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Appetite. 2007 May;48(3):384-93. Epub 2006 Dec 12.

'All foods affect health': understandings of functional foods and healthy eating among health-oriented Finns.

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  • National Consumer Research Centre, PO Box 5 (Kaikukatu 3), FIN-00531 Helsinki, Finland. mari.niva@ncrc.fi


One of the recent phenomena in contemporary discussion of eating is 'functional foods', i.e. foods marketed as promoting health or reducing the risk of disease. This article analyses lay understandings of health-promoting foods in Finland by examining the ways in which middle-aged health-oriented consumers make sense of functional foods in the context of healthy eating. The article is based on an analysis of eight focus group discussions held with 45 users and non-users of cholesterol-lowering products as specific type of functional foods. The findings indicate that consumers interpret functional foods and healthy eating from a variety of perspectives. These perspectives include (1) focus on the whole diet, (2) distinguishing between healthy foods and functional foods, (3) the dilemma of eating for health or for pleasure, (4) healthfulness as an 'individual' issue and finally, (5) the duality of risk in the context of functional foods. The diversity of perspectives illustrates the ways that interpretations of functional foods and healthy eating are entangled with notions of uncertainties relating to scientific knowledge, moral undertones governing what is defined as acceptable eating and the symbolic significance of food as an inextricably social matter.

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