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Are functional foods used as self-medication? Subjective health, self-reported disease symptoms, current medical treatment and functional food choices

Dovile Barauskaite (ISM University of Management and Economics, Vilnius, Lithuania and Center for Economic Expertise, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)
Justina Barsyte (Center for Economic Expertise, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)
Bob M. Fennis (Department of Marketing, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands)
Vilte Auruskeviciene (ISM University of Management and Economics, Vilnius, Lithuania)
Naoki Kondo (Department of Social Epidemiology and Global Health, Graduate School of Medicine and School of Public Health, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan)
Katsunori Kondo (Center for Preventive Medical Science, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan)

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 5 July 2024

4

Abstract

Purpose

Functional foods have been marketed as promoting health and reducing the risk of disease. While the market of functional foods is increasing across the globe, little is known about how actual and subjective health status are related to functional food choices and existing research evidence is inconsistent. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to systematically explore the relationship between functional food choices and perception related dimensions vs medical dimensions.

Design/methodology/approach

The study used data collected from a large-scale mail survey in Japan (N = 8,368) and a representative Internet survey in Lithuania (N = 900). It used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the proposed conceptual model.

Findings

The general results indicated that functional foods could be used to maintain one’s subjective health status – the frequency of using functional food products was positively related to consumers’ subjective health status (p = 0.04). However, if consumers were experiencing health-related issues (self-reported disease symptoms or current medical treatment), there was no systematic relationship between such experience and the usage of functional food products.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is among the first to systematically analyze the relationship between subjective health status, self-reported disease symptoms, current medical treatment and the frequency of using different functional food product groups. The findings indicated that it is important to simultaneously consider different underlying factors, such as specific to functional food targeted disease symptoms and specific food product groups, which contributed to a more thorough understanding of functional food consumption.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors declare that there are no acknowledgments.

Declarations of interest: There are no declarations of interest.

Funding: This study was supported by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; Grant in-Aid for Scientific Research (15H01972), Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Health Labour Sciences Research Grants; H27-Ninchi) and Lietuvos Mokslo Taryba (No. LJB-2/2016).

Citation

Barauskaite, D., Barsyte, J., Fennis, B.M., Auruskeviciene, V., Kondo, N. and Kondo, K. (2024), "Are functional foods used as self-medication? Subjective health, self-reported disease symptoms, current medical treatment and functional food choices", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/NFS-12-2023-0283

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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