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Position of the American Dietetic Association: Functional Foods

        Abstract

        All foods are functional at some physiological level, but it is the position of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) that functional foods that include whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels. ADA supports research to further define the health benefits and risks of individual functional foods and their physiologically active components. Health claims on food products, including functional foods, should be based on the significant scientific agreement standard of evidence and ADA supports label claims based on such strong scientific substantiation. Food and nutrition professionals will continue to work with the food industry, allied health professionals, the government, the scientific community, and the media to ensure that the public has accurate information regarding functional foods and thus should continue to educate themselves on this emerging area of food and nutrition science. Knowledge of the role of physiologically active food components, from plant, animal, and microbial food sources, has changed the role of diet in health. Functional foods have evolved as food and nutrition science has advanced beyond the treatment of deficiency syndromes to reduction of disease risk and health promotion. This position paper reviews the definition of functional foods, their regulation, and the scientific evidence supporting this evolving area of food and nutrition. Foods can no longer be evaluated only in terms of macronutrient and micronutrient content alone. Analyzing the content of other physiologically active components and evaluating their role in health promotion will be necessary. The availability of health-promoting functional foods in the US diet has the potential to help ensure a healthier population. However, each functional food should be evaluated on the basis of scientific evidence to ensure appropriate integration into a varied diet.
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