Prima di parlare di alimenti nutraceutici, definiamo i cosiddetti “alimenti funzionali”. L’Institute of Medicine della US National Academy of Sciences definisce alimenti funzionali (functional foods) “quegli alimenti che oltre ai loro valori nutrizionali di base, contengono sostanze regolatrici su alcune funzioni vitali in grado di recare benefici fisiologici a chi li consuma”. Un alimento funzionale deve possedere dei precisi requisiti. Di base, deve essere reperibile, convenzionale, di uso quotidiano, inserito in una dieta abituale. Oltre a ciò, deve possedere ovviamente un livello di componente naturale “benefica” che è di norma assente o minima in altri alimenti. Questa componente deve infine avere un effetto positivo riscontrabile scientificamente.

Khalid Gul, A. K. Singh & Rifat Jabeen


The health and wellness of human beings is largely dictated by the consumption of nutritious foods. Various studies have linked foods as helpful in combating a number of degenerative diseases; as such, a lot of research on functional attributes linked directly to the health benefits of various plant and animal foods have been witnessed in recent years. Although vast number of naturally occurring health-enhancing substances are of plant origin, there are a number of physiologically active components in animal products as well that deserve attention for their potential role in optimal health.

Consumption of biologically active ingredients in fruits and vegetables has been linked to help combat diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and gastrointestinal tract disorders.

Lot of research is required to substantiate the potential health benefits of those foods for which the diet–health relationships are not sufficiently validated, and create a strong scientific knowledge base for proper application of naturally present foods in combating various diseases and disorders.

Functional Foods and Lifestyle Approaches for Diabetes Prevention and Management.

Alkhatib A1, Tsang C2, Tiss A3, Bahorun T4, Arefanian H5, Barake R6, Khadir A7, Tuomilehto J8,9.

Nutrients. 2017 Dec 1;9(12).


Functional foods contain biologically active ingredients associated with physiological health benefits for preventing and managing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). A regular consumption of functional foods may be associated with enhanced anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, insulin sensitivity, and anti-cholesterol functions, which are considered integral to prevent and manage T2DM. Components of the Mediterranean diet (MD)-such as fruits, vegetables, oily fish, olive oil, and tree nuts-serve as a model for functional foods based on their natural contents of nutraceuticals, including polyphenols, terpenoids, flavonoids, alkaloids, sterols, pigments, and unsaturated fatty acids. Polyphenols within MD and polyphenol-rich herbs-such as coffee, green tea, black tea, and yerba maté-have shown clinically-meaningful benefits on metabolic and microvascular activities, cholesterol and fasting glucose lowering, and anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation in high-risk and T2DM patients. However, combining exercise with functional food consumption can trigger and augment several metabolic and cardiovascular protective benefits, but it is under-investigated in people with T2DM and bariatric surgery patients. Detecting functional food benefits can now rely on an “omics” biological profiling of individuals’ molecular, genetics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, but is under-investigated in multi-component interventions. A personalized approach for preventing and managing T2DM should consider biological and behavioral models, and embed nutrition education as part of lifestyle diabetes prevention studies. Functional foods may provide additional benefits in such an approach.