The concept of “Functional Foods” is becoming a commonly used term in discussions of human nutrition. Consumer awareness of natural food constituents and their role in cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention has done much to increase health consciousness with respect to plant products. The Plants and Human Health Program of the Boyce Thompson Institute uses molecular techniques to create transgenic plants with modified food composition; our goal is to devise strategies for production of pharmaceuticals or “nutraceuticals” in plants. Our initial focus has been genes encoding the antigenic proteins of human infectious agents such as hepatitis B and the causal agents of diarrheal disease. Areas of research include; 1) methods to increase production of foreign proteins in transgenic plants, and 2) utilization of engineered edible plant tissues for animal feeding studies. We have found that transgenic foods orally immunize test animals; these findings portend many new and exciting possibilities for plant medicinal chemistry.
Gregory D. May, Hugh S. Mason and Charles J. Arntzen
James W. Rushing
The production, handling, processing and marketing of over-the-counter medicinal products manufactured from plants is virtually unregulated. This can include dietary supplements, functional foods and nutraceuticals, any of which may contain botanical constituents. Of particular concern is the possible presence of human pathogens in products offered at retail. A review of literature is presented. Options for sterilizing herbal medicinal products, including fumigation, irradiation and heat treatments, are presented. Experiences of the spice industry are discussed as they relate to the development of similar protocols for herbal medicines. Methods used to ensure microbiological safety must be evaluated for their effect on the medicinally active constituents in the plant material. Very little data of this nature are available. Avenues for future research are proposed.
Mark Lefsrud, Dean Kopsell, Carl Sams, Jim Wills and A.J. Both
Drying of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) and kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala D.C.) is required to determine percentage of dry matter (%DM) and pigment concentration of fresh leaves. ‘Melody’ spinach and ‘Winterbor’ kale were greenhouse-grown in hydroponic nutrient solutions containing 13 or 105 mg·L−1 N. Using vacuum freeze dryers and convection ovens, plant tissues were dried for 120 h at five different temperature treatments: 1) freeze drying at −25 °C; 2) freeze drying at 0 °C; 3) vacuum drying at +25 °C; 4) oven drying at +50 °C; and 5) oven drying at +75 °C. Spinach leaf tissue %DM was affected, but kale %DM was unaffected by drying temperature. Spinach and kale leaf tissue %DM were both affected by N level. The high N spinach decreased from 7.3 to 6.4%DM when drying temperature increased from +25 to +75 °C. The low N spinach decreased from 12.7 to 9.6%DM as the drying temperature increased from −25 to +50 °C. Kale averaged from 14.8%DM for the high N treatment and from 21.8%DM for the low N treatment. However, drying temperature did not have a significant impact on measured %DM in kale. Lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll levels for both spinach and kale leaf tissue were affected by drying temperature. Measured concentrations of all pigments decreased over 70% as the drying temperature increased from −25 to 75 °C. The largest pigment fresh and dry weight concentrations for spinach and kale were measured at drying temperatures below +25 °C. The spinach and kale samples dried between −25 and +25 °C were not significantly different from each other in %DM or pigment concentration measured on a dry or fresh weight basis. Thus, drying leaf tissue for accurate pigment analysis requires temperatures below +25 °C using vacuum or freeze drying technology.
Attila Ombódi, Hussein Gehad Daood and Lajos Helyes
functional food products ( Arscott and Tanumihardjo, 2010 ), mainly as a result of the high level of biologically active carotenoids. In orange carrots, β-carotene and α-carotene have been found dominant in different organic solvent extracts of such a crop
Togo M. Traore, Deacue Fields, Floyd M. Woods, Amy N. Wright, Kenneth M. Tilt, Weidong Ke and Yiman Liu
lotus. Research efforts addressing domestic niche market development in regard to fresh lotus rhizome production were conducted to assess the potential economic ( Tian et al., 2006 ) and sustainability of lotus rhizomes as an alternative functional food
Usha Palaniswamy and Zafar Bokhari
The important effect of dietary factors on health status has been recognized since antiquity. Since the discovery of the beneficial effects of dietary phytochemicals and bioactives, a new dimension of foods have emerged in the market. These “functional foods” are being developed by all major food companies and new ones are regularly brought into the market. While developing new functional foods and nutraceuticals, the association and identification of such foods and beverages with traditional foods and medicinal preparations, and/or popular forms of existing products are bound to bring long-standing consumer acceptance, which is an important desirable factor in sales and marketing. Following this concept, Zafi Beverages, Inc., Chicago, is developing a new line of functional products (new herbal teas and energy drinks). Zafiis also introducing a unique marketing and distribution system to create a new team of entrepreneurs, providing an excellent opportunity for growth in sales and marketing to new entrepreneurs. It targets ethnic entrepreneurs by offering an opportunity to use their networking abilities and be part of an exciting new partnership in the new host country, as well as a strategic business plan. The ethnic entrepreneurs are also constantly in contact with their consumers by virtue of the existing ethnic allegiance and cohesion and are able to identify the consumer needs and concerns directly. These small ethnic entrepreneurial networks can be identified as distinct “micro-marketing systems” within the national economy. The advertised market potential for Zafi is summarized to include an offer of immediate cash flow, more revenue and profits, marketing and financial education support, as well as a promising new line of products.
