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Quantitative Evaluation of Functional Foods by Network Methods in vivo

PANG Guang-chang, CHEN Qing-sen, HU Zhi-he, XIE Jun-bo, MA Li-na   

  1. 1. Tianjin Key Laboratory of Food Biotechnology, College of Biotechnology and Food Science, Tianjin University of Commerce,
    Tianjin 300134, China; 2. College of Science, Tianjin University of Commerce, Tianjin 300134, China
  • Online:2014-07-15 Published:2014-07-18


The functional evaluation of food has long been controversial, mainly because whether the results from animal
experiments and methods in vitro exactly represent the functions in human body. Even among human individuals, there
are obvious differences, so the results of animals experiment certainly cannot provide valuable references for humans. The
reason for the limited availability of human subjects for functional evaluation of foods mainly lies in the fact that the existing
evaluation methods for functional foods are mainly derived from medicinal practices and pathogenic animal models are
often required to evaluate the functionality and efficacy of oral medicinal products, despite the health rather than therapeutic
purposes of foods. Another key problem is how to quantitatively evaluate the physiological changes in vivo for the functions
of functional foods. In this paper, a review about these areas is made, and the network methods are emphasized for their
important role in quantitative evaluation of complex and nonlinear problems. The wireless cell-cell communication networks
and metabolic networks which belonged to the directed and weighted networks are reviewed as well as flux control analysis.
Biomacromolecule interaction networks as the expanded forms of the undirected and unweighted networks are currently a
hot research area. By these networks one can calculate various parameters to quantitatively characterize the complex and
nonlinear physiological effects of wireless communication network and the metabolic networks formed around the central
metabolic pathways in vivo. It is concluded that network methods, particularly the metabolic network and intercellular
wireless network methods will play an important role in quantitative evaluation of functional foods in vivo using only a few
milliliters of peripheral blood from volunteers.

Key words: functional foods, quantitative evaluation, directed and weighted networks, intercellular wireless communication network, metabolic network