Diet foods: what and what they are

Diet foods are those foods intended for people with special nutritional needs, such as celiacs, diabetics or sportsmen. Let's find out better.

> 1. What are diet foods

> 2. Who has special nutritional needs?

> 3. What are diet foods

Diet foods: what and what they are



What are diet foods

Diet foods (also called "diet foods" or "foods for a particular nutrition") should not be confused with "functional foods".

The latter are characterized by additional effects due to the presence of components, generally non-nutritious, which interact more or less selectively with one or more physiological functions of the organism, but are not considered as dietetic foods. intended for individuals suffering from specific pathologies.

The functional foods are in fact aimed at healthy subjects who wish to remain healthy and can be purchased directly by the consumer, while dietetic foods are used on specialist medical advice.

The term "dietary product" is however used to indicate a very heterogeneous category of preparations with the most varied applications. Only the provisions of the law are able to provide the tools to accurately identify the nature of the products offered to consumers.

As specified in the Legislative Decree 111 of 27 January 1992, which transposes Directive 89/398 / EEC (later replaced by the recast Directive 2009/39 / EC), the denomination of "product intended for particular nutrition" is reserved for foods which, by composition or methods of the production process, show that:

  • stand out from everyday foods;
  • present a specific nutritional goal.

On a regulatory level, therefore, the term "dietetic", the use of which is optional, refers to the ability of a product to meet particular nutritional needs without having any connection with the quality of the food and above all with the its energy value.


Who has special nutritional needs?

The art. 1 c. 2 of the Legislative Decree. 111/1992 identifies the three categories of consumers whose particular nutritional needs a food product must meet in order to be classified as a "product intended for a particular diet", namely:

  1. the people whose absorption capacity, digestion, assimilation, metabolization or excretion of ordinary foods or of some of their ingredients or metabolites are reduced, limited or disturbed, or whose state of health determines different particular nutritional needs that cannot be satisfied through a modification of the diet normal food;
  2. people in particular physiological conditions which can benefit from the controlled intake of certain substances present in food;
  3. i infants (children under 12 months of age) oi children in early childhood in good health.


What are diet foods

  • Foods for special medical purposes (AFMS). They are dietetic products formulated in a special way and intended for use by patients with specific pathology. In particular, they are foods:
  1. processed or formulated, which require to be used "under medical supervision";
  2. intended for the complete or partial feeding of patients with limited, decreased or disturbed ability to ingest, digest, absorb, metabolize or excrete commonly used foods or certain nutrients or metabolites contained therein, or with other clinically determined nutrient requirements ;
  3. intended for the complete or partial feeding of patients whose dietary treatment cannot be achieved either by modifying the normal diet, or by using other dietetic products, or by combining commonly used foods with other dietetic products.
  • Gluten-free foods intended for celiac subjects intolerant to gluten. If the food products have a gluten content of less than 20 mg / kg or 20 mg / L, they may be labeled gluten-free; only dietetic products, if they have a value lower than 100 mg / kg or 100 mg / L, may bear the words “with very low gluten content”. As for the AFMS, also for gluten-free foods there is a national register of products which can be consulted on the website of the Ministry of Health.
  • Foods with low sodium content, including dietary, low-sodium, asodic salts. Dietary salts, considered salt substitutes for subjects with particular nutritional needs, including low sodium salts, with a sodium content between 7,8 g and 13,6 g per 100 g of product, and asodic salts, with a quantity of sodium maximum 120 mg / 100 g. For both types of products, the maximum potassium content, deriving from the substitute salts used as ingredients, does not exceed a level in the order of one third of the total weight.
  • Foods with low energy value (or reduced) intended for weight control. Among the mandatory indications to be reported on the label it is necessary to highlight the one that reminds the importance of taking an adequate quantity of liquids daily, the average quantity of each mineral and each vitamin, for which mandatory requirements are envisaged; it must also be indicated that the food can have a laxative effect if the product provides a daily quantity of polyols, or polyalcohols, greater than 20 g.
  • Food for diabetics.
  • Foods suitable for intense muscular effort, especially for sportsmen (pending specific legislation).
  • Infant formulas, follow-on and other weaning formulas, baby food.

In conclusion, the dietary product must have a nutritional composition suitable for the needs of a particular category of consumers, even if it may not be suitable for consumption by the entire population.


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