and regulatory organizations are considering ways to establish the scientific basis to support and further validate claims for functional components or the foods containing them. FDA regulates food products according to their intended use and the nature of claims made on the package. Five types of health-related statements or claims are allowed on food and dietary supplement labels:

  • Nutrient content claims indicate the presence of a specific nutrient at a certain level.
  • Structure and function claims describe the effect of dietary components on the normal structure or function of the body.
  • Dietary guidance claims describe the health benefits of broad categories of foods.
  • Qualified health claims convey a developing relationship between components in the diet and risk of disease, as reviewed by the FDA and supported by the weight of credible scientific evidence available.
  • Health claims confirm a relationship between components in the diet and risk of disease or health condition, as approved by FDA and supported by significant scientific agreement.

A large body of credible scientific research is needed to confirm the benefits of any particular food or component. For functional foods to deliver their potential public health benefits, consumers must have a clear understanding of and a strong confidence in the scientific criteria that are used to document health statements and claims. The scientific community continues to increase its understanding of the potential for functional foods and their role in health…."


Reference -

Claims that can be used on food and dietary supplement labels fall into three categories: health claims, nutrient content claims, and structure/function claims. The responsibility for ensuring the validity of these claims rests with the manufacturer, FDA, or, in the case of advertising, with the Federal Trade Commission.

Health claims describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition. There are three ways by which FDA exercises its oversight in determining which health claims may be used on a label or in labeling for a food or dietary supplement: 1) the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) provides for FDA to issue regulations authorizing health claims for foods and dietary supplements after FDA's careful review of the scientific evidence submitted in health claim petitions; 2) the 1997 Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (FDAMA) provides for health claims based on an authoritative statement of a scientific body of the U.S. government or the National Academy of Sciences; such claims may be used after submission of a health claim notification to FDA; and 3) the 2003 FDA Consumer Health Information for Better Nutrition Initiative provides for qualified health claims where the quality and strength of the scientific evidence falls below that required for FDA to issue an authorizing regulation. Such health claims must be qualified to assure accuracy and non-misleading presentation to consumers. The differences between these three methods of oversight for health claims are summarized below.

Health claims:  Health claims describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition.

A "health claim" by definition has two essential components: (1) a substance (whether a food, food component, or dietary ingredient) and (2) a disease or health-related condition. A statement lacking either one of these components does not meet the regulatory definition of a health claim…

Dietary guidance statements used on food labels must be truthful and non-misleading. Statements that address a role of a specific substance in maintaining normal healthy structures or functions of the body are considered to be structure/function claims. Structure/function claims may not explicitly or implicitly link the relationship to a disease or health related condition. Unlike health claims, dietary guidance statements and structure/function claims are not subject to FDA review and authorization…

Health Claims Based on Authoritative Statements. The Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 (FDAMA) provides a second way for the use of a health claim on foods to be authorized. FDAMA allows certain health claims to be made as a result of a successful notification to FDA of a health claim based on an "authoritative statement" from a scientific body of the U.S. Government or the National Academy of Sciences. FDA has prepared a guide on how a firm can make use of authoritative statement-based health claims. This guide can be found at: Notification of a Health Claim or Nutrient Content Claim Based on an Authoritative Statement of a Scientific Body. FDAMA does not include dietary supplements in the provisions for health claims based on authoritative statements. Consequently, this method of oversight for health claims cannot be used for dietary supplements at this time.

Qualified Health Claims. FDA's 2003 Consumer Health Information for Better Nutrition Initiative provides for the use of qualified health claims when there is emerging evidence for a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement and reduced risk of a disease or health-related condition. In this case, the evidence is not well enough established to meet the significant scientific agreement standard required for FDA to issue an authorizing regulation. Qualifying language is included as part of the claim to indicate that the evidence supporting the claim is limited. Both conventional foods and dietary supplements may use qualified health claims. FDA uses its enforcement discretion for qualified health claims after evaluating and ranking the quality and strength of the totality of the scientific evidence.

Nutrient content claims:  The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) permits the use of label claims that characterize the level of a nutrient in a food (i.e., nutrient content claims) made in accordance with FDA's authorizing regulations. Nutrient content claims describe the level of a nutrient or dietary substance in the product, using terms such as free, high, and low, or they compare the level of a nutrient in a food to that of another food, using terms such as more, reduced, and lite...

Most nutrient content claim regulations apply only to those nutrients or dietary substances that have an established daily value: A Food Labeling Guide - VII. Nutrition Labeling. The requirements that govern the use of nutrient content claims help ensure that descriptive terms, such as high or low, are used consistently for all types of food products and are thus meaningful to consumers. Healthy has been defined by a regulation as an implied nutrient content claim that characterizes a food that has "healthy" levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Percentage claims for dietary supplements are another category of nutrient content claims. These claims are used to describe a percentage level of a dietary ingredient for which there is no established Daily Value. Examples include simple percentage statements such as "40% omega-3 fatty acids, 10 mg per capsule," and comparative percentage claims, e.g., "twice the omega-3 fatty acids per capsule (80 mg) as in 100 mg of menhaden oil (40 mg)." (See 21 CFR 101.13(q) (3)(ii)). A summary of the rules for use of nutrient content claims can be found in Chapter VI of The Food Labeling Guide. Examples of nutrient content claims can be found in Appendices A and B of The Food Labeling Guide: Appendix A: Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims and Appendix B: Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims.