Usha R. Palaniswamy
Vegetarianism dates back to a time before recorded history and, as many anthropologists believe, most early humans ate primarily plant foods, being more gatherers than hunters. Human diets may be adopted for a variety of reasons, including political, esthetic, moral, environmental and economic concerns, religious beliefs, and a desire to consume a more healthy diet. A major factor influencing the vegetarianism movement in the present time is primarily associated with better health. Epidemiologic data support the association between high intake of vegetables and fruit and low risk of chronic diseases and provide evidence to the profound and long-term health benefits of a primarily vegetarian diet. Vegetables and fruit are rich sources of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber as well as biologically active nonnutrient compounds that have a complementary and often multiple mechanisms of actions, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and hypolipidemic properties, and mechanisms that stimulate the human immune system. Because of the critical link established between diet and health, consumers have begun to view food as a means of self-care for health promotion and disease prevention. Functional foods are targeted to address specific health concerns, such as high cholesterol or high blood sugar levels, to obtain a desired health benefit. Functional properties identified in a number of plant species have led to a modern day renaissance for the vegetarian movement.
The bright red pigmentation in edible, anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables is a definite bonus in terms of market appeal. As a result, breeders have worked consistently to intensify anthocyanin levels or alter composition in crops. The positive links between consumption of crops and food products containing natural anthocyanin pigments, and reduced incidence of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases, have been established anecdotally and more recently validated in research trials including those from our laboratory group. The protective events, most attributed to the potent antioxidant properties of anthocyanin pigments and associated phytochemicals, place anthocyanin-rich crops in the category of “Functional Foods,” yielding health protection unrelated to nutritional value. In vitro bioactivity assays have identified components from these crops capable of blocking the initiation stages of carcinogenesis, while a completely separate class of phytochemicals and sets of assays establish efficacy against the promotion stages of tumorigenesis. Animal models for carcinogen-induced damage to mammary gland and skin DNA subsequently demonstrate the in vivo potency of the same target compounds. Similarly, to establish cardioprotective properties, demonstrations of ability to inhibit platelet aggregation, relax vascular muscle tissue, and reduce total serum cholesterol are demonstrated in a series of in vitro assays, and via animal models and human studies. While activity-directed fractionations seek to identify specific responsible compounds, it is increasingly evident that bioactivity is drastically attenuated once specific compounds are isolated, and the synergistic interaction of associated phytochemicals in horticultural crops is prerequisite to realizing health benefits. These complications have slowed the establishment of effective minimum “dosages,” but all the more strongly promote consumption of the crops.
Plants are the foundation for a significant part of human medicine and for many of the most widely used drugs designed to prevent, treat, and cure disease. Folkloric information concerning traditional remedies for disease has had inestimable value in establishing familial and cultural linkages. During the 20th century, modern medical science in the U.S. and other developed countries ushered in a new era focused on synthetic medicines. Even though many of these compounds were based on natural compounds found in plants, the drive towards synthetic pharmaceuticals created a knowledge gap concerning the health functionality of plants, crops, and food. Paralleling this development, biochemists and nutritional scientists pioneered the discovery of vitamins during the early decades of the 20th century. This research paved the way for dietary guidelines based on empirical data collected from animal feeding trials and set the stage for the current emphasis on phytonutrients. Three primary stages characterize the use of fruits and vegetable in human health. The first stage concerns the observation that many fruit and vegetable crops were originally domesticated for their medicinal properties. Making their way into the diet for this purpose, fruit and vegetable crops remained on the fringe from a culinary point of view. The second stage began when the role of vitamins became more widely understood, and fruit and vegetable plants were quickly recognized as a rich source of certain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. At this point, they became more than just an afterthought in the diet of most U.S. citizens. Cartoon icons such as Popeye made the case for the health functionality of leafy greens, while parents schooled their children on the virtues of carrots (Daucus carota), broccoli (Brassica oleracea), and green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). This renaissance resulted in large increases in fresh fruit and vegetable consumption across the country, a trend that continues to this day. The third phase can be characterized by the recognition that fruit and vegetable crops contain compounds that have the potential to influence health beyond nutritional value. These so-called functional foods figure prominently in the dietary recommendations developed during the last decades of the 20th century. In recent years, surveys suggest nearly two-thirds of grocery shoppers purchase food specifically to reduce the risk of, or manage a specific health condition. Evidence abounds that consumers, including Baby Boomers, choose foods for specific health benefits, such as the antioxidant potential of vegetables, suggesting high levels of nutritional literacy. Clinical and in vitro data have, to some degree, supported the claims that certain foods have the potential to deter disease, however much research remains to be conducted in order to definitively answer specific dietary-based questions about food and health.
John R. Clark
Research Team, 2002; Functional Food Team, 2007; Outstanding Researcher Award, Arkansas Association of Cooperative Extension Specialists, 1995; Service Award, Arkansas State Horticultural Society, 1991.