FUNCTIONAL FOOD IN PREVENTION OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES AND OBESITY
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The term “functional food” refers to modified food products that claim to provide an additional function besides basic nutrition needs. The consumption of functional food is known to exert a positive impact on health and to prevent the occurrence of pathological conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer, and obesity. Functional food products should resemble conventional food in terms of appearance and taste. The goal is usually achieved by adding active ingredients to the traditional food products (e.g., phytosterols/stanols are added to margarine, dairy, and cereal products), removing or limiting the concentration of potentially harmful agents, or by agricultural and genetic modifications of already existing edible plants and animals (e.g., feeding hens on algae or fish in order to obtain n-3 PUFAs-enriched eggs, and inducing genetic and/or nutritional changes during animal production to obtain meat with lower cholesterol levels). Well-designed intervention trials are scarce in this field, and more effort should be directed toward conclusively proving the role of functional food in disease prevention and health improvement among the population. These associated benefits and the advances in food processing industry should stimulate the development of products that would match the requirements of a healthy diet, simultaneously reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The aim of the present review was to present the examples of functional foods that are essential for the prevention of obesity and cardiovascular disease, and thereby report on their putative mechanisms of action, health-promoting effects, and limitations by conducting various intervention studies.
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