Novel Foods in Nutrition Health and Development: Benefits, Risks and Communication
Recent estimates of human requirement for indispensable amino acids have shown that the requirement for key amino acids such as lysine is twofoldthreefold higher than previously thought. As a consequence
recommended intakes for protein, particularly for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, need to be revised. Indispensable amino acids can also be used directly to improve amino acid supply in diets. A range of nitrogen compounds such as creatine and branched chain amino acids are currently used by groups such as athletes, although their efficacy is open to question. Peptides are natural components of the diet and some of these have been shown to have beneficial effects. The emergence of methods for genetic modification of food proteins raises possibilities of the development of novel foods for a variety of benefits including improved supply of indispensable amino acids, reduced allergenicity, or preformed antibodies to reduce risk of disease.
Food fortification has played a significant role in the current nutritional health and well-being of populations in industrialized countries for over 70 years. A relative lack of a concentrated food processing chain, less developed commercial markets, and relatively low consumer awareness and demand have hindered the same application of the intervention in the transitional, and even more, in the least developed countries until quite recently. The present paper reviews fortification of foods with micronutrients in advantaged (industrialized), transitional (developing) and least developed countries briefly, including reference to bio-fortification, examining some of the public health issues involved. There are different needs and challenges in getting this technology accepted and making it sustainable. Primary constraints in reaching poor target populations are adequate availability, accessibility, and quality assurance/quality control. The paper then examines some issues of risk and benefit and the communication of these, and finally looks towards the future and draws some conclusions. Despite these issues there has been an enormous increase in fortification programmes over the last couple of decades in developing countries. Along with dietary diversification, supplementation and related public health and private sector intervent ions, this has resulted in considerable progress in reducing the prevalence of vitamin A and iodine deficiencies, but much less so with iron, even as zinc and folic acid deficiencies have emerged as significant public health problems. Food fortification based on sound principles and supported by clear policies and regulations will play an increasingly large role in the progress towards the prevention and control of micronutrient malnutrition. Success and sustainability require clear communication of the small risks involved and the substantial benefits, particularly to populations with significant levels of micronutrient malnutrition, as a complementary approach with other public health measures, in reducing the prevalence of deficiencies and their health consequences.
Foods derived from plants, such as fruits and vegetables, have been the backbone of human nutrition since the beginning of time. Hunting and fishing supplemented diets with protein-rich foods but nutrition was predominantly based on the availability of plant foods. The importance of various plant foods in the development of some civilizations and economies has been well documented: maize in the Americas, potatoes in parts of Europe after their introduction from the Americas, and wheat in Australia. Plant industries are still the backbone of cultures and economies in almost every corner of the world and production figures support the fact that plant industries are still regarded as the most important source of nutrition. Nutrition parameters found in plant foods vary between crops but there is a consensus that plant foods can supply most, if not all, of the essential components for human nutrition. These components were discovered slowly by trial and error during human history, a classic example was the prevention of scurvy in seafarers. When fresh fruit and vegetables were missing from their diet, they learned that products such as pickled cabbages and citrus, rich in vitamin C, could prevent the manifestation of this dehabilitating dietary disease. As early as the turn of the century scientists learned that diet not only affected nutrition but also had an effect on health and well-being. But it was not until 1933 that a direct relationship between consumption of fruit and vegetables and diseases such as cancer was shown. Fruit and vegetables not only have become the backbone of local agricultural markets but also play a major role in international trade. Competition for local and international markets is driving extensive research and development to produce new cultivars. Until recent times research has concentrated on producing new varieties that store longer, yield better, look better, taste better, suit local climates, display disease and pest resistance and suit processing technologies. A new wave of research is addressing the newly developing interest in heath-based foods. Molecular biologists, biochemists, botanists and medical researchers are linking in with plant breeding programmes to develop new varieties of fruit and vegetables that are tailor-made to produce higher levels of health-related phytochemicals. New phytochemical-enhanced products such as broccoli, tomato, oranges and berries are currently being evaluated for commercial exploitation. The present paper will discuss some of the products that are being produced, the driving forces behind their production, the phytochemicals targeted and the problems that must be addressed if this new approach in human nutrition and health is to be of benefit to consumers.
