2009 年 20 巻 1 号 p. 11-16
The United States launched the Designer Foods program in 1990 on the basis of its ample epidemiological research data. It is aimed at preventing cancer with the use of pyytochemicals. What attracted the most attention are food ingredients called “non-nutrients,” such as polyphenols, sulfuric compounds, terpenoids and carotenoids. Calling such ingredients “functional food factors, ”we have developed an international research approach in an attempt for cross-disciplinary research beyond the boundaries of food science and medicine.
In 1984, Japan became the world’s first to launch a research project on food functionality. Characteristically, it introduced a totally innovative concept of physiological and biological regulating function as a third function after the primary “nutritional” function and the secondary “sensory” function. The notion of food functionality has gradually penetrated the West although the reception was initially not very positive. And functional food is now taking root there.
The U.S. Designer Foods program lists 40 vegetables, fruits, spices and luxury food items from the standpoint of cancer prevention on the basis of epidemiological research. Noting that designer food contained functional food factors common to food items in the same identical group or category, the author suggested the importance of keeping a balance among different types of food in the diet rather than of rating the effect of different food factors. The author added some traditional Japanese food materials to the listed food and sorted them into 12 food groups. The focus of the author’s proposal is to endeavor to consume food equally from all 12 groups within one or two days rather than consuming food materials in large quantities from a specific category. Needless to say, it is also important to develop new food materials.
A key goal of illness prevention with the use of functional food factors will be to keep us healthy, or within the scope of a non-disease state, for as long a time as possible. It is therefore hoped that simple diagnoses may be performed using specific biomarkers to prevent illnesses at the earliest possible stage or to reduce the risk of future illness. Produced with a drop of blood, saliva, urine or suchlike, an antibody chip has a monoclonal antibody imprinted on a substrate spin-coated with azo-polymer. It is used for specifically examining oxidation stress, obesity, cancer and cerebral aging. It is foreseen that it will in a couple of years be viable to provide a so-called tailor-made diet guidance explaining the current health conditions and what diet should be followed to prevent illnesses with the use of the antibody chip in health checkups. The author hopes that studies on functional food factors with scientific grounds for cancer prevention will remove the boundaries between different disciplines and lead to the swift establishment of a system of industry-academia-government cooperation at the initiative of young researchers as well as an environment that enables Japan to play a leading role in the global strategy for the development of disease-preventing food products.