Overview of What Functional Foods Are

  • Bobbie Bradford
Living reference work entry


There is no globally accepted definition of what constitute functional foods, but in broad terms they can be described as foods that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition. The main drivers for the development of functional foods have included an increased focus on the role of certain foods and food ingredients in disease prevention and risk reduction, particularly for the developed world, along with a growing desire for “self-medication” with consumers much more likely to select foods based on their knowledge of healthy attributes ascribed to specific nutrients. Additional factors are the increase in the age of the population in the developed world and the propensity of obesity and associated so-called lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes. A survey carried out on Functional Foods/Foods for Health in 2011 revealed that 87 % of consumers agreed that certain foods have health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition with 80 % agreeing that they can help to maintain health and wellness (IFIC 2011). Consumers agreed that functional foods could help to improve heart disease, circulation, bone health, and type 2 diabetes, while other health benefits were also linked with functional foods including immune, digestive, and eye health.


Functional Food Ellagic Acid Food Ingredient American Dietetic Association Oily Fish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References and Further Reading

  1. Bigliardia B, Galati F (2013) Innovation trends in the food industry: the case of functional foods. Trends Food Sci Technol 31:118–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Committee on Opportunities in the Nutrition and Food Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (1994) Enhancing the food supply. In: Thomas PR, Earl R (eds) Opportunities in the nutrition and food sciences: research challenges and the next generation of investigators. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp 98–142Google Scholar
  3. Diplock AT, Aggett PJ, Ashwell M, Bornet F, Fern EB, Roberfroid MB (1999) Scientific concepts of functional foods in Europe – consensus document. Br J Nutr 81:S1–S27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) (2006) Food standards development.
  5. FOSHU: Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (2014).
  6. FUFOSE (1999) European commission action on functional food science in Europe.
  7. IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Consumer Trending Survey (2011)
  8. International Food Information Council (IFIC) (2011) Background on functional foods.
  9. Nutraceuticals/Functional Foods and Health Claims on Foods Final Policy (1998) Health Canada.
  10. Position of the American Dietetic Association (2009) Functional foods. J Am Diet Assoc 109(4):735–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Subirade M. (2007) Report on functional foods. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)Google Scholar
  12. Yang Y (2008) Scientific substantiation of functional food health claims in China. J Nutr 138:1199S–1205SCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UnileverMilton KeynesUK

Personalised recommendations