Functional foods help delay ageing process and prevent noncommunicable diseases
Functional foods benefit the body beyond its nutritional effects, with studies showing that they can improve general state of health and reduce the risk of diseases.
“There has been a tremendous increase in the world’s elderly population with noncommunicable diseases, which top the list of causes of global mortality,” said Dr Seema Puri of the Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, India. [http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/;Global Health Estimates 2016: Deaths by Cause, Age, Sex, by Country and by Region, 2000-2016. Geneva, World Health Organization; 2018]
“The nutrition landscape has also changed from consuming a nutritionally balanced diet to consumption of an optimal diet for promoting health and reducing risk of diet-related chronic diseases,” Puri added.
Traditional Asian diets include a high percentage of functional food species from legumes, tomatoes, turmeric and green tea, which are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals with cardioprotective, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and metabolic regulators that help prevent cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and macular degeneration, apart from their immune enhancing effects.
“Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and seeds also contain sterols and stanols, which are very effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels,” Puri commented. “In addition, the pigments in food contain phytochemicals, such as isothiocyanates, carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols and catechins, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Phytochemicals are also found in the fibre matrices of whole grains.” [https://wholegrainscouncil.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/WGResearchSummary_WGCJan09.pdf]
“Traditional Asian diets have rich components of whole-grain cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, which are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals. Mint, turmeric and basil have anticancer properties. Garlic lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Turmeric and ginger have anti-inflammatory properties,” she added.
In a 16-week double-blind randomized controlled trial in 116 patients with metabolic syndrome, those who received cinnamon capsule supplements had significant decreases in fasting blood glucose (p=0.001), HbA1c (p=0.023), waist circumference(p=0.002) and body mass index (p=0.001) vs those given wheat flour capsules. [Lipids Health Dis 2017;16:113]
“Probiotics have also been shown to confer health benefits. These live micro-organisms belonging to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, when taken in adequate amounts, have been associated with improved lipid profile and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Probiotics are also commonly found in Asian diets in the form of yoghurt, kimchi, miso, pickles and cheese,” Puri said. [Altern Ther Health Med 2018;24:36-43]
“The Mediterranean diet is one of the regional diets that has been linked to longevity because of its low saturated fat content and high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals,” she added. “Japanese diet is low in calorie, rich in omega-3, monounsaturated fat, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. Eskimos are free from heart diseases despite high intake of fat and low intake of fruits and vegetables because this is offset by an excess of omega-3 from fishes.”