The strategic proposal , “Quantitative Analysis Research for Multiple Food Functions” is research and development to quantitatively analyze and reveal food characteristics, weak, delayed and multiple/diverse functions, using individual organisms, cells and human digestive tract models. The term “food functions” here includes not only health maintenance/promotion and disease preventing effects by food composed of multiple ingredients but also a function that poses a hazard to human bodies (toxicity: ingredients originally in the food and foreign ingredients such as agricultural chemicals), which is related to food safety.
This strategic program focuses on the “food function” that poses a hazard to human bodies and proposes research and development that contributes to health maintenance and disease prevention by food, as well as realization of securing food safety. While quantitative analysis of functions has made considerable progress in “drugs” with single components, there has been almost no progress in food that is originally made up of complex and diverse ingredients. In recent years, the number of patients affected with lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension has been increasing. Against such a situation, the concept of “Ishoku Dougen, in other words, medicines and foods share the same origin that means consuming foods for health is spreading in order to prevent diseases. This is considered a new trend towards realization of preventive medicine from “Treatment by Drug” to “Prevention by Food.” In order to maintain healthy by food and realize prevention of diseases, it is necessary to reveal functions of the food and consume an appropriate amount of food that is suited for the constitution of an individual. However, because a variety of ingredients contained in the food respond intricately in the living body and its effects appear in a weak and delayed manner, analysis of the food functions was believed to be difficult.
Then, this proposal proposes to challenge quantitative analysis of food functions, which used to be mysteries, through the development of an assessment system for multiple food functions in the three levels of living bodies; (1) individual organisms, (2) tissues/organs, and (3) cells. Major research and development issues in each level are as follows:
(1) Functional assessment by regulatory markers and development of new safety assessment methods
(2) Multiple kinetic analysis and functional assessment of food ingredients by establishing an artificial digestive tract model
(3) Understanding of disposition of multiple food ingredients, identification of target factors and elucidation of mechanism of action
Since food functions are complicated, the assessment results are not necessarily consistent in the three levels. Therefore, the perspective to integrate the analysis results and comprehensively judge them is important in future food research.
In order to move forward the aforementioned research and development to the level of practical application in medium- and long-term standpoints, it is essential not only to allow researchers in different fields such as agriculture that studies food functions, engineering that develops an assessment technique, and medicine that evaluates effects and impact of food on human bodies to collaborate and fuse with each other, but also to establish a cooperative system with industries that actually develop functional foods.
This proposal is an investment strategy for the fundamental research issue, taking advantage of strength of food science and engineering in Japan, and the following social and economic spin-off effects are expected: (1) realization of health maintenance and preventive medicine by food and securing of scientific safety of food, (2) expansion of food market by development of new functional food, and (3) significant progress in the field of nutritional science by advancement of science and technology of Japanese origin that assess food functions in a multiple and quantitative manner.