Considerations on an Approach for Establishing a Framework for Bioactive Food Components

Advances in Nutrition. 2014;5(6):693-701

Abstract: Bioactive food components have shown potential health benefits for more than a decade. Currently there are no recommended levels of intake [i.e., Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)] as there are for nutrients and fiber. DRIs for essential nutrients were based on requirements for each specific nutrient to maintain normal physiologic or biochemical function and to prevent signs of deficiency and adverse clinical effects. They were later expanded to include criteria for reducing the risk of chronic degenerative diseases for some nutrients. There are many challenges for establishing recommendations for intakes of nonessential food components. Although some nonessential food components have shown health benefits and are safe, validated biomarkers of disease risk reduction are lacking for many. Biomarkers of intake (exposure) are limited in number, especially because the bioactive compounds responsible for beneficial effects have not yet been identified or are unknown. Furthermore, given this lack of characterization of composition in a variety of foods, it is difficult to ascertain intakes of nonessential food components, especially with the use of food-frequency questionnaires designed for estimating intakes of nutrients. Various intermediary markers that may predict disease outcome have been used as functional criteria in the DRI process. However, few validated surrogate endpoints of chronic disease risk exist. Nonvalidated intermediary biomarkers of risk may possibly predict clinical outcomes, but more research is needed to confirm the associations between cause and effect. One criterion for establishing acceptable intermediary outcome indicators may be the maintenance of normal physiologic function throughout adulthood, which presumably would lead to reduced chronic disease risk. Multiple biomarkers of outcomes that demonstrate the same health benefit may also be helpful. It would be beneficial to continue to refine the process of setting DRIs by convening a workshop on establishing a framework for nonessential food components that would take into consideration intermediary biomarkers indicative of optimal health.

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This work was supported by the ILSI North America Committee on Bioactives: Flavonoids, Polyphenols, and Carotenoids.