The concept originating in ancient China and transported to Japan long ago—“Medicine and food are isogonics” as well as the doctrine of Hippocrates (460–377 B.C.), “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” - has had a resurgence. The advent of up-to-date science and sophisticated technology has made it possible to recognize food as supplying us with more than nutrition. Food can even help reduce the risk of chronic lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, obesity, etc., caused by inadequate metabolic modulation, and cancer, allergies, infection diseases, etc., caused by broken body-protection systems.
Actually the term “functional foods” was first introduced in Japan in the mid-1980s and refers to processed foods containing ingredients that aid specific bodily functions in addition to being nutritious. To date, Japan is the only country that has formulated a specific regulatory approval process for functional foods. Known as Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU), these foods are eligible to bear a seal of approval from the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare. In the United States and European countries functional foods are used in the different terms like nutraceuticals, designer foods, vitafoods, pharmafoods, medifoods, medicinal foods and foodicuticals. Overwhelming evidence from epidemiological, in vivo, in vitro, and clinical trial data indicates that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Functional food or Nutraceutical (English: nutrition and pharmaceutical)‚ is the collective term for foods whose purpose exceeds that of merely supplying the body with energy. In other words, they not only supply the nutrients contained naturally, but are enriched with additional ingredients. The best-known examples of functional food are probably drinks and yogurts enriched with pro- or prebiotics, which are said to have a positive effect on the intestinal flora.
Some functional components of foods have a major role in health enhancement. In fact, the big importance of these “bioactives” present in many foods, either naturally or added, has led many scientists of different fields to conduct studies aimed for establishing the scientific basis that supports and validates the benefits of a particular food or component for the human health. Functional food should not be confused with dietary supplements: While the other are usually available as tablets, powders or capsules, functional food always refers to products that can be integrated into the normal diet - such as margarine mixed with omega-3 fatty acids or bread with a very high fibre content.
The demand for foods with a positive impact on human health and wellness has exploded globally over the past two decades. This growth is driven by socioeconomic and scientific factors, including increases in population, disposable income, life expectancy and healthcare costs. The market for healthier foods is also enhanced by advancements in our understanding of dietary bioactive ingredients and their effects on various aspects of human health at a systems and molecular level. Functional foods are connections among different disciplines, mainly: food science, nutrition, pharmacology, toxicology and manufacturing technology. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are looking for new ways to use food as medicine in a bid to help protect them against disease. As a result, the functional food market is booming. Given the shift in consumer values, the market for these kinds of foods is expected to see significant growth over the next decade, and is projected to reach $260 billion by 2027—a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5%.