Functional Foods and Their Importance in Geriatric Nutrition
Functional foods are extremely beneficial components found naturally in foods or added to the regular diet which include secondary metabolites, prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics in addition to the usual vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Functional food ingredients contain biologically beneficial carotenoids, fatty acids, flavonoids, betalains, phenols, phenolic acids, phytosterols, alkaloids, phytoestrogens and dietary fibre. Some functional components of these foods play a major role in health improvement in the elderly. As health costs and average life expectancy increase, the elderly has searched cost effective ways to become healthier and develop high quality of life. The “Functional Foods” concept developed as a convenient solution to prevent/cure some of the chronic health problems. These foods help fight disease, boost immune system, energy, maintain healthy skin, maintain joints and strong bones, improve healthy digestion and promote longevity. Certain components in functional foods exhibit antioxidant, cardioprotective, antidiabetic, hepato and neuroprotective, antimicrobial activities and constipation improvement. Generally, consuming physiological levels of bioactive compounds is considered safe. However, excessive intake of bioactive components could be toxic since different amounts of bioactive compounds could react negatively in different situations. Hence, medical professional as well as nutritionist, practicing geriatric care should be well informed about functional food intake in the elderly, to avoid the allergies and synergic side effects with the prescription drugs.