May 7Pharma Investments, Ventures & Law Weekly -- "Functional foods have been a developing area of food science research for the past decade. Many foods are derived from plants that naturally contain compounds beneficial to human health and can often prevent certain diseases," explain U.S. scientists.
"Plants containing phytochemicals with potent anticancer and antioxidant activities have spurred development of many new functional foods. This has led to the creation of functional foods to target health problems such as obesity and inflammation. More recent research into the use of plant phytoalexins as nutritional components has opened up a new area of food science. Phytoalexins are produced by plants in response to stress, fungal attack or elicitor treatment and are often antifungal or antibacterial compounds.
"Although phytoalexins have been investigated for their possible role in plant defense, until recently they have gone unexplored as nutritional components in human foods. These underutilized plant compounds may possess key beneficial properties including antioxidant activity, anti-inflammation activity, cholesterol-lowering ability and even anticancer activity. For these reasons, phytoalexin-enriched foods would be classified as functional foods," wrote S.M. Boue and colleagues, Department of Agriculture.
The researchers concluded, "These phytoalexin-enriched functional foods would benefit the consumer by providing 'health-enhanced' food choices and would also benefit many underutilized crops that may produce phytoalexins that may not have been considered to be beneficial health-promoting foods."
Boue and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry ("Phytoalexin-Enriched Functional Foods." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009;57(7):2614-2622).
For additional information, contact S.M. Boue, Dept. of Agriculture ARS, So Reg Research Center, POB 19687, New Orleans, LA 70179.
From the May 11, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition