WHAT ARE NUTRACEUTICALS?
Nutraceuticals are defined as any substance that is a food or part of a food and provides health or medical benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. They can be considered biological, non-specific therapies used to control symptoms, prevent malignant processes, and promote general well-being. These may include dietary supplements that can be sold in capsules, powders, or tablets, as well as fortified foods.
The term “nutraceutical” combines two words – “nutrient” (a nourishing food component) and “pharmaceutical” (a medical drug). The name was coined in 1989 by Stephen DeFelice, chairman and founder of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, an American organization located in Cranford, New Jersey.
The philosophy behind nutraceuticals is to focus on prevention, according to the saying by Greek physician Hippocrates (known as the “Father of Medicine”) who said, “Let food be your medicine.” The idea behind their use is that certain organic extracts can have positive benefits on both the body and mind. Their role in human nutrition is one of the most important areas of investigation, with wide-ranging implications for consumers, distributors, food producers, health care providers, and regulators. From cancer to vertigo, claims of nutraceuticals’ effectiveness in combating or completely curing a long list of ailments are abundant.
POTENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF NUTRACEUTICALS
Over the years, nutraceuticals have attracted considerable interest due to their potential nutritional, safety, and therapeutic effects. They could have a role in a plethora of biological processes, including antioxidant defenses, cell proliferation, gene expression, and safeguarding of mitochondrial integrity.
Therefore, nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, postpone the aging process (and in turn, increase life expectancy), prevent chronic diseases, or just support functions and integrity of the body. They are considered to be healthy sources for the prevention of different infections, as well as life-threatening diseases, such as diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and renal disorders.
A wide range of nutraceuticals have been shown to impose crucial roles in immune status and susceptibility to certain disease states. They also exhibit disease-modifying indications related to oxidative stress, including allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, eye conditions, obesity, and Parkinson’s disease.
TYPES OF NUTRACEUTICALS
The categorization of nutraceuticals and related products generally depends on the source. They can be classified on the basis of the chemical constitution of the products, their natural sources, or even their pharmacological conditions. Most often, they are grouped in the following categories:
A dietary supplement represents a product that contains nutrients derived from food products, and is often concentrated in capsule, liquid, pill, or powder form. Although dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA as “foods”, their regulation differs from drugs and other foods.
Farmaceuticals are medically valuable components produced from modified agricultural animals or crops. The term is a combining of the words “farm” and “pharmaceuticals”. Proponents of this concept are convinced that using animals and crops as pharmaceutical factories is much more cost-effective than conventional methods, with higher revenue for agricultural producers.
According to their proper medical definition, functional food is a category which includes enhanced, enriched, or fortified dietary components and whole foods that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Medicinal food is formulated to be administered internally or consumed, under the supervision of a qualified physician. The intended use is a specific dietary management of a condition or disease, for which distinctive nutritional requirements are established by a medical evaluation (on the basis of recognized scientific principle).