Are ‘functional food’ are really functional? Know what expert has to say…

“Let your food be your medicine, and let your medicine be your food” -Hippocrates

Saurabh Arora (Scientific Reporter)

Functional Foods

Different experts define functional food differently however, as per their generally accepted definition, the food that is capable of reducing the risk of chronic disease and hence providing health and physiological benefits beyond the traditional nutrient value and includes whole food, fortified food, enriched food, dietary components etc. Functional foodsare classified by various bodies and hereby compiled as they are available in market:

Benefits of Functional Foods

As mentioned above, functional foods are foods with potential positive effect on health that is beyond the basic nutrition. An example is orange juice that’s been fortified with calcium for improved bone health.

Functional foods showpromising outcomes when used to prevent and/or treat chronic conditions especially life-style related diseases, metabolic disorders and GUT related disorders. It is also known to modulate certain genetical disorders and now the research is advancing towards establishing the possible interactions among food and genes to achieve controlled gene modulation ultimately affecting physiology of various disorders.

Expert Opinion

Talking to Medicare news, Food & Science expert Shalini Arora PhD (Asst. Prof. LUVAS) explained that diet plays an important part in diseasesand contribute to up to 6out of the 10 leading causes of death. Also, up to 70% of certain cancers may be attributed to diet and eating habits. Nutrients/nonnutritive food components are in-practice for prevention and/or treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes coronary heart disease, and hypertension among a few. A proof of the above claimed benefits is the clinical guidelines (NCEP, 2001) for treatment of coronary heart disease which suggests the use of specific foods such as plant sterols/stenols, high soluble-fibre,less trans fatty acid consumption to ultimately reduce the bad low density lipid (LDL) content in the blood.

She explained, it is well-known fact that our genes are modulated to a large extent by the environment to which they are exposed to, and diet forms a key environmental factors to which our genes are exposed well before the birth and the exposure continues throughout the life.

Since, gene expression lead to the production of functional proteins that function within the human body, acting as enzymes, hormones, oxygen transporters and building blocks. It is not wrong to say that gene expression governs our existence.

The interaction between diet of an individual and his or her genetic makeup stands really important for e.g. it has been demonstrated that certain errors of metabolism which were fatal in nature, have been managed successfully with diet modification. A well-known example is galactosemia, a genetic disorder wherein the bearer is not ableto convert galactose to glucose and is usually discovered in infants when fed with milk shortly after birth due to the presence of a large quantity of galactose in milk. Untreated galactosemia can lead to cataracts, enlarged liver and spleen, and mental retardation. The cure lies in lifelong elimination of milk and dairy products from the diet.

Alongwith the certain benefits, it would be however, unreasonable to expect functional foods to address all the medical needs, but it is certain that functional foods are capable of improving health and wellness. Also, they contribute toward effective management of well-being with minimal costs.Since, in the recent years, advancement in processing technology has made it feasible to reach sophisticated innovative products into the market worldwide. Also, we could expect a boom in the acceptability of functional food among Asian countries including India in coming decade.

Healthy People, Healthy Profits?

“Indian nutraceuticals market is expected to cross from a value of US$ 2.8 Billion in 2015 to a value of US$ 8.5 Billion by 2022, according to the joint study brought out by ASSOCHAM and RNCOS.”Also, the functional food ingredients market to rise at a CAGR of 6.0% between 2016 and 2024

A functional beverage is an emerging segment of the Indian nutraceuticals industry that was valued at US$ 0.3 Billion in 2015. With the availability of functional beverages, like Yakult, Ocean, Gatorade, in the form of energy drinks, vitamin water, fortified milk and buttermilk, and enhanced tea, among others. The companies involved majorly, including Danone, Dabur, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Amul, Britannia and Rasna, are coming up with innovative beverages with improved nutritional potential in order to attract the health conscious Indian consumers. The market for this type of beverages is forecasted to reach an approximate value of US$ 1.1 Billion by 2022.

Transparency Market Research

Demand for Functional Foods to Remain High from Functional Beverages to outperform functional food market segment. The possible reason could be the ease of manufacturing and high consumer demand for health reason. This exponential growth could be attributed to the erratic eating habits of people and their efforts to make-up for the lost nutrients by consuming easy-to-use fortified beverages.


In future, it may be possible to design foods and diets that regulate gene expression and thereby modulating metabolism in a way that reduces or prevents common diseases afflicting people having a specific genotype. Also, Scientific validation towards optimization of nutrient plans and products based on the interaction of genetics and diet for individuals and group of individuals may soon come in picture. It means consumers would be able to select for the functional ingredients/foods to meet their dynamic health goals at different ages.

Currently functional foods concept is gaining its identity in India after being accepted internationally. The market has been growing at a steady CAGR of nearly 8%, as reported by Technavio, and the market is likely to stay positive until the end of 2020. With increasing financial resources and willingness to spent for healthy living, functional foods being introduced in the Indian market, the segment, is highly favorable to create a customer base that would like to consume products that meet the changing health goals of people of India.



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