By April Mitchell
Functional Food Center/Functional Food Institute, USA
The 18th International Conference of Functional Food Center (FFC) and 6th International Symposium of Academic Society for Functional Food and Bioactive Components (ASFFBC) was held on September 15-16, 2015 at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The conference was titled “Functional and Medical Foods for Chronic Diseases: Bioactive Compounds and Biomarkers”.
The conference brought together experts in medicine, biology, and the food industry to discuss functional foods with bioactive compounds as dietary interventions for chronic diseases. Similar to many previous FFC conferences, this conference was successful in assembling scientists, medical doctors, and industry experts from about thirty countries. This conference was organized to have a significant international presence, which created a platform for scientific discussions on a variety of topics concerning functional foods, bioactive compounds, chronic disease interventions, and health regulations.
We would like to give a special thank you to the members of the organizing committee who helped us gather support in our efforts to make this a successful conference: Francine Welty, MD, PhD; Garth L. Nicolson, PhD; Jin-Rong Zhou, PhD; Steve Cui, PhD; Jing X. Kang, MD, PhD; Hiroshi Yoshida, MD, PhD; PhD; George Perry, PhD; Francesco Marotta, MD, PhD; Andrew Scholey, PhD; and Bruce P. Burnett, PhD. We would also like to give mention to the students and FFC interns who helped event plan and video record during the conference: April Mitchell, Megan Post, Yu He, and Connor Williams. Functional Food Center would like to thank these people and institutions for their enthusiasm and promotion of this year’s conference at Harvard Medical School.
The conference was opened by a welcome speech by Danik M. Martirosyan, PhD, President of Functional Food Center. Dr. Martirosyan discussed the significance of this conference at Harvard Medical School and explained the reasons to explore functional food interventions for chronic diseases. The growing epidemics including obesity, diabetes, metabolic disorders, and cancer in international communities are dramatically increasing healthcare costs. Functional food and bioactive compounds have the potential to prevent and treat these chronic diseases with minimal side effects and reduce healthcare costs. Dr. Danik Martirosyan also gave a description of the "Functional Food Definition" according to the FFC in his welcoming talk. The FFC defines functional foods as “natural or processed foods that contain known or unknown biologically-active compounds; which, in defined amounts, provide a clinically proven and documented health benefit for the prevention, management, or treatment of chronic disease”. The definition set forth by the FFC is unique to other definitions by emphasizing bioactive compounds as the central point (backbone) of functional food. Moreover, the safety aspects and health benefits of bioactive compounds need to be well documented and reported, in order to, improve the treatment of chronic diseases around the world.
The conference program involved 8 exciting sessions including 7 sessions of oral presentations and one final session of poster presentations. The session topics and session chairs were presented in this fashion:
- “Functional Foods and Obesity” Session Chair: Francine Welty, MD, PhD, Board-Certified Cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
- “Functional Foods and Neurological Disorders” Session Chair: Andrew Scholey, PhD, Professor, Australia, Professor, Swinburne University, Australia
- “Functional Foods for Chronic Diseases (CVD, Cancer, and other Chronic Diseases)” Session chair: Jin-Rong Zhou, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Nutrition/Metabolism Laboratory, Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA
- “Bioactive Polysaccharides: Structures and Functional Properties” Session Chair: Steve Cui, PhD, Guelph Food Research Centre, Ontario, Canada.
- “Functional Foods and Diabetes” Session Chair: Fatemeh Malekian, PhD, Professor, Food Science, Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Baton Rouge LA, USA
- “Definition of Functional Foods. Nutraceutical, Functional and Medical Food Regulations” Session Chair: Debasis Bagchi, PhD, Professor, University of College of Pharmacy, Houston, TX, USA
- “Research and Development of new Functional Food Products for Non-Communicable Diseases” Session chair: Danik M. Martirosyan, PhD, President, Functional Food Center, Dallas, TX, USA
- Poster Presentations
The following report reveals some of the paramount presentations from the 18th International Conference of Functional Food Center.
Haleama Al Sabbah, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health Nutrition, UAE, gave an oral presentation on the “Prevalence of overweight, obesity, anemia, and their associations with dietary habits among female students at Zayed University, UAE”. Haleama Al Sabbah had conducted a cross sectional study on female students at Zayed University, Dubai, to measure the prevalence of obesity and overweight female students including the multi-factors associated with obesity and overweight. The study overall demonstrated that overweight, obesity, and anemia are prevalent among Zayed University female students. She concluded that more research needs to be done to study the multi-factors aiding the obesity and anemia increase in female student populations in UAE.
