Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still a major cause of death in Western populations and is becoming an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Thanks to advanced medical knowledge and treatments, many patients survive an initial event. Because of that, prevention of secondary CVD is a growing task for nutritionists and other health professionals.
Cardiovascular risk can be reduced by lifestyle changes, one of which is diet. There is now substantial evidence from epidemiological and clinical studies that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, fish and low-fat dairy products, and low in saturated fats and sodium, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and hypertension.1 People who have adopted such diets have benefited by way ofamuch lower risk of heart disease (see Table 1.1).1-4 However, such a prudent diet is not typical of what consumers in Western countries eat.3~5 It appears that consumers today are less likely to invest in long-term health if taste
Table 1.1 Evidence-based strategies to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
• Substitute nonhydrogenated unsaturated fats for saturated and trans fats
• Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, fish oil supplements, or plant sources
• Consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains and low in refined grain products
Source: Hu and Willett2
and convenience are compromised: in 1998 only 24 per cent of consumers ate 'healthy foods' for long-term prevention of disease, as opposed to 45 per cent in 1990.6 However, almost all consumers indicated that they sometimes buy foods for health reasons. Food industries are aware of this, and market some of their foods with health claims. Indeed, it has been shown that health claims on foods have a positive influence on consumers' perception of the healthiness of foods.7 Thus, functional foods in the form of palatable and ready-to-use foods that suggest short- or long-term health benefits have a huge market and health potential.
This chapter will discuss how functional foods can play a role in choosing a healthy diet.
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