Nutraceuticals – The Current Trend in Food Industries

A Nutraceutical is any substance considered as a food, or its part which, in addition to its normal nutritional value provides health benefits including the prevention of disease or promotion of health. It is “any non-toxic food component that has scientifically proven health benefits, including disease treatment or prevention”.  The functional component of the food must be standardized in the nutraceutical product and produced under good manufacturing practices (GMPs).

Nutraceuticals are isolated from herbal products, dietary supplements (nutrients), specific diets, and processed foods such as cereals, soups, and beverages that other than nutrition are also used as medicine. Nearly, two thirds of the world’s 6.1 billion people rely on the healing power of plant based materials for many reasons – availability, affordability, safety or their belief in traditional affordability, or belief in traditional cures. Medical benefits of food have been explored for thousands of years; modern nutraceutical industry began to develop during the 1980s.

Recently, food manufacturers have embarked on a health criterion in the development of “functional foods”, the latter being defined as food products that have an added positive health benefit. While some functional ingredient benefits may be perceived to enhance short-term well-being or performance ability, many such benefits concern the long-term mitigation of certain diseases. When functional food aids in the prevention and/or treatment of diseases or disorders other than anemia, it is called a nutraceutical. It should be noted that the term nutraceutical, as commonly used in marketing, has no regulatory definition. Thus, nutraceuticals differ from dietary supplements in the following aspects:

(1) Nutraceuticals must not only supplement the diet but should also aid in the prevention and/or treatment of disease and/or disorder; and

 (2) Nutraceuticals are used as conventional foods or as sole items of a meal or diet. Dietary components play beneficial roles beyond basic nutrition, leading to the development of the functional food concept and nutraceuticals. A functional food for one consumer can act as a nutraceutical for another consumer. Examples of nutraceuticals include fortified dairy products (e.g., milk) and citrus fruits (e.g., orange juice).

Several naturally derived food substances have been studied in cancer therapies. Vitamin E, selenium, vitamin D, green tea, soy, and lycopene are examples of nutraceuticals widely studied in human health.

Yakult: From food to health

  • Beneficial health claims but does not purport to be a cure
  • Branded with science and research and medically manufactured
  • Set up a microbiological research centre looking into probiotics
  • Published research papers to demonstrate health benefit
  • Began as a consumer ‘healthy drink’ and is now prescribed by physicians (although still available over the counter)

Accera (‘Axona’): From health to food

  • Medical claims about metabolism of sugars in the brain
  • Associated itself with a specific medical condition: Alzheimer’s
  • Branded and aligned to scientific evidence
  • Prescription only
  • FDA warning due to regulatory uncertainty over medical claims

It is not unreasonable to assume that 50% of this food market includes foods that are used for nutraceutical reasons by consumers. It is generally accepted that dietary supplements, sugar substitutes, fat substitutes, fiber-enriched foods, vegetables, virtually fatless meat, skim milk, low calorie diets, and so on, are consumed for health or medical reasons. The intake of dietary supplements daily, and it becomes nutraceutical market already exists in food compellingly evident that an enormous foundation for an established industry. It is considered that nutraceuticals to contain pharmaceutical formulations containing food phytochemicals as active substances. Nutraceuticals in the USA, as food additives, also have other terms: therapeutic foods, phytochemicals, preventive substances, pharmaceutical foods (pharmafood), and functional foods

The most commonly used and most recognized raw materials for the production of nutraceuticals include, among others: plant extracts, including herbs, fruits, eggs, colostrum, beekeeping products, etc. Substances that can be contained in nutraceuticals are: vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, e.g. vitamin E; flavonoids, e.g. flavonoids contained in the fruits of black cranberry, chokeberry; polyphenols, e.g. contained in a peel of navy grapes; or polyunsaturated fatty acids, e.g. omega-3 fatty acids contained in marine fish or chia plants

In conclusion, I would state that there is a growing interest in nutraceuticals that provide certain health benefits within our diet and which may be an alternative to traditional medicine in the future. By using nutraceuticals, it may be possible to reduce or eliminate the need for conventional drugs and reduce the adverse effects of conventional foods. Nutraceuticals give physiological benefits or provide protection against chronic diseases and play a beneficial role in various types of disease and disorders. Nutraceuticals in food industry and food supplement markets will soon be sustainable and grow all over the world.

Nutraceuticals are present in most of the food ingredients with varying concentration. Concentration, time and duration of supply of nutraceuticals influence human health. Manipulating the foods, the concentration of active ingredients can be increased. Diet rich in nutraceuticals along with regular exercise, stress reduction and maintenance of healthy body weight will maximise health and reduce disease risk.

……………By SREEJA PUTHYKODIYIL