The present paper will discuss the nature of nutrition communication and knowledge in relation to novel foods. The paper starts with an introduction to trends in present-day society, then focuses on the concepts of knowledge and information in relation to human needs and motivation. Next, the relevance of food and nutrition communication to consumer lifestyles is discussed. This is followed by consideration of consumer issues related to novel foods. The key conclusions are that nutrition communication is a minor part of most consumers' lifestyles and that the promotion of novel foods must be based on the dissemination of sound nutrition principles throughout the various values and lifestyles segments of the population.
The history of food is a history of thousands of years of human choice set in the context of an almost Darwinian process of natural selection. Around the world, food is eaten to fill stomachs and to keep bodies strong and healthy. In Asia there is, frequently, a shift in emphasis. The Asian people, like everyone else, eat to survive, but they also eat to keep their bodies finely tuned, physically and spiritually. No food is a nutritious food if it is not safe. Food safety is of paramount importance for food trade, both domestically and internationally. Developed Asian nations such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea have been paying more attention to healthy eating. Fearful of health problems, they are returning to traditional foods. On average, life expectancy has more than doubled from 34 years at the turn of the 19th century to 76 years in developed countries today. With the advance of medical science and technology, the figure is set to rise. There is growing scientific evidence that these major diseases are closely associated with lifestyle, dietary habits in particular. There are many well-accepted observations that show that protective immune responses are impaired in old age, that immune deficiency causes an increased risk of more frequent and more severe infections, and that nutritional deficiencies occur frequently and are a detrime determinant of the immunocompetence of aging. The relationships of nutrition, aging and immune competence are attracting more and more attention. The world trend in foods will be focused into four food groups, which are characterized for their positive effect on human life in the future: (i) foods that will improve cardiovascular disease; (ii) foods that enhance the immune system; (iii) foods that increase women's health, fitness and beauty; and (iv) foods that could improve the nutritional status of children. To communicate better, there is an urgent need for easily available local-based textbooks that successfully discuss applications of food science and nutrition to people of the particular developing countries, and at the same time discuss in simple national language all the basic principles of foods and nutrition. If developing countries are to give their children the heritage of health as well as freedom, the people must change their attitude toward food. They must learn from each other and from the world about the kind of foodstuffs that make a person healthy.
Novel foods and novel food ingredients are making a rapid appearance in countries such as Vietnam. They are likely to gain acceptance by the consumers because medicinal and health properties of food are traditionally sought by people in the region. Although these foods offer potential benefits to the population in terms of increasing the nutritional adequacy of the diet, they also pose potential problems. Inadequate laws and enforcement as well as a underdeveloped capacity to deal with the safety, nutritional impact and provision of information to the population have the potential for undesirable consequences for the introduction of novel foods. The solutions are to build technical capacity, to develop the legal and enforcement government infrastructure and to adequately inform the consumer about the risk and potential benefits of novel foods.
The present report provides an overview of the situation of nutrition labelling, nutrition claims and health claims in several countries in the Asia Pacific region. The regulatory requirements of six countries in South-East Asia (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), two other countries in Asia (China and Japan) and AustraliaNew Zealand are reviewed. With the exception of the recently introduced Joint Food Standards Code of AustraliaNew Zealand and the proposed new regulations in Malaysia, there is no mandatory nutrition labelling requirements for a wide variety of foods in all these countries. Many countries, however, require nutrition labelling to be made compulsory for special categories of foods (e.g. foods for special dietary use) and when nutritional claims are made for fortified or enriched foods. Nevertheless, several food manufacturers, especially multinationals, do voluntarily label the nutritional content of a number of food products. There is therefore increasing interest among authorities in countries in the region to start formulating regulations for nutrition labelling for a wider variety of foods. Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia have proposed new regulations to make it mandatory to label a number of foodstuffs with a number of core nutrients. Other countries prefer to start with voluntary labelling by the manufacturers, but also spell out the requirements for voluntary labelling. The format and requirements for nutrition labelling differ widely for countries in the region. Some countries (e.g. Malaysia) have followed the Codex guidelines on nutrition labelling in terms of format, components to be included and mode of expression rather closely. Other countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, have drafted nutrition labelling regulations very similar to those of the Nutrition Labelling and Education Act of the USA. Nutrition claims are also not specifically permitted under current regulations in most of the countries reviewed. However, various food products on the market can be found with a variety of nutrition (and even health) claims. It is feared that without proper regulations, the food industry is not certain what claims are permitted to be made. Excessive and misleading claims made by irresponsible manufacturers would serve only to confuse and mislead the consumer. There are therefore also efforts in countries in the region to enact regulations on nutrition claims. Japan has detailed requirements for making nutrition claims such as 'high', 'source of', 'free', and 'low'; these criteria are not the same as those recommended by Codex. Malaysia has initiated the process to enact regulations to clearly stipulate the permitted nutrition claims and the conditions required to make these claims. The proposed regulations are closely aligned to the guidelines of Codex. Most of the other countries also permit some nutrition claims to be made, with varying degree of resemblance to Codex guidelines. Health claims are not permitted in most of the countries in the region. Some countries have specifically prohibited health claims to be made for foods. The exception is Japan, which has permitted health claims to be made for a group of foods approved to be foods for specified health uses (FOSHU). These may be considered to be functional foods, and presently approximately 200 of them have been approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. This is, however, a rather unique system wherein approval is given to individual items based on scientific data submitted. China too has permitted health claims to be made on specific foods that are termed health foods. A health claim phrase permits a simple description or statement of the health functions of the food product. These health foods shall also be preapproved by the Ministry of Health prior to marketing. Indonesia and the Philippines are only two countries in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region that allow limited health claims to be made, similar to those permitted by the USA. There are more differences than similarities in the regulations on nutrition labelling and claims among countries in the Asia Pacific region. It is important for discussions to be held among countries in the region for greater collaboration in the enactment of regulations on nutrition labelling and health claims. Although a single nutrition label may not be practical for the region, closer agreements in minimum requirements would benefit food industries. Similarly, more similarities in the requirements for nutrition claims would facilitate regional trade. Health claims is an even more complex subject for the region and regulatory agencies would be cautious in its development. One of the major challenges in promulgating requirements for nutrition labelling and claims is to ensure that the consumer understands the label and that it assists them in making an appropriate food choice. The ability of small- and medium-scale industries to comply with the proposed regulations is also an important concern. Other concerns include the laboratory capabilities or other means of arriving at the nutrient levels for declaration, an efficient mechanism for processing applications for nutrition and health claims and the monitoring and evaluation of these regulations.
Novel or functional foods may provide health and nutritional benefits due to non-nutritice components such as fiber, flavonoids, and phenols. National, regional and international regulations are discussed as a means to control label claims, composition and uses.
The world's demand for food is becoming greater than ever. The current world population of 6 billion will exceed 8 billion in 2025 and new innovations are needed to meet the growing challenges of the poor and hungry world. Novel foods produced through biotechnology may help alleviate the problems of poverty and food insecurity, but only if steered by continual policy development and actions at the regional, national and international levels. The great progress made with iodized salt in combatting iodine deficiency disorders, through global partnership, provides inspiration for future applications of nutritional science and food technology to public health problems in the developing world. The attributes of biotechnology-produced novel foods are complex. As outlined in the present paper, they may also provide the diets of people in developing countries with more energy, protein and micronutrients. This could thereby reduce the extent of suffering associated with public health problems such as vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency and anaemia, which affect millions. However, more research and resources need to be focused on the problems and opportunities that face small farmers and poor consumers in developing countries. In particular, attention should be focused on the foods that feature most predominately in their diets such as bananas, cassava , sweet potatoes, rice, maize, wheat, millet and yams, and unless this exciting science is given a chance to prove itself in the developing world we will never know if it is in fact the so-called 'biosolution'. Paradoxically, overnutrition, obesity, and related diseases characteristic of the developed world, are becoming serious public health problems in countries with widespread food insecurity. Children suffering from undernutrition today could well be afflicted with chronic diseases of development as adults. The economic development that has led to improved food security and better health in some countries needs to be harnessed, while at the same time incentives to avert the adverse health effects of the nutrition transition need to be taken. The potential of novel foods to alleviate undernutrition is becoming more apparent. But they are unlikely to have a role in the prevention of diseases associated with overnutrition in developing countries, who use growing incomes to replace their traditional diets high in complex carbohydrates and fibre, with diets that include a greater proportion of fats (especially saturated) and sugars. More aggressive public health policies are needed to steer populations in nutrition transition towards a healthy lifestyle and