Food bioactive compounds are natural components of food that possess biological activity in addition to their nutritional value. The daily consumption of a range of foods within the common human diet naturally allows the intake of a variety of bioactives. Bioactives vary widely in chemical structure and function, and the type and concentration of bioactive vary widely in different foods.
The focus of many studies across the world is targeted on demonstrating the effectiveness of specific bioactives in the prevention of chronic diseases, and on setting the concentrations needed to obtain the preventitive effects. Since bioactives typically occur in small quantities in foods, the intake of a specific bioactive could be less than the dose that can exert a specific health effect (effective dose).
To overcome this, the food and drink industry is developing new products containing higher concentrations of selected bioactives. These bioactive-enriched foods (BEF) are also known as functional food products. Functional foods are foods that have a potentially positive effect on health, over and above their inherent nutritional properties. All foods are functional in the sense that they have nutrients that provide energy, sustain growth or support vital processes; however, functional foods are generally considered to offer additional benefits that will reduce the risk of disease or promote optimal health.
BEF are frequently obtained by adding bioactives to foods/ingredients, and are often designed to meet four consumer demands: taste, convenience, simple proposition and price. The interaction between added bioactives and the whole food matrix needs to be considered when developing a BEF. Constituents in a food matrix could aid or hinder the availability of the bioactives, and the effective dose of the isolated bioactive could change if administered as part of a specific food. Bioactive concentration and availability in the BEF can also be affected by food processing and storage conditions.
The possibility to administer bioactives as components of BEF within a common diet, maintaining their bioavailability and protective activity, is one of the most important and challenging areas of concern and investigation in the field of nutritional science. Overcoming these challenges will enable consumers to better select foods (together with healthy lifestyle choices) that are associated with improved health, and quality of life at all ages.