A Recipe for Successful Functional Food Development
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is at the forefront of the public's minds these days, and consumers increasingly turn to diet for managing health concerns from cardiovascular disease and cancer to autism. They have learned to look to functional foods to provide some of the answers to their dietary needs. As defined by the Institute of Medicine, functional foods are "those … that encompass potentially healthful products including any modified food or ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains."
As food manufacturers continue to expand the menu of foods that can be fortified with vitamins or nutraceuticals, Nerac Food Science Analysts Coreen Reed and Shanon Trueman got together with Danik M. Martirosyan, Ph.D., the founder of the Functional Foods Center at D&A, Inc., of Richardson, Texas, to talk functional foods. Dr. Martirosyan has worked with nontraditional plants and the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases for over 20 years. He has published over 70 research papers in various journals and books. The Functional Food Center at D&A combines cutting-edge research expertise in the bio-medical sciences with practical business experience to develop and commercialize functional foods for alternative health needs.
Nerac: How large of a role do you feel functional foods play in overall human health?
Dr. Danik M. Martirosyan: The potential role of functional foods for health is significant. We can show this with qualitative research, resulting in a decreased amount of a specific chronic disorder (cardiovascular, obesity, diabetes, etc) in a population. However, the general public currently doesn’t have enough information or enough choices in the market.
How do you go about finding a functional ingredient as a starting point?
Do you choose a disease or health indication and then find an ingredient that works well against the disease or indication, or do you choose an ingredient that may work well in a food, and then research its health benefits? Do you take marketability into account?
You can go with both ways. If a customer approaches us and asks for functional foods for a specific disease, we begin researching and experimenting to find the best ingredients, which can work against the disease. Then, we look for ways to use this ingredient in an appropriate recipe. However, if we have been investigating biomedical and pharmacological properties of specific food ingredients and already have solid science-based information about health benefit of this particular ingredient or bio active compound, we will research its possible health benefits in different situations and create a new functional food that way as well.
How do you design a food product around the chosen functional ingredient?
If you have a functional ingredient, we can find a certain recipe, depending on the health purpose of the food, create a sample of the product, provide a sensory evaluation of the product, and determine the shelf life of that product as well as shelf life of the functional ingredient in the new formula. This is very similar with the steps in creating any new food product. Of course, we have to make sure that the customer is getting the necessary amount of functional ingredient at the time of consuming it.
This largely depends on the overall purpose of the recipe. And first and foremost, we must make sure that the customer receives the necessary amount of the specific ingredient or ingredients. Then, we create sample products, until we have it perfect, and continue to provide sensory evaluation of the product, determine the shelf life of the product as well as the shelf life of the specific ingredient in the new formula.
Have you experienced problems with sensory acceptance of functional foods, and how did you work with the food to make it more acceptable?
This is one of the biggest challenges that we have with the development of new functional food products. We face problems mainly when new functional foods are made on the basis of a regular product, which is not well accepted by many customers anyway. However, because we have so much experience with both regular and functional foods, along with customer feedback, many of our functional food products have the equal sensory quality of regular foods.
What are some of the challenges in getting a functional food to market?
There are numerous challenges in getting a new product into the food market. Currently, more and more people understand the significant correlation between diet, consumption of quality food and good health. And those people are the best targets. Furthermore, customers are looking for name-brand products to assure superior quality, even if the price may be a little higher.
Our company promotes extensive research and determines key factors such as dosage and shelf life long before going to the market with a final product.
Tell us about an interesting ingredient you have worked with or that you plan to work with.
Since 1990 we have been working with a nontraditional plant, amaranth. Amaranth is an excellent source of balanced protein, phospholipids, squalene, flavonoids and antioxidants. Our investigations show that consumption of amaranth oil, extracted with the newest technology, can reduce by 19 to 25 percent the amount of low density cholesterol (LDL) and decrease amount of triglyceride by 13 to 36 percent depending on the dosage of amaranth oil consumption. Our experiment was specifically conducted on patients suffering from coronary heart attack and hypertension, accompanied by obesity.
Recently, the cholesterol and triglycerides management properties of amaranth were confirmed for patients with type 2 diabetes. We are currently working on creating new functional food products with the inclusion of amaranth oil and other amaranth ingredients for the patients suffering from cardiovascular disorders as well as type 2 diabetes accompanied by obesity.
- Download DOWNLOAD PDF