Changes in lifestyle, including improper nutrition and inadequate physical activity, have resulted in the epidemic of non – infectious diseases being a cause of several health problems, and even death. Functional food influences specific functions of the organism, providing (beyond basic nutrition) additional health benefits and remedies for some diseases, following the addition / concentration of a beneficial ingredient, or the removal / substitution of an ineffective or harmful one.
Functional ingredients and foods are defined as a food product possessing the appearance of traditional food included in the daily diet. These products provide physiological benefits and can reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases. According to EU documents (Çakiroglu & Uçar, 2018), if it can be proven that a food product affects one or more targeted functions in the body in a positive way, this food product is regarded as a functional food.
Functional food products contain added ingredients which provide health – related benefits for people beyond the effect of the typical food products (not pills or supplements). At present times, the functional product industry is an innovative one, characterised by dynamic growth, and new products being launched on a continual basis.
In this context, Carinsa is an innovative and disruptive company whose strategy is based on R&D, an evidence of that is its investment of more than 20% of its budget in R&D. One of its main lines of research and development, which has generated a lot of success for the company, is the development of bioactive ingredients, especially prebiotics, probiotics, parabiotics and postbiotics, which are used in all types of food matrices (currently, plant based, gelled waters, smoothies…). There are many positive health – related actions offered by this kind of food products, including the potential to boost the immune system, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, obesity and cancer, as well as to improve memory and physical condition.
Functional foods are processed food products provided health-related benefits, such as reducing the risk of the onset of diet-related diseases, boosting the immune system or reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems
Meeting customers’ demands for maintaining health
Customers consider the various associated aspects, including potential benefits and risks, before deciding to buy a food product. The success of functional foods depends both on its efficacy and ability to meet the demands of consumers. One of the most important things we should consider is the needs and behavior of consumers. The changes in their attitudes, and (as a result) purchase decisions cannot occur without knowledge of their motivations and expectations.
One of the most frequently mentioned motivations is health. Nowadays, in the third decade of the 21st century, health is becoming a more and more treasured value, both from a societal and a personal point of view. Regarding high costs of curative medicine, disease prevention is crucial, and there is evidence that functional food consumers understand the role of this kind of product in maintaining good health.
Beyond this motivation, there are several factors that affect purchase intention; the most important are the following: lifestyle, age, sex, personality, income, educational level, ethnicity, traditions, beliefs, physiological factors, and sensory preferences as well as marketing and available information. Taking all of these factors into account, Carinsa has come up with a selection of functional ingredients that could be of interest for the PREVENTOMICS project. The main ones are explained below.
Four functional ingredients developed within PREVENTOMICS
The main ingredient chosen by Carinsa for the PREVENTOMICS project was inulin. This natural soluble dietary fiber, which comes from fruits and vegetables alike, is mainly extracted for its commercial use from roots of the chicory plant. This kind of fiber is widely spread as an additive in the development of healthy food alternatives, as it has functionalities such as providing a sweet taste, acting as a texturing agent or as an stabilizer in emulsion formation.
In terms of the benefits that this ingredient can provide to its consumers, there are plenty of them. Inulin can lower the lipid and glucose levels in human blood, as it is a dietetic fiber with laxative properties. It also helps modulate the intestinal flora, due to its prebiotic nature; as it has been reported in several studies, with a daily intake of just 4g of inulin, there is a positive rise in beneficial colon bacteria. Lastly, inulin also works as an enhancer in the absorption of calcium and other minerals, with positive consequences in bone density. All of these characteristics turn inulin into an exciting potential ingredient for our project.
Another interesting ingredient that Carinsa has identified for this task is fructooligosaccharide fiber (FOS). This soluble fiber, formed by glucose and fructose molecules, can be extracted from fruits, such as bananas, as well as vegetables, like artichoke and asparagus. Despite our body not being able to digest these fibers, it uses them as an energetic substrate for the gut microbiota, mainly bifidobacteria, upgrading their growth substantially.
The main functions that FOS can provide for us are the stimulation of immunological activity, battling against digestive diseases, and inhibiting harmful bacteria growth, such as E.Coli. This is an ideal ingredient for baby or infant food supplementation.
Even though it is an already widely used ingredient, sunflower oil definitely has the attributes to become an excellent addition to PREVENTOMICS’ functional ingredients list. This oil has an already proven effect on the treatment of high cholesterol in human patients. Most research shows that the inclusion of this ingredient in diets lowers both total cholesterol and “bad” low density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as LDL.
Last but not least, an ingredient that has become very popular in recent times, due to its fantastic properties: turmeric powder. This spice, hugely popular in countries like India or Pakistan, has been named by some experts as “the most effective nutritional supplement in existence”.
Due to the presence in it of a compound named curcumin, turmeric shows a long list of benefits, and immense potential for its use as a functional ingredient. Some of those benefits are, as follow: natural anti-inflammatory properties, promotion of antioxidant capacities of the human body, lowering risks of heart diseases, potential cancer and Alzheimer’s prevention, effects against depression, and many more.
The benefits of functional foods
Nowadays, people are concerned about improving their health, that’s why functional food is playing an increasingly important role in the preservation of society’s health. Some functional foods such as Inulin, FOS, Sunflower oil and Turmeric powder, make for the most recent and healthier functional foods available in the food industry. This kind of food has presented several benefits for human health, and presents improvements for diseases such as: cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, obesity and cancer, as well as to improve memory and physical condition. All of these qualities make them interesting prospects to be included in the PREVENTOMICS’ ingredient list.
About the authors
Eduardo Troncoso: Food Technologist, with a Master’s Degree in R&D and a Master’s Degree in Management, currently working as R&D Project Manager for Carinsa. He has previous experience in the food sector, managing R&D projects for companies in both meat and fishing industries
Marcos Tomas: Biotechnologist with a Master’s Degree in Food Production Management, currently working as R&D Project Manager for Carinsa. He has previous experience in managing food industry-related projects at a national and international level, as well as new product development.
Carinsa creates, manufactures and distributes all kinds of flavors fragrances and prepared additives for the food, feed and perfumery industry. The company will contribute to PREVENTOMICS project through its Creation and Development of Food Aromas Department and R+D Department.