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Designer foods for the health conscious consumer

. Novel technologies like bioengineering and biotechnology have made possible rapid product innovations, mass production and related scientific discoveries possible. These developments have resulted in a number of potential nutrition products with medical and health benefits and are called the designer foods.

Functional foods are foods that, by nature or design, can deliver benefits beyond that of sustenance.

They bridge the traditional gap between food and drugs, offering consumers greater opportunity to take their health care into their own hands. A designer food should therefore fulfill three conditions: It should be a food ( not a capsule, tablet or a powder ) derived from natural food ingredients. It should be possible to consume it as part of the daily diet. It should perform a particular function when ingested and regulate body function such as:

Enhancement of bodys natural defense mechanism Prevent specific disease Ensure rapid recovery from specific disease.

Control physical and mental conditions

- Slow down the aging process

The most promising targets for designer foods are:

Gastro intestinal function: associated with balanced colonic flora, immune activity of the tract, bio availability of nutrients, transit time and mucosal activity, modulation of epithelial cell proliferation Redox and antioxidant system Metabolism of macronutrients Development of fetal and early life Xenobiotic metabolism and its modulation Mood and behavior or cognitive and physical performance.

Benefits of designer foods include protection against the following conditions

heart disease stroke cancer infectious disease respiratory disorders eye disorders skin disorders and wrinkles osteoporosis memory deficits and mood disorders other disorders like gall stones, nerve damage in type II diabetes, premenstrual symptoms

Certain categories of foods ingredients have been identified for inclusion in specialty foods for enhancement of health. These are

- Glycosides

Dietary fiber Isoprenoids and vitamins Cholines Lactic acid bacteria Minerals Polyunsaturated fatty acids Alcohols Phyto chemicals and anti oxidants Oligosaccharides Sugar alcohols Amino acids, peptides and proteins

Stepwise process for the design and development of a designer food

Basic knowledge of body function: Sensitive to modulation by food components Pivotal to maintenance of well being and or Linked to disease Relevant markers: Identification Characterization Validation New generation of human studies-- DESIGNER FOOD

Substances that can be used to design low calorie and low fat designer foods
Artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, Acesulfame K, sugar alcohols (mono and di sacharides ), hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, Litesse ( poly dextrose ), sucralose, neo sugar, cyclamate ,alitame and high fructose corn syrup.

Fat replacers

substitute triglycerides into food systems and aim at reducing fat and calorie content eg: Olestra and salatrim. The starches, gums, dextrins, fibrous polysaccharides, proteins and emulsifiers in appropriate combinations aim at compensation of fat functionality, water control and development of desired bulk. Lipid based fat substitutes comprises of fatty acids etherified with carbohydrates or alkyl glycosides or polyols that undergo limited digestion and absorption providing few or no calories. Fat replacements like olestra is generally used in shortening and oil, table spreads, salad dressings and dairy products. Salatrim is used in chocolate flavored coatings, chips, caramel, fillings, spreads, dips, sauces and dairy products. Protein based fat substitute, microparticulated protein, derived from egg white, skim milk and whey proteins is used in and baked products like cakes, soups, yogurt and mayonnaise.

Low fat/ calorie products like low fat/ calorie yogurt, fat and cholesterol free milk, reduced fat cheese, low fat ice creams and low fat/ calorie meat products are available. A novel fat replacer, Lean Maker, made from oat bran with flavorings and seasonings, suitable for meat products was introduced in the market. Soy protein isolate has also been used as partial substitute of meat to give a low fat product. Dietary fibers enhances water phase in the food systems that restores the mouth feel that is lost when the sugar is removed. Eg: pectin, bamboo fiber. Microcrystalline cellulose is used for emulsion stabilization, control of water mobility, ice crystal formation, increasing viscosity, suspension of solids and heat stability. This is generally used in bakery, confectionary, dairy products, salad dressing, frozen desserts and beverages. Low fat bakery products and snacks have been made with sucralose ( sugar alcohol ) and N-Lite ( a maize based maltodextrin ). Cookie dough with Acesulfame-K ( sugar substitute ), low fat muffin with pre gelatinized dull waxy corn starch, reduced calorie cup cakes, low fat tortilla chips, low fat instant drinks and soups are available.

