Functional Foods and Obesity

Functional Foods and ObesityFoods can be regarded as functional if proven to affect beneficially one or more target functions in the body, beyond adequate nutritional effects, in a way relevant to improved state of health and well-being, reduction of risk of diseases, or both. Research is now showing it's possible to promote health and wellness using foods and beverages that influence angiogenesis.


Functional foods might have a particularly high impact for prevention or treatment of overweight and diabetes for which, more than in many other fields, the link between nutrition, biological responses and diseases is clearly established. Functional foods for obesity should be able to influence the energy balance equation regulated by the control of energy intake or of energy dissipated as heat (thermogenesis). Of particular interest is the potential of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) supplements and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), in preventing obesity and related metabolic disorders.

The n−3 fatty acid recommendation to achieve nutritional adequacy, defined as the amount necessary to prevent deficiency symptoms, is 0.61.2% of energy for ALA; up to 10% of this can be provided by EPA or DHA. To achieve recommended ALA intakes, food sources including flaxseed and flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, and canola oil are recommended. The evidence base supports a dietary recommendation of ≈500 mg/d of EPA and DHA for disease risk reduction.


However, it is important to consider that nutrients must be viewed both in the context of preventing a nutrient inadequacy (as defined by the initial clinical lesion or symptom) and in the context of reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Therefore, nutrient requirements should be viewed from the perspective of the intake that is required to reduce disease risk rather than solely the amount that prevents nutrient inadequacy as defined historically by classic deficiency symptoms.


"Diets emphasizing different types of fats, saturated fatty acid, monounsaturated fatty acid, n-3 and n-6 PUFA have been shown to differentially modulate overall energy metabolism." according to   Dr Yinghua Yu, a National Health and Medical Research Council Australia-China Exchange Training Fellow.  Dr Yu recently conducted clinical research investigating the serum levels of phospholipid fatty acids in Chinese men with metabolic syndrome, with the results published in the refereed journal, Nutrition Research. The study found that the proportion of DHA n-3 PUFA (widely held to be the most important of the n-3 PUFA) decreased in the serum of metabolic syndrome individuals and is negatively correlated to body weight.


Functional Foods and ObesityThe anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties of teasaponin a glycoside compound extracted from tea seeds  have also been studied, with Dr Yu finding that the compound did indeed reduce liver and visceral fat inflammation and improved central leptin sensitivity in diet-induced obese mice

Functional Foods
  • Olive oil

  • Salmon

  • Almonds

  • Green tea

  • Oat meal

  • Green coffee beans






Overall, the available evidence on functional foods so far identified in this field is incomplete: the major gap is the lack of diet-based intervention trials of sufficient duration to be relevant for the natural history of diseases like overweight and diabetes.


Dated  12 August 2013

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