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Functional food

Functional food

Functional food or medicinal food is any fresh or processed food claimed to have a health-promoting and/or disease-preventing property beyond the basic nutritional function of supplying nutrients, although there is no consensus on an exact definition of the term.

This is an emerging field in food science in which such foods are usually accompanied by health claims for marketing purposes, for example, a certain "cereal is a significant source of fiber. Studies have shown that an increased amount of fiber in one's diet can decrease the risk of certain types of cancer in individuals."

The general category includes processed food or foods fortified with health-promoting additives, like "vitamin-enriched" products. Fermented foods with live cultures are considered as functional foods with probiotic benefits.

The term was first used in Japan in the 1980s where there is a government approval process for functional foods called Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU). Some countries, such as Canada and Sweden, have specific laws concerning the labeling of such products.

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