Probiotic and Functional Food: A New Emerging trend in the field of Food Science

By: Pallavi Jaiswal*


Functional FoodNew eating habits are the actual trends in food production and consumption, which have a health environmental and social impact on human beings. Food is an essential part of everyone’s lives. It gives us the energy and nutrients to grow and develop, be healthy and active, to move, work, play, think and learn. The body needs a variety of the following five nutrients – protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals – from the food we eat to stay healthy and productive.To stay healthy, we not only need all of the above five nutrients in our diet but we also need them in the correct quantities – this is what we mean by a balanced diet. A functional food is a typical food that has specific nutrients added to it, like vitamins or minerals, fibre, or probiotics or prebiotics. In general, this includes anything added for a specific functional purpose known as functional foods.The U.S. is the largest consumer of functional foods, it was a $44 billion market in 2012 and it’s increasing with at least 60 percent of people consuming functional foods, occasionally. A functional food can have both naturally occurring ingredients that are then boosted or they can have nutrients that aren’t naturally found in them.

Food science enables us to make some functional foods that wouldn’t ordinarily be available. Knowing the science and chemistry of food and how ingredients interact helps us make some nutrients more readily available. A food given an additional function by adding new ingredients or more of existing ingredients is known as functional food. An example of this type of fortification would be the historic addition of iodine to table salt, or Vitamin D to milk, done to resolve public health problems such as rickets. Fermented foods with live cultures are considered functional foods with probiotic benefits.

Functional foods are foods with health benefits that are in addition to those attributable to the nutritional value of the food. The term is usually applied to foods that have been modified or combined in order to enhance the health benefits but may include any food that naturally possesses components with demonstrable pharmacological activity. Properties sought include immune-modulating, anti-inflammatory, lipid lowering, or ergogenic effects. The most widely used functional ingredients are plant-derived phenolic chemicals, probiotics, prebiotics, and mushrooms, but peptides, colostrum, egg yolk, and other non-plant foods may also serve as functional food sources. The future of functional foods is likely to be the combination of numerous ingredients to achieve a specific set of goals, rather than efforts to uncover the potential benefits of a single food source.

Probiotic foods are reported to provide several health benefits, as they help in maintaining a good bal-ance and com-position of intest-inal flora, and increase the resistance against invasion of pathogens. The demand of probiotic functional foods is growing rapidly due to increased awareness of consumers about the impact of food on health. Development of foods with adequate doses of probiotics at the time of consumption is a challenge, because several factors during processing and storage affect the viability of probiotic organisms. The presence of probiotics in food products may also adversely affect their quality and sensory properties. Several attempts have been made during the last few decades to improve the viability of probiotics in different food products during their production until the time of consumption. This contribution provides an overview of probiotic foods, factors responsible for survival of probiotics, and advance technologies used to stabilize their viability during processing and storage.

Probiotics are live, viable microbial dietary supplement that beneficially affect the host through its effects in the intestinal tract and provide several health benefits. Probiotics are widely used to prepare fermented dairy products such as yogurt or freeze dried cultures. In future they may also be found in fermented vegetables and meat products.Probiotics can be considered as potential functional foods, as they offer health benefits much more than the traditional nutritional foods. The requirement for probiotic functional foods is rapidly and progressively on the rise because of increased awareness of the public regarding the impact of food on health. Probiotics are now emerging as a promising key category of food supplement around the globe. There are now plenty of evidences backed up with high-quality, scientific clinical data to advocate that probiotic involvement could indeed be successful in the different types of diarrheal diseases, the modulation of immune function, the prevention of colon cancer, and other chronic gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders. The potential effectiveness of probiotics in treating or preventing neurological diseases is becoming a theme of great interest. In recent years, substantial interest has been dedicated to discover the functions and therapeutic effects of probiotics in a wide range of neurological conditions.

Current nutrition research is aiming at health promotion, disease prevention and performance improvement. The provision of human being with required nutritional ingredients depends on both how well the host is provided with balanced foods and what state of intestinal micro ecology host has. Many food, endogenous and probiotic low molecular weight biologically active ingredients have structural and functional resemblance and are the universal regulators of genetic, epigenetic, physiological and metabolic processes. Food quality, safety, and understanding of interplay among such active substances are central requirements for development of modern health benefit products.

Now increasing scientific evidences appear that food-stuffs not only satisfy appetite sensation, taste/aroma and the nutritional requirements of people but also provide beneficial physiological, metabolic and psychological effects over and above the provision of the basic nutrients. It is necessary to remember that more than 2000 years ago ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, considered as the father of Western medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The use of foods for their medical value as for their nutritional benefits is an ancient tradition in China, India, Egypt and Japan. At present, most people in the developed countries actively welcome everything that contributes to improving the quality of life and longevity.

The concept of “Functional Food” as an independent science, applied to Health and Nutrition, has been first formed in Japan at the end of the 1980s.Today, in the world scientific literature the products and substances used in ordinary life and medicine for human health support, prophylaxis and treatment of diseases are designated as “functional foods”, “nutraceuticals”, “medical foods”, and rarely “health food”, “super foods”, “pharma foods” and so on.

The Scientific Concepts of Functional Food in Europe have been formulated in 1995-1998. According to the European approach, an obligatory condition for a functional food product is to demonstrate the ability of such a product in safe quantity to provide health benefit influencing specific key host function(s). While the functional food category is not officially recognized by FDA (USA), Expert Report of Institute of Food Technologists (USA, 2004) and American Dietetic Association (2009) defined “functional foods” as “food and food components that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. The functional food industry, consisting of food, beverage and supplement sectors, is one of the several areas of the food industry that is experiencing fast growth in recent years.The research opportunities in nutrition to explore the relationship between a food or a food component and an improved state of health and well-being, or reduction of disease, present the greatest challenge to scientists now and in the future. The communication of health benefits to consumers is also of critical importance so that they have the knowledge to make informed choices about the foods they eat and enjoy.

* Project Leader, R&D Biotechnology; Tropilite Foods Pvt. Ltd. Gwalior M.P.

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