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Functional Foods: What They Are And How They Work


In the brain, a typical protein can live for approximately ten days. The thoughts, feelings and memories of a human being are made up of what was in the stomach only a few days before. As you can see, in choosing one's diet, you actually can determine who and what you are going to become.

About 2500 years ago, Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals are designer foods and supplements that are combined with nutritional value that are disease-preventative and have medicinal benefits. These are usually natural products which may reduce or prevent chronic and acute disease or promote good health.

Many chronic and acute diseases are caused or irritated by nutritional imbalances or deficiency. The link between diet, disease and the ability to process thought are sometimes subtle and complex. Many studies suggest that some 40% of cancers are linked to dietary choices. Unhealthy eating habits are sometimes caused by farming practices, lack of money, and a manufacturing industry that promotes the ignorance of true, beneficial nutrition.

There is conjecture and speculation in the field of Nutritional Science that mood and aggressive behavior has more to do with diet than what was first thought. The most effective way to raise neural serotonin levels, which is the chemical that helps the body relax, is to eat a high carbohydrate meal. The insulin released lets more tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier by moving competing amino-acids out of the blood stream. A high-protein diet will tend to lessen the serotonin function at the expense of norepinephrine and dopamine, with a more aggressive and temperamental reaction from the subject.

Functional Foods and Nutraceutaicals work by balancing out the human bodies deficiencies or excessive chemical make-up. When foods are broken down in the mouth and stomach, they become massive ingredients for thousands of chemical reactions. Everything that a human consumes becomes a storehouse for chemical reactions that maintain the bodies life force. An example of this would be the cholesterol lowering effects of eating Oatmeal. How does this work? When a person consumes oatmeal, they consume carbohydrates called glucans, small fibers that fill the intestines which decreases the ability to absorb carbohydrates, it increases the movement of the food in the intestines and colon, and cleanses the body as it moves out as waste. The following would be other examples of how functional foods are working:

Erythema may be reduced by eating tomato paste ( Stahl W, Heinrich U, Wiseman S, Eichler O, Sies H, Tronnier H. J. Nutr. 131: 1449-1451, 2001 ).

Tomato and Tomato products may reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

(Sanjiv Agarwal and Akkinappally Venketeshwer Rao Canadian Medical Association Journal 2000; 163(6):739-44. )

Soy may prevent bone loss in menopausal women. (Arjmandi BH, Smith BJ Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2002, Vol. 13:130-137 )

Soy with isofalvones can reduce cholesterol. ( Vitolins MZ, Anthony M, Burke GL Current Opinions in Lipidology 2001, 12:433-437)

Garlic may reduce Cancer risk. (Dorant et al., 1993)

Cranberries aid in treatment of Urinary Tract Infection. (Schmidt and Sobota, 1988)

Dairy products aid in the prevention of Osteoporosis and Colon Cancer. (Fuller, 1994)

There are many, many more studies by accredited universities that have been done on a variety of plants and animals for functionality in nutritional therapies.

A diet of Functional foods can not only maintain better health, it can also repair chronic health issues. Functional foods would be foods that help to maintain better glucose control for diabetics, while having components that aid in repairing the pancreas. Foods that help to lower cholesterol levels in heart patients, foods that build the immune system in autoimmune patients.

Functional Food Specialists will be the physicians of tomorrow and those who manufacture functional foods will be the pharmacists that aid in healing the world of chronic and acute diseases.

D.S. Epperson is the top formulator for Home Blend Gourmet / South Pacific Health, a leader in the functional food industry in the U.S. With 20 years of experience in Nutritional Biochemistry, she has written reference books on botanicals and manufacturing of medicines from botanicals, and published articles on health, fitness and foods. She has formulated over 240 formulas and inventions for health, the environment and agricultural uses, and continues to research and study microbial advantages in nutraceuticals and functional foods. For more information or to view the articles that she has written: http://www.sugarblend.com


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