Fatemeh Malekian, PhD, Professor, Food Science, Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Baton Rouge LA, USA, presented, “The effects of whey protein and resistant starch on body weight”. Dr. Fatemeh Malekian initiated her talk on the impact of obesity on the health of many populations in the United States, especially in the state of Louisiana and in African American populations. Her study was designed to examine the effect of dietary whey protein and resistant starch shakes on body fat reduction due to factors, such as satiety and increased energy expenditure, in African American men and women. The participants were randomly allocated to the treatment group and control group. The treatment group consumed whey protein and resistant starch shakes while the control group consumed starch powder shakes for breakfast; both groups received nutrition education. The treatment group exhibited body weight reduction and a decrease in waist circumference. The treatment group also in general had decreased blood pressure significance. These findings demonstrate that a combination of whey protein and resistant starch shakes for breakfast, in addition to, nutrition education may be effective in reducing body weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure in African American men and women.
Andrew Scholey, PhD, Professor, Swinburne University, Australia, gave a talk on, “A role for dietary polyphenols as cognitive enhancers”. In this lecture, Dr. Andrew Scholey reviewed explicit examples in scientific literature, from a ten-year systematic assessment, of the human behavioral effects of nutrition and functional food interventions. These functional food interventions included cocoa flavanols, resveratrol, curcumin, and polyphenol components of tea. Collectively, these studies confirmed that dietary polyphenols from various sources can improve acute and chronic neurocognitive function. These findings as well as preliminary clinical studies furthermore suggest certain plant polyphenols may be used in the aging population to treat age-related cognitive decline. Even so, more research needs to be done to understand the underlying mechanisms of these bioactive nutrients role in neurocognitive function.
Nancy J. Emenaker, PhD, R.D.N., Program Director and Project Officer, Nutritional Sciences Research Group, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland presented “Developing food-specific molecular profiles and biomarkers of food and nutrient intake, and dietary exposure for reducing cancer risks”. During this presentation, Dr. Nancy Emenaker discussed the importance of furthering research concerning molecular markers or food-specific signatures to expand our knowledge on dietary consumption and disease, particularly cancer. Increased knowledge on the depth of the role of nutrients in the pathophysiology of diseases may yield better treatments or prevention therapies for certain diseases.
Francesco Marotta, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of ReGenera Research Group for Aging Intervention, Milano and Chief Medical Officer, Gender Healthy Aging Unit, Montenapoleone Medical Center, Italy, presented “A novel sturgeon-based marine nutraceutical in inflammatory- and stress-related disorders: preliminary pilot study in cancer patients”. Francesco Marotta first reviewed the latest uses of LD-1227, containing a high-purity caviar-derived DNA, collagen elastin and protein extracts from sturgeon, in the treatment of inflammation/stress related diseases. Then presented preliminary data of LD-1227 in an open label observational study in clinically-stable cancer patients. The preliminary data demonstrated that LD-1227 improved quality of life parameters in cancer patients, especially for fatigue and mood scores. More research needs to be done to study the smaller functional components of LD-1227, such as unsaturated fatty acids, phospholipids, and neurotransmitter precursors, to understand its beneficial effects.
Hisham R. Ibrahim, PhD, Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Biotechnology, Faculty of Agriculture, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima, Japan, presented “Novel bioactive peptides from honey with therapeutic potential for treatment of oxidative stress-related diseases”. Dr. Hisham R. Ibrahim discussed how he tested the antimicrobial activity, and antioxidant properties of bio-active peptides from honey proteins using the xanthine-oxidase system and chemical radical DPPH. Pepsin digestion of honey proteins produced peptides with microbial activity against Gram-negative bacteria and sifted superoxide anions. These findings demonstrated that honey has multiple bio-active peptides with potent antioxidant and antimicrobial activities and with continued research these bio-active peptides could be potentially used for the treatment of microbial infection and regulate oxidative stress.
Jin-Rong Zhou, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Nutrition/Metabolism Laboratory, Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA presented “Bioassay-guided identification of novel anti-cancer bioactive ingredients in black tea”. During this presentation, Dr. Jin-Rong Zhou discussed the unique chemical makeup of black tea and the preliminary data on the potential health benefits of black tea and its inhibitory effect on prostate cancer. Zhou’s research lab isolated black tea fractions to study the anti-proliferation and anti-angiogenesis activities of certain black tea fractions. The combination of these potent black tea fractions may produce potential treatments or preventative strategies against prostate cancer.
Debasis Bagchi, PhD, Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Houston College of Pharmacy, Houston, TX, USA, and Cepham Research Center, Piscataway, NJ, USA, gave an oral presentation on the “Nutraceutical and Functional Food Regulations in the United States with a Special Emphasis on GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) Status and Label Claims”. In this presentation, Dr. Bagchi discussed how nutraceuticals and functional foods are regulated in the United States and how the US FDA, DSHEA, FTC, and allied regulatory authorities are involved with regulating health claims. By the end of 2015, new regulations will be mandated and will have an impact on the research of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements in the US.
