Changing dietary patterns
Food choices and eating habits have changed dramatically in recent decades due – in part – to rising prosperity and changes in supply. As a result of globalisation and economies of scale, the vast majority of products on offer are now (usually unintentionally) processed and impoverished, resulting in a rise in health risks.
Overconsumption of high-calorie products exacerbates these health risks. And the effects on people’s health have become visible: think of the global surge in chronic diet-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Globalisation has caused shifts in the food supply worldwide, and economies of scale have prompted changes in the composition of products. Today’s foods contain fewer fatty acids, antioxidants and minerals. Mass culture has impoverished the nutrient profile. Moreover, there is a global and ongoing population explosion with insufficient food to feed all the mouths. There is a gap between what is available today and what’s needed tomorrow.
A term that emerged about three decades ago is that of functional foods. Although it could be argued that any food is functional, the term is used for a category of food products that claim to provide some form of health benefit. Algae fit into this category, as one of the so-called superfoods with such claims.
However, the terms “functional food” and “superfood” only have a commercial meaning and no legal status. In general, algae are a nutritious foodstuff and, with their nutritional composition, contribute to a healthier population by providing nutrients our diet has become deficient in.