Summaries on Food
Are you starving for information about
The International Food Information
Council (IFIC) recently served up the first in a series of fact
sheets on various food components and their potential health
benefits. Functional foods refers to any food or food component
that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition.
The first fact sheet provides
information on antioxidants, including health effects, research,
Web links, and dietary sourcess.
Future fact sheets will cover
functional foods such as soy protein, plant stanols and sterols,
omega-3 fatty acids, and pre-and probiotics.
The IFIC is primarily supported
by the food, beverage and agricultural industries.
We have long been told that plant foods, including fruits, vegetables
and grains, are good for us. Well, the research confirms that
some of these foods do, as part of an overall healthful diet,
have the potential to delay the onset of many age-related diseases.
This appears to be due to high levels of antioxidants and other
phytonutrients. Antioxidants comprise many components-some vitamins,
minerals, carotenoids, polyphenols-all present in a variety
of foods. Some are natural colorants characterized by their
distinctive colors-the deep red color of cherries, the red color
in tomatoes, the orange color in carrots, and the yellow color
of corn, mangos and saffron. The most well-known antioxidants
are vitamins A, C and E, beta carotene, and selenium.
Humans need oxygen to live, but oxygen also causes undesirable
oxidation, like the process that corrodes metals and turns sliced
apples brown. Oxidation produces sometimes dangerously reactive
substances-free radicals-that are normally formed within the
body. While the body has its defenses against such substances,
they nonetheless have potential to damage key components such
as DNA, proteins and lipids (fats). Antioxidants are capable
of stabilizing free radicals before they can cause harm in much
the same way as coating sliced apples with ascorbic acid (vitamin
C) will prevent browning.
Research implicates free radicals in development of a number
of degenerative diseases, such as cancer
and cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's
disease, immune dysfunction,
cataracts and macular degeneration. However,
free radicals are also acknowledged to have beneficial roles
in the body. So, free radicals and antioxidants must exist in
balance. It is suggested that certain conditions, such as chronic
diseases and aging, can tip the balance in favor of free radicals
that cause ill effects. For example, the development of cancerous
tumors is believed to be initiated, at least in part, by free
of the carotenoid antioxidant lutein has been shown to increase
macular pigment density. Whether this will prevent or reverse
the progression of macular degeneration remains to be seen.
Consumption of teas, both green and black, provides rapid absorption
of catechins, a polyphenol antioxidant that helps to maintain
cardiovascular health and may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Until recently, it seemed clear that antioxidants were almost
a panacea for continued good health, spawning
a huge industry attempting to meet consumer demand. It is only
as more research has probed into the mechanisms of antioxidant
action, that it seems clear that a far more complex story needs
unraveling. For example, there are indications that certain
individuals, such as smokers, should not consume high-dose supplemental
remains a deficiency of direct experimental evidence from randomized
trials, leading to different recommendations for different populations.
The American Heart Association, while encouraged by results
of clinical trials of vitamin E, does not yet recommend vitamin
E supplements. Rather, the organization advocates that the general
population consume a "balanced diet with emphasis on antioxidant-rich
fruits and vegetables and whole grains,".until
further studies can confirm the initial positive findings. On
the other hand, the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition
Board recently increased the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI)
for vitamin E, which may be difficult to obtain from current
Research indicates that there are overall health benefits from
antioxidant-rich foods consumed in the diet. The results of
clinical trials, which support the benefits of antioxidant supplements,
are inconsistent. Current recommendations by health professionals
are to consume a varied diet with at least 5 servings of fruits
and vegetables and 6 - 11 servings of grains per day. A daily
multivitamin containing antioxidants may provide additional
occurring in foods like:
Corn, Carrots, Mangos, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, Soybeans,
Cantaloupe, Oranges, Spinach, Nuts, Lettuce, Celery, Liver,
Fish Oil, Seeds, Grains, Tea (Black and Green).
Reduce Risk Of:
(Colon, Prostate, Skin)
American Dietetic Association
of Food Technologists
Information on Functional Foods for Health:
Reference Source 101