Janos Zempleni, PhD, Professor, Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA, presented “Depletion of dietary microRNAs from cow’s milk decreases fecundity in mice”. According to Dr. Janos Zempleni’s findings, collaborated with three independent laboratories, consumed dietary microRNAs from cow’s milk have biological activity in other species. The reduction of dietary milk microRNAs caused a reduction in fertility and perinatal development in mice due to deviant metabolism of purines and pyrimidines. These findings refute prior thinking that the host’s synthesized microRNAs only effect the gene regulation in that host.
Manoj K. Bhasin, PhD, Department of Medicine, Division of Interdisciplinary Medicine and Biotechnology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, presented “Insilico identification of herbal formulation for IBD management using systems biology approach”. In this lecture, Dr. Manoj Bhasin explained the beneficial effects of herbal formulations for IBD and a possible mechanism for how herbs deliver this effect. His analysis demonstrated the herbal formulation downregulated “the expression of master regulators of inflammation” to yield its beneficial effects for IBD.
Danik M. Martirosyan, PhD, President, Functional Food Center, Dallas, TX, USA, presented a paper called, “A new definition of functional food by FFC: what makes a new definition unique?”. During this presentation, Dr. Martirosyan first reviewed the history of the development of functional food internationally. The presentation also included the examination of inconsistencies between functional food definitions over the past 25 years and how this has caused much confusion and obstacles for experts and consumers, alike. Furthermore, Dr. Martirosyan explained how this new definition of functional food by the Functional Food Center would improve communication and collaboration between the scientific, medical communities, industry, and the public. One of the many priorities of Functional Food Center is to legitimize functional food science globally.
Bruce P. Burnett, PhD, Vice President of Compliance, Regulatory and Medical Affairs, Entera Health, Inc., USA, presented” Current International Legal and Regulatory Environment for Medicinal Foods”. In this lecture, Dr. Burnett compared modern international laws, regulations and guidance regarding medical foods. Although recent changes on medical food guidelines proposed by the US FDA and Institutional Review Boards have strived to limit medical food categories in the US, Japan and China are struggling to standardize medical food regulations and guidance.
Garth Nicolson, PhD, Professor, Emeritus, Department of Molecular Pathology, The Institute for Molecular Medicine, Huntington Beach, CA, USA, presented “Lipid Replacement with a membrane glycerolphospholipid formulation: enhancement of human spermatozoa motility and viability”. In this lecture, Garth Nicolson discussed the effect of a supplement of NT Factor Lipids (NTFL), containing membrane glycerol phospholipids, in protecting sperm functionality against oxidative stress. The data and conclusions of this study implicate the potential use of NFTL supplementation for improving sperm quality in infertile men due to aging or enhanced inflammation.
After the sessions, there was a panel discussion on the safety of bioactive compounds at efficacious levels. The panelists included: Hisham R. Ibrahim, PhD, Professor; Danik Martirosyan, PhD; Jin-Rong Zhou, PhD; Debasis Bagchi, PhD, Professor; Francesco Marotta MD, PhD, and Garth Nicolson, PhD, Professor.
The conference was closed with the distribution of awards and membership certificates of the Academic Society for Functional Foods and Bioactive Compounds. We are pleased to announce that Haleama Al Sabbah, PhD; Fatemeh Malekian, PhD; Francesco Marotta, MD, PhD; Hisham R. Ibrahim, PhD; Steve Cui, PhD; Debasis Bagchi, PhD; and Nurudeen Hassan, PhD student, were awarded the Introduction to Functional Food Science, third edition textbook, for their excellent performance in the conference.
Overall, the 18th International Conference of Functional Food Center was a significant opportunity to meet people with a shared common goal: to promote, discuss, and improve the research of functional foods and bioactive compounds as interventions for chronic diseases. We are confident the conference provided knowledgeable lectures, thought-provoking discussions, and a stage for networking among experienced professionals. It is our hope the attendees and participants left the conference more informed about functional foods for chronic disease management as well as the regulations of nutraceuticals, medical and functional foods. Functional Food Center believes that it is very important to continue such conferences in order to be progressive in the scientific field of functional foods.
We would also like to take this opportunity to present our next international conference. The final dates are November 17-18, 2015, at Kobe University, Kobe, Japan. Kobe University, a leading national university in Japan, will be the venue. FFC will continue to promote its novel definition of functional food to improve scientific knowledge and support the discovery of bioactive compounds and functional food in future conferences. We look forward to your participation in our upcoming conferences, which will hold exciting presentations from research and industry leaders, and more opportunities for networking among colleagues.