The different types of designer foods that are available today are

Meat Modifications: Fatty acid modification of beef and pork enhancement of MUFA and PUFA content of muscle and adipose tissue at the expense of SFAs, increase in the content of preformed EPA and DHA. Reduce total carcass fat Intervention used: Dietary manipulation ( linseed oil, sunflower oil, fish oil, high oleic acid sunflower oil, fish meal ), genetic and pharmacological attempts, manipulation of rumen microflora Effect on quality: Less than 3% or greater than 7.3% intra muscular fat (marbling) gives unpalatable product. Increase in the linoleic acid resulted in softening and oiliness of carcass fat. Alteration in marbling, carcass colour, water holding capacity and unsuitability to further processing

Poultry products

Meat Modifications : low fat, low cholesterol product, enriched w-3 fatty acid in the muscle, increase in Vitamin A, E and protein Intervention used : Dietary intervention (linseed oil, sunflower oil, fish oil, high oleic acid sunflower oil) Effect on quality : No off flavors, no significant alteration in taste, co change in the cooking quality Eggs Modifications: Altering the fatty acid content ( enrichment with w-3 PUFA ), total fat, cholesterol, stabilization of cholesterol, tocopherol, retinal, carotenes Intervention used : Dietary intervention (linseed oil, sunflower oil, fish oil, high oleic acid sunflower oil, fish meal, rape seed oil, grain amaranth, palm oil, garlic Effect on quality: No appreciable change in the quality of designer eggs. No change in the productivity, egg weight, fertility. Some branded products: Eggstasy eggs, Egg Plus, NaturEggs.

Candy and snacks

Bars for managing cardiovascular disease bar ( heart bar ) enriched with L-arginine ( improves the inner lining of the blood vessels and boosts the production of nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels increasing blood flow ). Other ingredients of the bar include preferred amount of vitamins C, E, B-6, B-12, niacin and folate recommended for people with heart disease. The soy protein base provides high fiber and phytoestrogens. Each bar has 3g fat, no cholesterol, high fiber and less than 200 Kcal. It is suggested that eating 2 bars a day give the best results like increase in circulation, pain-less exercise and a reduction in total and LDL cholesterol.

Energy bars to provide sustained energy and hunger satisfaction neede for hikers, bikers and golfers. They contain 15g of protein, formulated with flax seeds, a natural source of w-3 fatty acids. Bodhi bar is herbal bar used for increasing energy levels and enhancing bodys natural ability to fight diseaes like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Snacks ( caramel corn and 1 oz apple/cinnamon energy bar ) containing 50 mg of phosphatidylserine . calcium fortified chocolate candy and crackers are available for women. Chewing gum ( Brain gum )contains soy lecithin, 40% concentration of phosphatidylserine and known to alleviate cognitive deterioration and aging. The gum, 1-2 pieces, 2-3 times a day, improves memory, learning and concentration.

Candy and snacks

Mushroom extract in gummy candy and chewing gums can deodorize or suppress odors generated in the digestive tract. The extract can reduce functional burden on the kidneys and liver, suppressing the progression of renal failure.. It also suppresses the generation of active oxygen and the allergen leucotriene, associated with disease and aging.


The sugar free cookies for diabetics is fortified with custom premix of chromium 0.024 mg (necessary for glucose control ), magnesium 80 mg ( blood glucose control or for those on diuretics ) and zinc 3 mf ( for healing of venous leg ulcers ). Cookies formulated with high calcium milk proteins are also available. Enriched biscuits and breads : these are enriched with B1, B2, iron, zinc and wheat fiber. Throat lozenges with Echinacea and menthol. Natural Echinacea tonics with green tea to act as immune boosters. Lollipops with neutraceuticals ingredients are available in different flavors. Lollipops with added vitamin C and zinc, multivitamins and mineral supplements and a supplement which incorporates organic vegetables and fruits with added anti oxidants

Medical foods

Medical foods are also known as enteral formulas used to feed hospitalized patients or be a major dietary factor for those with unusual diseases. Are designed to function by providing nutritional support to individuals who are unable to ingest adequate amount of food in a conventional form or by providing specialized nutritional support to patients who have special physiological and nutritional needs.


Nutritionally complete foods: These enteral formulations supply required quantity of proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Some preparations contain simple sugars, amino acids and medium chain triglycerides ( MCT ) for people who cannot digest or absorb intact nutrients.

