A journey of discovery in functional dietary components and epidemiology

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Many functional foods are attributed from observational epidemiological studies that examine the relationships between diet and diseases in various human populations. This review focuses on fish, red wine, tea and soy as examples to illustrate the discovery of functional components such as n-3 fatty acids, plant polyphenols and isoflavonoids. Using study designs, such as ecological correlation, follow-up cohort and case-control studies, epidemiologists have been trying to describe and understand the possible relationships between certain food/dietary components and disease prevention/health promotion. We have learned that Greenland Eskimos eat fish from the deep oceans, the French drink red wine, East Asians drink tea and consume soybean products. These dietary practices may be significantly associated with certain health impact and imply potential functional components in diet. Therefore, related laboratory experiments and clinical trials are flourishing. Since the evidence-based medicine paradigm is the main principle in our legalistic and executive system for regulating health food merchandises, it is worthwhile to advance our understanding of the possibilities and limitations of related epidemiological studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalNutritional Sciences Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Jan 1


  • Fish
  • Functional food
  • Nutritional epidemiology
  • Red wine
  • Soy
  • Tea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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