Position of the American Dietetic Association: Phytochemicals and functional foods

Abby Bloch, Cynthia A. Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in three cancer deaths is related to diet, and that 8 of l0 cancers have a nutrition/diet component. Phytochemicals (food components derived from naturally occurring ingredients) and functional foods (modified foods or food ingredients that may provide health benefits beyond those offered by the traditional nutrients they contain) are actively being investigated for their health-promoting potential. Phytochemicals are present in a number of frequently consumed foods, especially fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and seeds, and in a number of less frequently consumed foods such as licorice, soy, and green tea. Health benefits of these foods are best obtained through the consumption of a varied diet based on normal food supply. Growing scientific evidence supports the role of phytochemicals and functional foods in the prevention and treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in this country, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, and with the prevention and/or treatment of other medical ailments including neural tube defects, osteoporosis, abnormal bowel function, and arthritis. The current emphasis on cost effective health care highlights the importance of dietary changes to optimize health, and the food industry is responding to consumer demands for a more healthful food supply by developing nutrient rich food products, including products lower in fat and sodium, that are consistent with the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) requires consistent and informative labeling of all food items, providing consumers with a reliable source of relevant nutrition information. Professional dieticians are urged to take an active role in disseminating information about phytochemicals and functional foods, and in promoting their beneficial consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Nutraceuticals, Functional and Medical Foods
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Cost-effective health care
  • health-promoting foods and ingredients
  • nutritional prevention and treatment of chronic diseases
  • role of professional dieticians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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