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Functional Food: Development and Popularity

So, the classification of health food. We can see from this diagram functional food is different from dietary supplements . On top of this pyramid is medicine. Next is food that has medical effects. Then, it’s functional food. Dietary supplements is next. In terms of study and efforts, medicine requires the most. Medical food and herbs also require clinical trial to learn their effects. Investment of time and efforts to develop are also required. The cost and time that scientists invested in functional food is still quite a lot. Because consumer expects this type of food. We can generally classify health food in this manner.
To put a simple definition of functional food: foods have a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Functional food must have a type of nutrients that is functional to the body after digestion and absorption. The earliest funcitonal food is developed from Japan Around 40 years ago, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan and Ministry of Education, Science and Culture had a very big project. Because of this project, the definition of functional food become important. They define functional food must have the functions of biophylaxis, biological rhythm and adjustment, or disease prevention and even health recovery. After the design and processing, food that has these functions can be called functional food. Japanese Industrial Center also makes some suggestions towards functional food.
They define functional food is not an essential food and is also not medicine. They serve as satisfaction toward customer’s pursuit of health. Therefore, the anticipation of functional food should not be an immediate medical effect. Helping prevention would be more appropriate in functional food. The development of functional food incorporate different enterprises. From medical science, nutrition, life science, biotechnology, and food science together. Since we have emphasized function, functional food is designed to meed special needs. For example, fish oil and red yeast rice that we mentioned earlier might be more meaningful for people with dyslipidemia. Next, we will see the evolution of functional food. There are first-generation, second-generation and third generation.
Functional food that has original physical states like lingzhi mushroom and green tea; as we know that green tea contains the effect of cholesterol reduction while lingzhi mushroom can be used to increase immunity. This is called 1st generation. If we abstract the functional composition from different food sources and concentrate them into capsule, caplets, or add as food additive, then it will become a second-generation functional food. If putting different food sources but with similar food ingredients together, we call it third-generation functional food. This is the general classification. The reasons for the popularity of health food are many. Many academic groups published lots of positive researches to the public.
The government are also very supportive, especially the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Department of Health, they hope researchers can publish positive news for physical health. Another reason for its popularity is that Taiwan has now become an aged society. The demand for functional food become higher. Also, social value towards healthcare and the awareness of health Being healthy becomes a great importance to social value. In addition, the government is encouraging the concept of prevention is better than cure. As a result, health food products become popular. With the advance of technology, many have pursued a better life quality. Consumers start to value their choice of healthy food. Last, with advanced food technology, merchandise starts to manufacture new health food products.
Those researches results of health food on the clinical trial in the past now become reality. So the reasons for health food popularity is complicated. I have only listed a few. Let’s look at some examples. For cancer patients, they prefer certain kinds of dietary supplements. You can see that polysaccharide, vitamin, minerals are all on the high-demand list among cancer patients.

Prof. Huang will explain functional food more. He starts with a pyramid to explain the relations between medicine and food.

Functional food must have a type of nutrients that is functional to the body after digestion and absorption. It depends on the process method, functional food can be categorized as first-generation, second-generation and third generation. To simplify, foods in the original state is 1st generation. If functional food made into capsule, caplet or food additives, then it is 2nd generation. If putting different food sources but with similar food ingredients together, we call it third-generation functional food.

Then, Prof. Huang describes the reasons for the popularity of health food. The demand for functional food becomes higher because of the aged society or government supports.

What other possible reasons that you think about the popularity of health food?

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