Prepared Foods of April 11, 2005 enewsletter

U.S. researchers said functional foods -- foods with genetically enhanced and targeted nutrition -- will soon become a large part of the public's diet.

Genetic research is making it possible to understand how nutrients impact the body at a molecular level and the variable effects of dietary components on the individual.

Foods tailor-made to take advantage of this information could enhance performance and alleviate conditions such as coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and neural tube defects.

The conclusions are in a new report, "Functional Foods: Opportunities and Challenges," commissioned by the Institute of Food Technologists.

The report details how researchers have identified food components that may improve memory, reduce arthritis, and provide other benefits heretofore limited to drugs. It says future benefits might include foods for increased energy, mental alertness, and even better sleep.

"The functional foods currently available represent only a fraction of the potential opportunities for consumers to manage their health through diet," said Fergus Clydesdale, report co-author and department head of food science at University of Massachusetts.