Do functional foods reach the populations at risk

Several surveys have shown that a higher socioeconomic status is associated with a healthier diet, that is, a diet closer to the recommendations.10'45 Consumers with a low or middle socioeconomic status would therefore benefit most from functional foods. It has been suggested that functional foods would appeal most to healthy, well-educated and rich consumers, but this does not appear to be true: in a Dutch survey among 1183 consumers aged 19-91 years, determinants of functional food use depended on the type of food.46 Stanol-enriched margarines were consumed most by smokers and consumers with a poorer subjective health. A Finnish study, however, showed a higher consumption of such margarines in consumers with higher socioeconomic status.47 Differences in marketing strategies can possibly account for these differences.

A survey among 238 Dutch dieticians showed that 'functional foods' are still a topic of debate and confusion: although most of them advised patients about functional foods, they felt uncertain about dosage, safety and efficacy.48 Educating health-care providers on these aspects of functional foods will be an important task for non-commercial nutritionists. A uniform definition of the term 'functional foods' and clear legislation on health claims would further enhance the acceptance and succes of this new generation of foods.

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