What are Nutraceuticals?

Nutraceutical, a portmanteau of nutrition and pharmaceutical, refers to extracts of foods claimed to have a medicinal effect on human health. The nutraceutical is usually contained in a medicinal format such as a capsule, tablet or powder in a prescribed dose.

More rigorously, nutraceutical implies that the extract or food is demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against a chronic disease[1].

Functional foods are defined as being consumed as part of a usual diet but are demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions.

Examples of claims made for nutraceuticals are resveratrol from red grape products as an antioxidant, soluble dietary fiber products, such as psyllium seed husk for reducing hypercholesterolemia, broccoli (sulforaphane) as a cancer preventative, and soy or clover (isoflavonoids) to improve arterial health. Such claims are being researched and many citations are available via PubMed to ascertain their foundation of basic research.

Other nutraceutical examples are flavonoids antioxidants, alpha-linolenic acid from flax seeds, beta-carotene from marigold petals, anthocyanins from berries, etc. With the US Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), several other compounds were added to the list of supplements originally mentioned in FDA notification. Thus, many botanical and herbal extracts such as ginseng, garlic oil, etc. have been developed as nutraceuticals.

Nutraceuticals are often used in nutrient premixes or nutrient systems in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Importance of Nutraceuticals in Health Management

‘Nutraceutical’ is a term proposed to used a classify foods that ‘provide medical or health benefits’. Nutraceutical is any food or food ingredient considered to provide medical or health benefits including the prevention and treatment of disease. Dr Stephen DeFelice coined the term "Nutraceutical" from "Nutrition" and "Pharmaceutical" in 1989. The term nutraceutical is being commonly used in marketing but has no regulatory definition. Nutraceuticals and functional foods are assuming a middle ground between food and drugs due to growing body of evidence that supports their role in maintaining health and contributing to treatment of disease. “Traditional nutrient” refer to vitamins and minerals considered essential to the diet and / or to correct a classical nutritional deficiency disease, whereas “functional foods” may provide specific health benefits beyond basic nutrition when consumed a part of varied diet. Nutrient, herbals and dietary supplements are major constituents of nutraceuticals, which make them instrumental in maintaining health against various disease conditions and thus promote the quality of life. The focus of this article is to give a brief overview on Nutraceutical. Drug and food from natural origin play a significant role in the public health care system of any nation. The search for specific constituents of plant, animals, minerals and microbial origin which are beneficial to our mental and physical health has caused coining of terminologies such as Nutraceuticals, Cosmoceuticals, Dermaceuticals, Phytochemicals, Phytonutrient, Phytofoods, Functional foods (1). Nutraceutical word–with “nutra” derived from nutrition and “ceutical” from pharmaceutical refers to substances that may be considered a food or part of a food and may provide medical and health benefits (2). 'A nutraceutical is any substance that is a food or a part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. Such products may range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements and specific diets to genetically engineered designer foods, herbal products, and processed foods such as cereals, soups and beverages. It is important to note that this definition applies to all categories of food and parts of food, ranging from dietary supplements such as folic acid, used for the prevention of spina bifida, to chicken soup, taken to lessen the discomfort of the common cold. This definition also includes a bio-engineered designer vegetable food, rich in antioxidant ingredients, and a stimulant functional food or pharmafood.’ Since the term was coined, its meaning has been modified. Health Canada defines nutraceutical as: 'a product isolated or purified from foods, and generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with food and demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against chronic disease' (3) Examples: beta-carotene, lycopene Nutraceuticals can be of different types Functional foods are foods that may provide health benefits beyond their basic nutritional value. The benefits may come from naturally occurring parts of the foods themselves or from the manufacturing process. It is a food engineered or supplemented to give improved nutritional value. It exits at the interface between food and drugs. When functional food aids in the prevention and/or treatment of disease and/or disorders other than anemia, it is called a nutraceuticals. e.g. transgenic canola oil engineered for improved trans fatty acids content (4). A dietary supplement is a product that is indebted to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, and a herb that gives health benefits (5). The use of nutraceuticals, as an attempt to accomplish desirable therapeutic outcomes with other therapeutic agents has met with great monetary success (6-7). Nutraceutical have been found to be associated with the prevention and/or treatment of many chronic disease and aliments such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis etc. Nutraceuticals and functional foods hold promise in clinical therapy as they have the potential to significantly reduce the risk of side effects associated with chemotherapy along with reducing the global health-care cost. However, with all of the aforementioned positive points, nutraceuticals still need support of an extensive scientific study to prove “their effects with reduced side effects” (7-8).

Types of Nutraceuticals

Nutraceutical are broadly categorized as follows.

Substances with established nutritional function such as
-> vitamins, minerals, amino acid and fatty acids nutrients.
-> herbal and botanical products
-> foods for viability,functional food,medical food
-> health food ,organic food
-> sport and energy product
-> natural medicinal products with specific health benefit

Nutraceuticals: The Complete Encyclopedia of Supplements, Herbs, Vitamins, and Healing Foods

For centuries nutritional medicine, a practice that uses plants, nutrients, foods, and herbs to treat health problems, has been dismissed by mainstream Western medicine owing to the lack of scientific evidence that it works. However, with recent scientific advancements, we are now able to isolate the chemical composition of nutrients and measure their impact on our cells and hence our lives. In this book, Firshein, a doctor of osteopathy and author of Reversing Asthma: A Drug-Free Approach (LJ 10/15/96), introduces 20 nutrients that he has studied and used to treat his patients. Each chapter is devoted to one nutrient, explaining why it is used to treat particular ailments. Firshein also provides a dosage chart and index that will allow people to find the nutrients appropriate for treating certain conditions. A good book for consumers seeking information on commonly prescribed nutrients.



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