Functional Frenzy?

International management consulting firm Scientia is predicting rapid growth for medicinal foods and nutraceuticals worldwide in the next few years.

In a report available for free at Scientia’s Web site (www.scientiaadv.com), researchers estimate that the global functional foods category will hit $195 billion by 2012, a sizable increase from 2006 sales of $128 billion.

Key factors contributing to this explosive growth could include an aging U.S. population, rising healthcare costs, robust scientific developments and innovation.

Functional foods, sometimes called “medicinal foods” or “nutraceuticals,” are those fortified with naturally-occurring ingredients that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

They include probiotics (microorganisms that provide health benefits), Omega 3 extracts (fish oil), phytonutrients (substances found in plants such as soy beans, blueberries or grapes) or other natural substances. Some of these ingredients can reduce the risk of certain diseases or help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Others can enhance physical and athletic performance, memory, or cognitive performance.

The expected growth in functional foods will come as a result of various factors, according to Bob Jones, the principal consultant at Scientia, who led the study. Factors include scientific evidence of functional food effectiveness; increased media publicity encouraging consumer adoption; an aging population with growing chronic health needs, and food companies’ ability to work in a regulatory environment that increasingly requires scientific substantiation of claims being made.

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