diet rather than investing in particular novel foods. In developed countries the wide variety of macronutrient-modified foods available to consumers has enabled people to eat a more healthy diet, along the lines of the recommendations issued by many governments, and so reduce the risk of diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Novel foods containing macronutrient substitutes can be a useful adjunct to consumers if they are used to supplement an overall effort to reduce fat and calories as part of a balanced diet. On a population basis it is difficult to ascertain the impact of such foods on the prevention of obesity, not least because of the confusion surrounding the role of individual macronutrient components in its aetiology. Efforts to encourage individuals, especially children, to eat healthy diets and have an active lifestyle are more likely to help prevent the growth of this already epidemic problem. The discovery that the intake of certain foods and their associated components can exert profound physiological effects has been accompanied by research into the potential health-promoting effects of functional foods. Many of these foods and beverages are already consumed by large population groups worldwide, and have been for centuries. It is unlikely that such foods or drinks are going to result in any untoward effects in these population groups. But for many functional foods, more research needs to be conducted in humans to judge whether or not they provide a true health-promoting edge, as well as ensuring that they conform to rigorous safety requirements. The present paper points to a future in which specific foods help protect against diseases to which we are genetically susceptible. There is no doubt that important applications of all aspects of nutritional science, coupled with advances in genetics and the optimization of dietary intake, are on the horizon. But only a meticulous scientific approach eliciting highly significant results will ensure the success and acceptability of this new discipline. Nutrigenomics will lead to development of diets targeted to individuals, and as new information on dietgene interactions becomes available and genotypic analyses are used to enhance the quality of medical care, there are enormous ethical, legal and psychosocial issues that will need to be addressed. Safety evaluation is vital for all novel, functional or formulated foods, whatever their disease-preventing potential. It is equally important that they are considered as and eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet, not in isolation. This will help to dispel the notion that there are good and bad foods, and instead promote the significance of good and bad diets. Only then are these foods likely to be an important part of the global agenda for combating malnutrition.
The purpose of the present paper was to examine the scope f novel foods in improving and/or preventing the nutritional disorders in different stages of lifespan. First, attempts were made to review the current trend and magnitude of the nutritional problems in each of the stages starting from fetal development to old age. The paper then describes the possible potential role of novel foods in alleviating and/or preventing these nutritional/health problems.The conclusion made is that the novel foods have a great potential for improving the overall nutritional status throughout the lifespan,thereby reducing the risk of early death or disability due to chronic diseases.However, to achieve a noticeable impact of novel foods on public health, efforts are needed to ensure that these foods are available and affordable to the population most at risk.
Advances in molecular and recombinant DNA technology have led to exquisite studies in the field of genetics and the recognition in a much more specific way, through DNA sequencing, of how unique each one of us is, and the extent to which genetic variation occurs. The importance of the effects of genetic variation has been extensively studied and applied by pharmacologists in drug development and evaluation of drug metabolism and adverse reactions to drugs. In the past two decades, physicians, geneticists, and nutritionists have begun to study the effects of genetic variation and gene nutrient interactions in the management of chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes and obesity; and the role of nutrients in gene expression. A new era is being ushered in that may be called 'nutrigenetics/ nutrigenomics'. The new genetics has enormous implications for nutrition research both in the prevention and management of chronic diseases. Because families share both genes and environment (in this case, diet), similarity may result from either. Much research has been carried out to define the contribution of each and their interaction in the development of the individual. Knowledge of genetic susceptibility to disease will help identify those at higher risk for disease, as well as their response to diet. The prospect of targeting specific dietary treatment to those predicted to gain the most therapeutic benefit early has important clinical and economic consequences, particularly in diseases of high prevalence such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, and possibly cancer. With the unfolding genomic and technological revolution, continuing investments in research offers unprecedented opportunities to understand disease processes, prevent intrinsic and environmental risks to health and develop new approaches to improve the quality of life worldwide. Furthermore, knowledge of genetic susceptibility to disease will help identify those at higher risk for disease, as well as their response to diet. As a result, there will be a need for the development of novel foods targeted to individuals, families and subgroups within populations. Although the emphasis of new genetics has been on pharmacogenetics, it is the responsibility of the nutrition scientists to expand in parallel the relationship of genetics and nutrition and establish nutrigenetics/nutrigenomics as a major discipline in nutrition in the 21st century.
