Global interest on functional foods is ramping up and the Philippines is expected to catch on to this trend, said an official from the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST- FNRI). Yet these foods should come with valid health claims that are government approved and market accepted, he stressed.
Mario V. Capanzana, PhD, director of FNRI, spoke on the topic during the 62nd Annual Convention of the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science (PhilAAS) held last September at Pearl Manila Hotel with the theme “Nutritional and Functional Food for Health and Wellness.” In his presentation titled “Functional Foods: Global Trends and Issues,”
At the convention, Dr. Capanzana revealed that functional foods, valued at US$ 168 B in the global market, is part of the new “health and wellness” market segment which also includes fortified foods, organic foods, traditional herbal products, and slimming products, among others.
Also called nutraceuticals, functional foods, as defined by the International Life Sciences Institute-North America, are those containing physiologically active food components, thus providing health benefits other than basic nutrition. Functional foods also refer to products isolated or purified from foods and generally sold in medicinal form like pills, or products that serve as supplement diets such as herbs. Some examples are rice, sotanghon noodles, coconut, malunggay, bitter gourd, sweet potato, taro, fruits, nata de coco, achara, and legumes that exhibit antimicrobial, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-allergenic properties.
What are lacking but necessary, according to the FNRI director, are regulations which will protect the public from false and misleading claims yet, will not put a dent on trade. “We need to develop functional foods with acceptable health claims,” said Dr. Capanzana. To establish these health claims, he emphasized, clinical studies, biological or animal studies, in vitro studies which involve isolated cells, molecules and other organism components, and epidemiological studies which involve assessment of links between food and diseases, should be looked into.
According to the European Food Information Council, consumers must have a clear understanding of, and a strong confidence level in the scientific criteria used to document health effects and claims.
Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, another DOST agency, echoed Dr. Capanzana’s statement. “There needs to be a global framework that cuts across countries,” he declared in his presentation titled “Health Claims and Functional Foods: A Global View” during the PhilAAS Convention.
Dr. Montoya suggested that before buying any functional food or product, consumers should get information on product safety, the amount of beneficial ingredients present in the food, whether the herbs and other ingredients were tested for government approval, and nutritional benefits, among others.
Global trends in regulations actually point to the necessity for a broad range of safe ingredient and sufficient information about the foods, as well as globally recognized manufacturing standards and appropriate technical requirements, among others. Dr. Capanzana added that we also need to look at the increasing number and variety of supplements in the market for over-the-counter purchase.
“We do not know how many spoonfuls of a functional food should we eat to have enough amount of nutrients, or how many capsules or tablet should we take per day,” stated Academician Dr. Evelyn Mae Mendoza of the National Academy of Science and Technology, a DOST advisory body, during her talk on “Functional Foods of the Philippines.”
“Let food be thy medicine,“ the FNRI head intoned as he expressed the need for government, the academe, and the local food industry to join hands in solving the issues related to functional food.
The current surge of interest in functional foods is driven by several factors. Among these are globalization, urbanization, science and emerging technologies, the global aging population, increased health care costs, changing regulations, and business opportunities provided by functional foods. The new risk factors involved in strokes and heart attacks also contribute to this upward trend. Around the world, guidelines and regulations on functional foods are now being developed, with Japan leading the way for such efforts. The others are China, Brazil, Brunei, Israel, Estonia, Vietnam, Laos, Russia, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam, UK, and Cambodia to name a few.
Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, director of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, explains the necessity for valid health claims on functional foods backed by scientific studies during his talk on “Functional Foods: Global Trends and Issues” at the 62nd Annual Convention of the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science last September at Pearl Manila Hotel. (Photo by Gerry Palad, S & T Media Service, DOST-STII)
Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, shares with convention participants and the media what the public should know about or look out for in a functional food before buying it during the 62nd Annual Convention of the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science. Among others, he cited food safety and government approval as essential information which consumers should look for. (Photo by Gerry Palad, S & T Media Service, DOST-STII)
The Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science 62nd Annual Convention unreels at the Pearl Manila Hotel in Manila from September 12-13, 2013 with the theme “Nutritional and Functional Food for Health and Wellness”. (Photo by Gerry Palad, S & T Media Service, DOST-STII).