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Corrie Cox

DTC 618
Minipaper #3
Functional Foods & Heart Health

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), functional foods are considered
conventional foods, modified food, medical foods, and foods used for special dietary use that may
provide additional health benefits, reduce the risk of disease, and promote optimal health (1). Within
the past few decades, researchers have conducted studies on food products, with a specific focus on
functional foods. They have found significant links between nutrition-health connections, and as a
result food product companies petitioned to change food labeling laws. In 1997, an American cereal
company along with the National Cancer Institute was awarded the first food-specific health claim for
their oat product. This led to changes in food labeling laws including FDA health claims regulations.
Dietary supplements also began to promote links between nutrition-health connections which increased
profit margins (1). This paper focuses on functional foods, their dietary sources, and how they effect
heart disease. Common functional foods that contain dietary sources associated with heart health
include oats, soy, flaxseed, tea, wine, grapes, fish, and dairy products (2).
Statistically significant results have shown the consumption of oat products containing the
cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber b-glucan can reduce total and low density lipoprotein (LDL), thus
reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) (2). Between 1980 and 1995, the Quaker Oats
Company conducted 37 human clinical intervention trials and the majority of these studies showed
reduction on total and LDL cholesterol in subjects with high cholesterol. It was determined that 3 g of
b-glucan is required to achieve a 5% reduction in serum cholesterol; therefore a food bearing health
claim must contain 13g of oat bran or 20 g of oatmeal and at least 1.0 g of b-glucan per serving.
Soy, which has a cholesterol-lowering effect, is a high quality protein now thought to play a
preventative and therapeutic role in cardiovascular disease (CVD). In 1995 a meta-analysis, which
involved 38 studies, found that the consumption of soy protein significantly reduced total cholesterol,
LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides; in addition, there was a significant increase in HDL cholesterol.
The exact dietary source responsible for lowering cholesterol has not been specified, although
isoflavones have been associated. However, at 25 g of soy intake, the effects on blood lipids became
significant. On August 12, 1998 the FDA awarded Protein Technologies International (PTI) the health
claim the soy protein containing products can reduce the risk of CHD.
Fish is a functional food which is high in the dietary source omega 3 (n-3) fatty acids. The
current Western diet is suggested to be deficient in n-3 fatty acids when compared to the diet on which
humans evolved. As a result, researchers examined the role of n-3 fatty acids in diseases, particularly
CVD. Mixed results have been reported and the heart healthy effect of fish consumption has been
observed in some studies (2), but not in others (3). This could be due to the fact that n-3 fatty acids
have been shown to lower triglycerides by 25-30%; however, they do not lower LDL cholesterol. A
review of 72 placebo-controlled human trials, showed that n-3 fatty acids increased LDL cholesterol
(2). On the other hand, a Chicago Western Electric Study reported consumption of 35 g or more of fish
daily significantly reduced the risk of death from nonsudden myocardial infarction (4). In addition, a
study conducted by Albert and colleagues reported one serving of fish per week significantly reduced
the risk of total cardiovascular mortality after 11 years in more than 20,000 U.S. male physicians (5).
Red wine has been linked to reducing the risk of CVD, and recent evidence supports this health
claim (2). Researchers dating back to 1979, reported a strong negative correlation between wine intake
and death from ishcemic heart disease in both men and women from 18 countries. Red wine has a high
phenolic content and consumption of it has shown to increase HDL levels. Phenolic substances have
the ability to prevent oxidation of LDL levels, high levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with heart
disease. Recent research is focusing on consumption of non-alcoholic components of wine such as
Another beverage commonly associated with reducing the risk of heart disease is tea. Current
research shows some evidence that tea consumption may also reduce the risk of CVD, however further
research needs to be conducted. A study conducted by Hertog and colleagues found that tea
consumption in elderly men in the Netherlands provided the major source of flavonoids in their diet.
The five major flavonoids included: quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, apigenin, and luteolin. These
five flavonoids, derived from tea consumption, showed a reduced mortality rate associated with CHD
in the elderly male population.
Strong evidence supports that functional foods contain dietary sources that may enhance heart
health, but more research must be conducted (1). Functional foods should not be a substitute for a well
balanced diet, which is the foundation for good nutrition, rather they should be added into a heart
healthy diet (6). Even though strong evidence supports functional food and heart health, consumers
must understand that by adding a particular food to one's diet does not mean the nutrient will guarantee
the desired effects. Therefore, consumers must consult a Registered Dietitian and their physician to see
what will work best for them. The ADA states that all foods, on some level, are classified as functional
foods (1). Food provides necessary nutrient and substances for optimal growth, energy, maintenance,
and repair (1).

1. ADA. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Phytochemicals and functional foods. J.
Am. Diet. Assoc. 1995; 95: 493-496.
2. Hasler C. Functional Foods: Their Role in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Food
Technology. 1998; 52(2):57-62.
3. Ascherio A., Rimm E., Stampfer M., Giovannucci E., and Willett W. Dietary intake of marine
n-3 fatty acids, fish intake, and the risk of coronary disease among men. New Eng. J. Med.
1995; 332: 977-982.
4. Daviglus M., Stammer J., Oretic A., Dyer A, Il K., Greenland P., Walsh M., Morris D., and
Shekelle R. Fish consumption and the 30-year risk of fatal myocardial infarction. New Eng. J.
Med. 1997; 336: 1046-1053.
5. Albert C., Hennekens C., O'Donnell C., Ajani U., Carey V., Willett W., Ruskin J., and Manson
J. Fish consumption and risk of sudden cardiac death. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 1998; 279: 23-28.
6. American Council on Science Health [Internet]. [updated 2004 June 30; cited 2010 July 19].
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