What are Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals?


Key Terms

There is no universally accepted term for functional foods and nutraceuticals. According to Health Canada (Section 2.2)

A functional food is similar in appearance to, or may be, a conventional food that is consumed as part of a usual diet, and is demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions, i.e. they contain bioactive compound.

A nutraceutical is a product isolated or purified from foods that is generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with foods. A nutraceutical is demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against chronic disease.

 

 

Categories of Functional Foods/Nutraceuticals

Source: Shambrock Consulting Group Inc. and Kelwin Management Consulting

Basic Foods

Carrots (containing the natural level of the anti-oxidant beta-carotene)

Processed foods - oat bran cereal (containing the natural level of beta-glucan)

Processed Foods with Added Ingredients

Calcium-enriched fruit juice

Foods enhanced to have more of a functional component (via traditional breeding, special livestock feeding or genetic engineering)

Tomatoes with higher levels of lycopene (an antioxidant carotenoid)

Oat bran with higher levels of beta glucan

Eggs with omega-3 from flax

Isolated, purified preparations of active food ingredients (dosage form)

Isoflavones from soy

Omega-3 from fish oils (DHA and ALA)

Other Definitions

Source: Shambrock Consulting Group Inc. and Kelwin Management Consulting

Bioactive Compounds are the naturally occurring chemical compounds contained in, or derived from, a plant, animal or marine source, that exert the desired health/wellness benefit (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids in flax or fish oils and beta-glucans from oats and barley).

Functional Ingredients are the standardized and characterized preparations, fractions or extracts containing bioactive compounds of varying purity, that are used as ingredients by manufacturers in the food (human and pet) and preparations, fractions or extracts containing bioactive compounds of varying purity, which are used as ingredients by manufacturers in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors.

Herbs are the leaves, roots and flowers of plants grown and processed for culinary, cosmetic, industrial, medicinal, landscaping, decorative and fragrant purposes. Much of the early interest in functional foods and nutraceuticals was based on the medicinal uses of herbs.

Industrial Ingredients are the standardized and characterized preparations, fractions or extracts of agri-commodities of varying purity, that are used as ingredients by manufacturers of non-food products.

Natural Health Products (NHP) includes homeopathic preparations; substances used in traditional medicines; minerals or trace elements; vitamins; amino acid; essential fatty acids; or other botanical, or animal or microorganism derived substances. These products are generally sold in medicinal or "dosage" form to diagnose, treat, or prevent disease; restore or correct function; or to maintain or promote health. As a product group, NHPs include nutraceuticals.

Novel Foods are defined by Health Canada as: products that have never been used as food; foods that result from a process that has not previously been used for food; or, foods that have been modified by genetic manipulation. This last category of foods are genetically modified foods.

Spices are seeds, root, bark and flowers of plants that are grown, harvested and processed for use as food or beverage flavouring. Examples include caraway, coriander, dill and mustard. Recently there has been interest in bioactive compounds identified in spices.

Traditional Food Ingredients are the standardized and characterized preparations, fractions or extracts of agri-commodities of varying purity, that originate from plant, animal or marine sources and are used as ingredients by manufacturers in the food (human and pets) and NHP sectors. They are used for a variety of reasons in food products including consistency, adding flavour or colouring, modifying texture or stabilizing mixtures. They are not marketed on the basis of any bioactive compounds that they may contain.

Traditional Processed Foods are the conventional foods that have been manufactured by the traditional food processing industry and sold to the public through established distribution systems for generations. These foods are consumed as part of a usual diet and are consumed primarily for basic nutritional purposes. Examples are processed meats, bottled fruit juice, yogurt, and breakfast cereal. They are not marketed on the basis of any bioactive compounds that they may contain.

Traditional Whole Foods are the conventional foods that have been grown by agricultural producers for generations. They are subjected to minimal processing (e.g. sorting, cleaning and bulk packaging) before being sold to the public through established distribution systems. These foods are consumed as part of a usual diet and are consumed primarily for basic nutritional purposes. Examples include raw vegetables (broccoli and spinach), fresh fruit (blueberries and apples) and fresh meat (tray packed beef, pork or chicken).