Developing Funtional Foods and Nutraceuticals that Deliver Safe and Health Benefiting Properties
Most food is considered functional in terms of providing nutrients and/or energy to sustain life, but functional foods and nutraceuticals (FFN) are defined dietary foods that prevent or reverse a diseased state. Increasing public awareness of the link between diet and health has propelled the consumption of these foods to unprecedented levels, particularly in countries where the population is aging and health care costs are rising. Nonetheless, current studies show that many of these products do not produce their reported health benefits, or do so irregularly, and can even produce toxic side effects. Because most FFNs are not thoroughly characterized in terms of identity, safety, efficacy, etc., very little is known about the interactions of the bioactive agent(s) within the raw material as a whole or when processed into the final product. Health claims must therefore be supported by identify the relationship between the bioactive components in the food and the heath benefiting properties while accounting for any harvesting and manufacturing effects. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has established a program comprised of faculty with expertise in various disciplines to develop FFN that consistently deliver safe and health benefiting properties.
Key Objectives of the UNL Functional Foods and Nutraceutical Program:
• To determine the effects of farming practices and genetic manipulations on the health promoting components present in traditional crops (e.g., wheat, soy beans, corn) and specialty crops (e.g., dry edible beans, and various fruits/vegetables) grown in Nebraska.
• To identify the quality characteristics of FFN.
• To determine the disease preventing mechanisms and potential toxic effects of FFN using clinical models (cells, animals, and/or humans) with an emphasis of using combined genomic technologies, such as transcriptomis and metabolomics.
• To develop well-characterized extraction processes for isolating health promoting agents from natural matrices and formulation processes for integrating those agents into food systems.
• To facilitate links between agriculture growers and the food industry for promoting the development and consumption of FFNs.