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Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Mar;63 Suppl 1:29-36. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2011.653553. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

Multifunctional food: medical evidence and methodological notes on substantiating health claims.

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Laboratories of Epidemiological Methods and Biostatistics, Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Via Loredan 18, 35131 Padova, Italy.


In nutritional research, a specific issue is about understanding how to provide a clear and solid proof of the health effects of each functional food. The problems range from regulatory perspectives down to very basic methodological issues. In addition, when multi-functionality comes into play, then several additional problems are posed in terms of the methodological appropriateness of research done. In this review, a focus is provided on some methodological issues related to (i) the general concepts of 'proving' effects in a methodological perspective and (ii) the difficulties of specifically proving functional effects of food. A specific attention is dedicated on the characteristic problems which, from a methodological perspective, arise when multi-functionality is the matter of the proof.

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