In the most basic sense, all foods are functional. Specifically, all foods serve some function in the body: they provide energy, nutrients, micronutrients, water, or fiber necessary to maintain and promote life. However, functional foods are a subset of foods – one could also think of them as a category of foods – that are considered by many to have properties that make them especially potent in promoting maintenance of a healthful life. These foods are typically characterized by the addition or enhancement of a biologically active ingredient understood to promote health and often appear to dance between food and medicine.
A variety of political factors, social trends, and technological innovations have shaped the creation of the contemporary category of functional foods. This food category first originated in Japan during the mid-1980s as part of a state-sponsored research project that sought to analyze,...
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