Lung and gum health in focus: South Korea draws guidelines for claims evaluation

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

South Korea is seeing more elderly suffering from lung and gum health problems. ©Getty Images
South Korea is seeing more elderly suffering from lung and gum health problems. ©Getty Images

Related tags South korea Lung Oral health

The South Korean authorities have published a guide to evaluate the functionality of health foods that make respiratory and gum health claims, amid rising consumer and industry interest in such products.

According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS), both respiratory and gum problems are mainly affecting the older population.

The purpose of the guidelines is to evaluate the products’ functionality claims by examining 1) its mechanism of action, 2) the biomarker used to support the claim, 3) human clinical trial results, and 4) the study design of the trials.

An example of a respiratory health claim is “the improvement of inflammation of the airways and bronchi in people with asthma and mild chronic cough due to environmental factors.”

The MFDS said there has been more cases of asthma and cough caused by the inflammation of the airway mucosa due to fine dust pollution. Lung problems are also more common due to an ageing population.

In fact, it pointed out that one of the respiratory problems – the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – is now as common as hypertension in men in their 60s. 

Individuals suffering from COPD experience breathing difficulties due to obstruction to air flow in the airway of the lungs.

There is no cure for COPD but a research review from China’s​ Qingdao University has found that the symptoms could be alleviated with supplementation of micronutrients, phytochemicals, and carotenoids.

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Ageing and gum health

Aside from lung health, the MFDS’ new guide will also evaluate products which make gum health claims.

According to the MFDS, an example of a gum health claim is “improving gum inflammation in people who have weakened gums due to ageing, gum swelling and bleeding.”

Similarly, there is an increasing prevalence of gingivitis and periodontal diseases in the country.

The MFDS said that between year 2013 and 2017, the number of individuals with periodontal disease had increased from 10 million to 15 million, with most of the affected ones being the elderly.

In terms of functional ingredient, there are research which showed that probiotics could prevent periodontal disease by improving oral biofilm composition.

Cranberry is also said to improve oral health for seniors due to its ability to reduce the formation of biofilms​. Biofilms are formed by bacterial communities present in the saliva and are associated with tooth decay and periodontal disease.  

“The evaluation guide is expected to serve as an opportunity to activate the development of ingredients for health functional foods related to respiratory health and gum health,”​ the MFDS said.

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