The potential for new functional foods and substantial modification of traditional foods presents unprecedented opportunities and new challenges to the public health community. The technical advances that enable these possibilities presumably present an efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable means of improving human health and preventing nutrition-related diseases. Directed manipulation of the food supply, however, presents risks that also must be considered and monitored carefully to avoid known adverse consequences associated with elevated nutrient intakes. Additionally, more research is necessary to understand the subtle effects and long-term consequences that result from elevated individual nutrient intakes on human health and disease risk through changes in gene expression and genome stability. Growing awareness that genetic variation influences both nutrient requirements and upper levels of safe intake require that the risks and benefits associated with manipulation of the food supply be considered at the individual and population levels. In the present report current approaches and limitations to the precise manipulation of the food supply are considered in light of recent efforts to prevent neural tube defects by increasing the population's dietary folic acid intake.
Globally, three major problems faced by humanity are population explosion; insufficient production of food (especially so in the South Asian countries); and underdevelopment. These problems are interdependent and need to be tackled soon. Among various factors that limit the world's population, it is undoubtedly the scarcity of food that is most obvious even to a lay person because food is essential for survival. The scarcity of food also brings about recognizably disastrous effects, some of which have already been witnessed. This means that agricultural output, especially those of the waning food crops, must increase enormously over a brief period if the world food situation is to improve. This is a challenge that will confront humanity on the threshold of the centuries to come. In the aforementioned context it would be apt and important to consider innovation of region-specific traditional food crops and exploration of novel foods that will strengthen feeding systems in the present changing times, and contribute to food security and better nutritional values. The present paper has attempted to illustrate some examples from South Asia.
Carbohydrates, from food, have a high degree of acceptability in the human diet as safe and are usually associated with other important nutrients, notably protein and various micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), but also biologically advantageous phytochemicals, although there is a wide spectrum of nutrient (or food component) densities between grains, root and other vegetables and fruits. As the human diet has evolved, less nutritious forms of edible carbohydrate have been in evidence, because of refining and co-presentation with fat (e.g. a sugary pastry). These are nutritional safety issues in their own right. But, as newer food formulations develop, greater attention can be paid to the chemical (which simple sugars, oligosaccharides or polysaccharides), physical (the food structure retained or conferred) or functional properties (glycaemic, digestible, fermentable) of the carbohydrate, along with the presence or absence of companion compounds (macro-, micro- and phyto-nutrients). These developments present opportunities and limitations in altering physiology and health outcomes and create new riskbenefit relationships. More now needs to be understood by food and nutrition policy makers, manufacturers and health-care professionals about the future of such foods, how they will influence food choice, what the regulatory arrangements will be, and how their use will be monitored for safety, sustainability and health.
Human beings evolved consuming a diet that contained approximately equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Over the past 100150 years there has been an enormous increase in the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids due to the increased intake of vegetable oils from seeds of corn, sunflower, safflower, cotton and soybeans. Today, in Western diets, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ranges from 10 to 20:1 instead of the traditional range of 12:1. Studies indicate that a high intake of omega-6 fatty acids shifts the physiologic state to one that is prothrombotic and proaggregatory, characterized by increases in blood viscosity, vasospasm, and vasoconstriction and decreases in bleeding time, whereas omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, anti-arrhythmic, hypolipidemic, and vasodilatory properties. These beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and hypertension, as for example, in the Lyon Heart Study, the GISSI Prevenzione Trial, and in the The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Study. Most of the studies have been carried out with fish oils (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)). However, a-linolenic acid (ALA), found in green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, rapeseed, and walnuts, desaturates and elongates in the body to EPA and DHA and by itself may have beneficial effects in health and in the control of chronic diseases. The present paper identifies multiple sources of ALA from plants, legumes, nuts and seeds and emphasizes the importance of the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for proper desaturation and elongation of ALA into EPA and DHA.a-linolenic acid is not equivalent in its biological effects to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in marine oils. Eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA are more rapidly incorporated into plasma and membrane lipids and produce more rapid effects than does ALA. Relatively large reserves of linoleic acid in body fat, as are found in vegans or in the diet of omnivores in Western societies, would tend to slow down the formation of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from ALA. Therefore, the role of ALA in human nutrition becomes important in terms of long-term dietary intake. One advantage of the consumption of ALA over omega-3 fatty acids from fish is that the problem of insufficient vitamin E intake does not exist with high intake of ALA from plant sources.