Strategies for Designing Animal Origin Functional Foods

Dr. Somesh Kumar Meshram, Dr. Serlene Tomar, Dr. Abhilasha Singh, Dr. Rajesh Vandre and Dr. Kumar Govil

Functional foods are foods that, by virtue of their physiologically active components, provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. The concept of Functional food is not new in India and it is more closely associated with Indian System of Medicine (ISM) popularly referred as Ayurveda in which many plant and milk based products are used for curing the various diseases since ages. Functional foods was first introduced in Japan, in the 1980s, and to date, Japan is the only country that has formulated a specific regulatory approval process for functional foods.  Examples of functional foods include foods that contain specific minerals, vitamins, fatty acids or dietary fibre, foods with added biologically active substances such as photochemical or other antioxidant and probiotics that have live beneficial cultures.

Functional enhancement of foods improves nutritional value, promote health and mitigate the disease. The strategies for functional products development are basically related to increasing the presence of beneficial compounds and limiting those with negative health implications in food products. Among the functional components, probiotics and prebiotics, soluble fiber, omega-3-polyunsaturated fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, plant antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, some proteins, peptides and amino acids, as well as phospholipids are frequently mentioned.

Functionality enhancement of foods can be start right from animal production to ultimate consumption of food. Approaches toward functional enhancement during animal production are genetical, nutritional etc. however at foods level it includes fortification, enrichment, manipulation etc, which have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels. Food products can be modified by adding ingredients considered beneficial for health or by eliminating or reducing components that are considered harmful. Functional enhancement can be done in two stages

1. Livestock production level

At this level genetic and nutritional Approaches can be applicable to produce functional livestock products. Thus it can be done by improvements in livestock nutrition and feed resources. There has been the development and adoption of biotechnological applications such as the feeding of genetically modified plants and the use of in-feed additives such as antibiotics. In the past decades, the livestock feed industry had been centered on the use of antibiotics as livestock growth promoters. In genetic approach, genetic engineering or genetic modification can be done. Genetic modification of an animal involves altering its genetic material by adding, changing or removing certain DNA sequences in a way that does not occur naturally. It aims to modify specific characteristics of an animal or introduce a new trait, such as disease resistance or enhanced growth. Particular undesirable genes can be screen out. Functional foods produced with the help of genetic engineering methods are regarded as a way to obtain public acceptance for this technology. Functional foods are supposed to have an added value for consumers. The added value may be given ether due to health improvement and or minimized risk to develop certain diseases.

2. Food formulation level

There are diverse possible strategies for developing functional livestock products. Basic approaches at food formulation level for development of functional livestock products are incorporation of functional ingredients and/or Modification of food product composition.

  1. Incorporation of functional ingredients
  2. Addition of Omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), bioactive peptides, probiotics, sphingolipids, L-carnitine etc can be Incorporate in livestock products for their respective health benefits. 
  3. Addition of antioxidant: Antioxidants are natural or synthetic that preserves food against oxidative deterioration on storage and processing. With similar purposes, some plant derivatives rich in natural antioxidants (flavonoids and phenolic compounds) have been used like extracts of fruits (grape, liquorice root, horsetail, arbutus berries, tomato etc.), herbs and spices (Melissa, clove, rosemary, nutmeg, cardamom, oregano, green tea etc.) and other sources. Typical examples of vitamins as antioxidants are α-tocopherol (vitamin E) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Butylated hydroxyl anisol (BHA) and butylated hydroxyl toluene (BHT) are much stronger chemical antioxidants than most currently known natural extracts.
  4. Addition of fiber: Fiber can be used for improvement of some functional properties of foods such as texture, organoleptic qualities, water holding capacity, oil holding capacity, emulsification and/or gel formation, bulking agent in reduced-sugar applications, and shelf-life. Some types of soluble fibres, such as pectins, inulin, guar gum and carboxy-methyl-cellulose are utilized as functional ingredients in meat products
  5. Addition of enzyme: For the purposes of food application, β-galactosidase is sourced from yeast species such as Kluyveromyces lactis is used in milk products especially for lactose intolerance people.
  6. Modification of food product composition
  7. Change in fat: Reduction of fat content and modification of the fatty acid profile is needed to promote better cardiovascular health. Diets should provide extremely low intakes of trans-fatty acids. Technological strategies for improving the fatty acid profile generally entail replacement of fat normally present in the product with another fat more in line with health recommendations i.e. with smaller proportions of SFAs and larger proportions of MUFAs, n−3 PUFAs (especially long-chain) or CLA, better n−6/n−3 PUFA and PUFA/SFA ratios etc. The procedures used to incorporate natural or processed plant lipids (olive, cottonseed, corn, soybean, peanut etc.) and marine lipids (fish and algae) into food products.
  8. Reduction of cholesterol: Recommendations for daily allowances generally state that cholesterol intake should be limited to less than 300 mg per day (WHO, 2003). Approaches for cholesterol removal from meat raw materials by the use of cholesterol-reducing bacteria (Eubacterium coprostanoligenes) in fermented meat products (Madden et al., 1999) or by diluting fat and lean meat raw materials with vegetable oils and plant-based proteins.
  9. Reduction of calories: Reduction of energy source in livestock products are necessary to avoid weight gain that is closely related to chronic diseases.
  10. Enrichment with minerals: and vitamins: livestock products can be enriched with minerals and vitamins which are generally lacking in that product or as per the requirement.
  11. Reduction of sodium content: There is a direct relationship between an excessive intake of sodium and an increased incidence of hypertension. Hypertension is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
  12. Reduction of nitrites: Regardless of the technological benefits of nitrites in curing of meat, a reduction in the use of nitrites has become a key issue for the industry because of its carcinogenic potential. Ingredients that have been used to manufacture “nitrite-free” cured meat products include unrefined sea salt, spices, celery, carrot, beet and spinach juice etc.

            The use of functional products offers processors the opportunity to improve the nutritional and health qualities of their products and/or help prevent certain diseases when taken as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Increasing evidence supports the observation that functional livestock foods products containing physiologically active components may enhance human health. The functional foods can significantly contribute to the prevention of several diseases like hypertension, coronary vascular diseases, obesity, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes and some other diseases. Thus Livestock products offer exciting opportunities in the area of functional foods and the functional food components in food further serve to illustrate the value of Livestock products in the human diet. However, the field of functional foods is in its infancy. Furthermore, a number of factors complicate the establishment of a strong scientific foundation. Additional research is necessary to substantiate the potential health benefits of those foods for which the diet-health relationships are not sufficiently scientifically validated.