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Is beauty the next big thing in functional food? by Ali Gwynne

Is beauty skin deep? And what does food have to do with it all? Once upon a time, food and drink served the sole purpose of filling your stomach and quenching your thirst, but new research indicates that the food and drink industry may be merging with that of the beauty world as the next big thing in functional food*.

The notion of functional foods was born in Japan in the early 1980s when health officials discovered the link between foods that were developed specifically to promote health or reduce the risk of disease. Strictly speaking, all food is functional, in the sense that it provides the nutrients necessary for survival. But the term “functional food” in use today, conveys health benefits that extend far beyond mere survival. Food and nutrition science has moved from identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies to designing foods that promote optimal health. Generally, these include foods that contain certain minerals, vitamins, fatty acids or dietary fibre – think probiotic yoghurt, avocado, salmon, brazil nuts, quinoa and the rest of the ‘en vogue’ health tribe.

As interest in this category has grown, new products have appeared and attention has turned to the development of standards and guidelines for the development and promotion of such foods. Whether you’re looking to build muscle, increase alertness or simply support your immune system, functional food has a solution, and while beauty/appearance may not be on the same playing field, it certainly is making waves. The past year has seen a barrage of collagen-based food and drink products hit the market, with hipsters buying collagen infused coffee, ice cream, water and smoothies. There’s even a collagen-added gin aptly named ‘Colagin’, that boasts an ‘elixir of youth’ claim.

It’s not all about collagen though. Local supermarkets are now stocking a whole host of functional food that offer general beauty benefits.  Everything from skin-glowing tea, to youth inducing milk and diet bread are easily accessible to the everyday consumer. Tetley’s Super Green Beauty Tea, which touts healthy hair and skin benefits, is one that springs to mind when thinking about recent on-tend product launches, as are the Niche Co hydrating and illuminating tea range.

If nutrient-enhanced foods aren’t your thing, why not include all-natural beauty boosters instead? Vogue magazine has jumped on the bandwagon with articles dedicated to just the subject. Topping the list are lemons for detoxification, sweet potatoes to fight off the free radicals, beets to halt the signs of ageing, and finally pineapple to soothe inflammation and redness!

As a category, functional food is booming thanks to a growing awareness of the additional benefits that can be found in various food and drink products. The health benefits from eating well are undeniable, but will you be jumping on the beauty-eating trend? They do say you are what you eat…