Functional foods in pediatrics
Van den Driessche M, Veereman-Wauters G.
University Hospitals Leuven,
Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition,
Herestraat 49, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.
Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2002 Jan-Mar;65(1):45-51.


The philosophy that food can be health promoting beyond its nutritional value is gaining acceptance. Known disease preventive aspects of nutrition have led to a new science, the 'functional food science'. Functional foods, first introduced in Japan, have no universally accepted definition but can be described as foods or food ingredients that may provide health benefits and prevent diseases. Currently, there is a growing interest in these products. However, not all regulatory issues have been settled yet. Five categories of foods can be classified as functional foods: dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals, bioactive substances, fatty acids and pro-, pre- and symbiotics. The latter are currently the main focus of research. Functional foods can be applied in pediatrics: during pregnancy, nutrition is 'functional' since it has prenatal influences on the intra-uterine development of the baby, after birth, 'functional' human milk supports adequate growth of infants and pro- and prebiotics can modulate the flora composition and as such confer certain health advantages. Functional foods have also been studied in pediatric diseases. The severity of necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal allergy and lactose intolerance may be reduced by using functional foods. Functional foods have proven to be valuable contributors to the improvement of health and the prevention of diseases in pediatric populations.
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