In the 21st century, consumers expect more from food than just the provision of the basic nutrients and a good taste: the current trend is “functional foods”, providing additional health benefits or even preventing disease. Functional foods are typically enriched with micronutrients such as vitamins or antioxidants 1 and/or have a more favorable macronutrient composition than their conventional counterparts (for example, canola oil, rapeseed oil with a low content of erucic acid 2, can be considered a functional food). However, perhaps with the exception of fish oil and virgin olive oil, both of which have been regarded as “concentrated health shots” for decades 3, 4, the high calorific value of fats and oils has earned them a bad reputation among the public and an average consumer might wrongly believe that lipids are intrinsically harmful. Fortunately, the progress in our understanding of the functions of the dazzling variety of lipids occurring in the diet and in our bodies helps deny the misconceptions about dietary fats and creates new opportunities for the development of lipid-enhanced functional foods, nutraceuticals, and dietary supplements.
The differences in the physiological effects of dietary saturated and (poly)unsaturated fatty acids have been intensively studied over the past few decades, with the most attention paid to the total content of the SFA, MUFA, and PUFA. However, also the position of the individual acyl chains within the DAG and TAG molecules is an important factor influencing the metabolic outcomes 5. This example illustrates the need for the mechanistic insights into the non-caloric functions of dietary lipids which are important for the rational use of lipids as functional components. In addition, it becomes clear that a demand for high-throughput methods for quantitative food lipid analysis is likely to increase, strengthening the position of the emerging field of “food lipidomics”.
Yet lipids are useful not only as the functional components themselves but can also be used in various formulations to deliver other functional molecules such as lipophilic vitamins or antioxidants in the form of emulsions, liposome suspensions, and similar systems 6. The choice of a delivery system influences the bioavailability of the functional components and is thus another important aspect affecting the resulting functionality of the product.
We invite our readers to contribute to the development in this exciting field with their research on lipids in functional foods, nutraceuticals, and supplements. Submit your research and review articles on production, analysis, formulations and bioavailability, applications, and mechanism of action of “functional lipids”, including but not limited to:
Vitamins D, E
DAG and phospholipids
Modified and structured lipids
Uses of lipids as carriers for other functional ingredients
The topic of functional lipids has been covered in Research and Review articles in EJLST on many occasions and these papers are among the most downloaded – a good reason to publish in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology and give your research a chance to make a real impact on the field.