Bioactives and Functional Foods

Research Project:

Bioactives and Functional Foods

Brief Summary: Few evidence-based recommendations exist for consumption of bioactives, the amounts of ingredients in so-called “functional foods,” or the foods themselves that contain some of these bioactives. ILSI proposes working to provide definitions of functional foods; creating a database of evidence of the composition, health and safety aspects of those functional foods; and developing guidelines for dietary supplements across global regions. Presented by April Stull.

Rationale and Approach: Recent progress toward developing policies and guidance around dietary intake recommendations for non-essential health-promoting foods and ingredients includes two efforts to establish a framework and process (1-2). However, few evidence-based recommendations exist for consumption of bioactives in foods or for either the amounts of ingredients in the so called "functional foods" or the foods themselves that contain some of these bioactives. To our knowledge, no recommendations have been developed at either the global or regional level. We propose to build on the recently published framework (2) and to ascertain if it is necessary to develop guidance for recommendations to enlarge the framework for foods to also consider "functional foods". Currently, there is no legal definition for functional foods. This leaves the consumer to evaluate claims about efficacy on their own. The FNB defines a functional food as one that encompasses potentially healthful products, including any modified food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond that of the traditional nutrients it contains (3). In addition, there is no categorization of functional foods, such as conventional (natural bioactives), modified (enrichment or fortified), and/or food ingredient categories.


  • Brainstorm and Propose definitions of functional foods
  • Develop a database of evidence of composition and health safety effects
  • Develop guidelines for dietary supplements
  • Determine regional needs in collaboration with ILSI’s Federation


  • Establishment of expert committees (national and international)
  • Definition, Database, and Guidelines
  • Publications and Workshops or Informational Sessions


  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board. Guiding principles for developing dietary reference intakes based on chronic disease. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press (2017).
  2. Yates, A.A., Dwyer, J.T., Erdman, Jr. J.W., King, J.C., Lyle, B.J., Schneeman, B.O., Weaver, C.M. (2021) Perspective: Framework for developing recommended intakes of bioactive dietary substances. Advances in Nutrition 12: 1087-1099.
  3. Thoma,s P.R., Earl, R., eds. Committee on the Opportunities in Nutrition and Food Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Opportunities in the nutrition and food sciences; research challenges and the next generation of investigators. Washington DC, National Academies Press, 1994, 109.

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