Structure/function claims:  The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) established some special regulatory procedures for such claims for dietary supplement labels. Structure/function claims describe the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient intended to affect normal structure or function in humans, for example, "calcium builds…

Structure/function claims have historically appeared on the labels of conventional foods and dietary supplements as well as drugs. However, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) established some special regulatory procedures for such claims for dietary supplement labels. Structure/function claims describe the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient intended to affect normal structure or function in humans, for example, "calcium builds strong bones." In addition, they may characterize the means by which a nutrient or dietary ingredient acts to maintain such structure or function, for example, "fiber maintains bowel regularity," or "antioxidants maintain cell integrity," or they may describe general well-being from consumption of a nutrient or dietary ingredient.

Structure/function claims may also describe a benefit related to a nutrient deficiency disease (like vitamin C and scurvy), as long as the statement also tells how widespread such a disease is in the United States. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and truthfulness of these claims; they are not pre-approved by FDA but must be truthful and not misleading. If a dietary supplement label includes such a claim, it must state in a "disclaimer" that FDA has not evaluated the claim. The disclaimer must also state that the dietary supplement product is not intended to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease," because only a drug can legally make such a claim. Further information regarding structure/function claims can be found in FDA's January 9, 2002 Structure/Function Claims Small Entity Compliance Guide.


  Benefits of Whole Food - Copyright ©  JN Online by the American Society for Nutrition

Value of a varied diet:  The weight of scientific evidence indicates that the optimal approach for achieving a health benefit from the intake of nutrients and other physiologically active constituents is through the consumption of a varied diet that is rich in plant foods. In reality, each vegetable contains numerous different nutrients and phytochemicals—a biologic circumstance that is not currently replicated in pill form. In addition, the assumption that a combination of plant constituents that are naturally occurring is maintained at equivalent levels of biologic activity when extracted, dried, and compacted into pill form is likely unfounded.

Pharmaceutical companies have isolated many food components into supplement form, including allylic sulfides (garlic), isoflavones (soy), anthocyanin (bilberry extract), and glycyrrhizin (licorice), to name only a few. In the United States, tens of billions of dollars are spent annually on dietary supplements (76). The rapid growth in functional foods might be considered the food industry’s response to growing sales of dietary supplements. Supplements can provide nutrients and other physiologically active components in a potentially unbalanced and concentrated form that may be far different from the form used in research studies.

Nutrients and other bioactive food components that occur naturally in foods act synergistically with other dietary elements such as fiber to promote health. The food industry and dietetics professionals have a unique opportunity to promote whole foods as an alternative to dietary supplementation through the integration of appropriate functional foods into a varied eating plan for consumers. In addition, using sound scientific evidence, functional food products can be developed that further enhance the health benefits of food. In some circumstances, a combined food supplement approach may afford the greatest protection, and, to this end, the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health has developed a strategic plan to encompass such a research focus (77).


Functional Food Enhancements

Reference -


Functional foods are already a widespread, although comparatively recent, trend in the European food market. While still a new direction for genetic modification, you can find many non-GM functional food products lining shop shelves already, ranging from chocolate bars to spreads, cereals and yoghurt.[2] The main novelty for these functional foods is their claimed health benefits. That many food products can be beneficial for your health isn’t new. And those certain products are healthier than others isn't new either - after all, 'light' and 'diet' versions of diverse products have been around for years.

But what is new with many of these functional foods is that either they contain additives which - it is claimed - give them totally new (nutritional) qualities, or that the manufacturer has completely eliminated certain qualities from the food, such as allergenic proteins, thus making it seem more healthy.[3]

Functional food products already on the market include examples where the product has vitamins added, or where an allegedly more healthy form of fat is used in the food manufacturing process. Thus, much of the functional food already on the market is processed food, where the extra 'function' is added during the processing, and not - as yet - through genetic manipulation.

Biotechnology, the industry alleges, could hold the key to solving many of the world's most intractable health problems. At the same time, it is claimed, the technology could also liberate people from having to take drugs in pill or vaccine form.[7] However, there is no clear definition of the term’ functional foods', so confusion reigns throughout the industry as to what the phrase really means.[8] Several other related terms are also being kicked about, including 'nutraceuticals' and 'medical foods', with 'output traits' being added to products through 'value-added' biotechnology. This report will not try to define 'functional foods' any further, but instead uses it as a broad description for products that have a (claimed) consumer benefit - ranging from taste to nutritional value, or for food as a carrier of medicine.

Many of the companies involved are not (as yet) using genetic engineering, and instead add additives during processing. Companies are converging on the functional foods sector both from the pharmaceutical industry and the food industry, either by introducing new brands or by 'repositioning' existing brands with functional enhancements. [Functional foods therefore represent "a further narrowing of the boundary between the food and pharmaceutical industries", as the analyst firm Data Monitor puts it.[85] And even if most of them today might be free from GM products, there is a great danger that they will go down this road in the future.


  Functional Food Listings & Nutritional Benefits - pdf - Ten Top Power Foods


These foods include health-promoting ingredients or natural components found in conventional, fortified, enriched or enhanced foods. Listing of functional foods:

  • How much do you need?  

  • What It’s Good For      

  • Active Components     

  • Recipes - The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M)

FUNCTIONAL FOODS & FOOD COMPONENTS: Search for Anti-Aging information and Medical News in Functional Foods & Food Components within the Longevity and Age Management section. - The International Food Information Council

You can find various resources, videos and consumer research related to functional foods and health as well as easy tips on how to include them in your diet. - Examples of Functional Food - Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)

Discover applied science and market trends associated with the development of foods to maintain and improve health. IFT helps you learn and grow with other leading advocates for weight management, nutrigenomics, and foods for the prevention and management of diabetes, heart disease, bone/joint diseases and cancer.



Foods that Fight Cancer


American Institute for Cancer Research

Searchable Database for Foods to Defeat Cancer