Nutritionally incomplete foods: Enteral formulations that supply single nutrient or combination of nutrients in quantities insufficient to maintain the nutritional status of a normal, healthy individual. These can be used as supplemental source of nutrients and calories in an otherwise normal diet ( eg. MCT oil ) or they can be combined with other modular components to produce a nutritionally complete formula to suit special requirements of individual patients. Formula for metabolic disorders: These are for individuals with inborn error of metabolism eg. PKU, urea cycle disorder, glycogen storage disease, homocystinuria etc. These formulae are designated to provide the nutrient composition required for normal growth and development. Oral rehydration solution.

Milk products:

Lactose free products: By addition of lactase to hydrolyze lactose to glucose and galactose or removing lactose by ultra filtration or ion exchange. Lactose can also be removed in liquids by binding of lactase enzyme on the inner surface of the packaging material where it can cleave the lactose during distribution. Fermented milk with lactobacillus or bifid bacterium are available for lactose digestion, control of intestinal pathogens, reduction of serum cholesterol, tumor-inhibiting effect, immune system stimulation, prevention of constipation, generation of B vitamins, production of bateriocins and inactivation of toxic compounds.

Special dietary fats:

Designer foods made with MCT for use in absence of carnitine in conditions like pancreatic insufficiency, liver disorders, celiac disease, small bowl resection and cystic fibrosis. These MCTs are made from coconut oil which naturally contains 65% of MCTs.

Fiber supplements

: Foods rich in fiber supplements are used to improve gastrointestinal function by regulating transit time ( regulated, fat, CHO metabolism, colon cancer, constipation ) and facilitating absorption of fluid and electrolytes from the gut lumen. The different fibers used are soy polysaccharides, oat, pea, natural gum, xanthum gum etc in extruded, dried or gelated products ( break fast cereals, liquid drinks and salad dressings


Most of the designer foods developed are beverages. Examples are beverage with dietary fiber supplements, mineral and vitamins; a protein rich sports drink containing collagen, alkaline forming ingredients; general digestive drinks; beverage with oligo sugar extract from soy bean; energy drink with sugars and maltodextrins; calcium and iron rich beverage and a tea fortified with calcium. For the aged population orange juice fortified with calcium has been tried out and a low fat, yogurt-orange juice product has been introduced.

Genetically modified designer foods

Biotechnology allows the customization of nutrients or ingredients like dietary fiber, fats and oils. Three basic approaches are presently being used to produce modified oil seed crop, modified lipids and their derivatives. Genetic manipulation using plants or tissue culture: eg; producing sunflower varieties with 60-70% linoleic acid content; seeds with 95% oleic acid and 0.5% linoleic acid content. Using microorganisms to produce significant quantities of selected specialty fats and oils eg. using different moulds and yeasts to produce large quantities of - linolenic acid and arachidonic acid. Enzymes have been used to modify existing fats and oils like exchange of linoleic acid by medium chain triglycerides of nutritional interest.

Scientist in UK have developed a super broccoli that can combat colon cancer and a tomato that may help fight disease and other ailments. The broccoli contains 100 times more of sulphorapane that destroys cancer causing substances produced by food in the gut. The tomato is has 3 fold increase in the beta-carotene content that helps body fight heart disease, cancer and heart problems.

Nutritional quality of seed protein ( increase in the L-methionine content ) in legumes has been made possible. High seed stearic acid levels in mustard and rapeseed have been developed which offer alternative to industrial production of saturated fats. Oilseeds have also been modified to produce high GLA and - 3 fatty acids. Work is going on in groundnut to create a variety resistant to production of aflatoxin. Transgenic rice with high carotene and elevated levels of iron has been produced using genes involved in the production of iron-binding protein that facilitates iron availability in human diet. Vaccines against infectious diseases of the gastro intestinal tract have been produced in potatoes and banana. Anti cancer antibodies expressed in rice and wheat can be useful in diagnosis and treatment of this disease in future. There is also a great potential to increase the yield of medicines derived from plants like salicylic acid through transgenic technology. Living longer and enjoying the best quality of life is the most important facet in a human beings life. Therefore, the concept of designer food which enables the consumer in self health maintenance, will significantly influence the food market. It is expected that if the idea of the designer food catches on with the people, there will be a huge market for such foods.