Designer Foods

An important direction in the development of functional foods is the combination of numerous ingredients to achieve a specific set of goals, rather than efforts to uncover the potential benefits of a single food source. Infant formula was probably the first area for designer foods of this type, because of the profound influence of nutrients on the developing brain and immune system. The addition of DHA to infant formula for enhancing brain and visual development, the alteration of allergenic components in food, and the possible use of probiotics and nucleotides to enhance immune response are important developments in this area.

Sports nutrition is another established arena for designer foods. Specific nutritional measures and dietary interventions have been devised to support athletic performance and recuperation. Oral rehy-dration products for athletes were one of the first categories of functional foods for which scientific evidence of benefit was obtained. Oral rehydration solutions must permit rapid gastric emptying and enteral absorption, improved fluid retention, and thermal regulation, to enhance physical performance and delay fatigue. Carbohydrates with relatively high glycemic index combined with whey protein concentrates or other sources of branched chain amino acids have been shown to enhance recovery of athletes. Caffeine, creatine, ribose, citrulline, L-carnitine, and branched chain amino acids have each been shown to improve exercise performance or diminish postexercise fatigue. Whether combinations of these ingredients, blended into foods or beverages, will perform better than the individual ingredients will help to determine the design of future sports foods.

Optimal cardiovascular health involves prevention of excessive levels of oxidant stress, circulating homocysteine, cholesterol, triglycerides and fibrino-gen, and protection of the vascular endothelium. A mix of ingredients supplying all of these effects could consist of soy protein powder, oat beta-glu-can, plant sterols and stanols, folic acid, L-arginine, 22:6«-3, magnesium, and red wine or green tea polyphenols. Evidence suggests that addressing multiple nutritional influences on cardiovascular health will be more beneficial than addressing only one influence, but more definitive studies are needed. Genetic factors may need to be incorporated for designer foods to achieve their full potential. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, for example, raise the serum concentration of HDL-cholesterol among individuals who carry the Apo A1-75A gene polymorphism, but reduce HDL-cholesterol levels of individuals who carry the more common Apo A1-75G polymorphism.

See also: Alcohol: Absorption, Metabolism and Physiological Effects. Carotenoids: Chemistry, Sources and Physiology; Epidemiology of Health Effects. Dietary Fiber: Physiological Effects and Effects on Absorption. Fatty Acids: Omega-3 Polyunsaturated. Functional Foods: Regulatory Aspects. Microbiota of the Intestine: Prebiotics; Probiotics. Phytochemicals: Classification and Occurrence; Epidemiological Factors. Protein: Quality and Sources. Sports Nutrition. Tea.

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