Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine.” Over the past several decades, nutritional supplementation has developed as a new and exciting part of the health industry. Even though modern nutraceuticals began to develop in the 1980’s, nutraceuticals have been around for thousands of years. Such cultures as Indian, Egyptian, Chinese, Sumerian and Ayurvedic suggest that foods can be used as medicine to prevent and treat disease. Nutraceuticals have been become an $86 billion industry that is constantly growing. About 2/3 of Americans take at least 1 type of nutraceutical. With the increase in our populations focus on health and wellness, the focus has shifted from pharmaceuticals to nutraceuticals. Americans actually prefer nutraceuticals because they are effective without the extensive side effects that pharmaceutical drugs provide.
Nutraceuticals are food or food products that provide health and medical benefits. Nutraceutical food products are isolated or purified from foods. The objective is for nutraceuticals to treat, protect, and prevent chronic disease in the human body. Nutraceutical products range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements, genetically engineered foods, herbal products and processed foods. The idea behind the manufacturing of nutraceuticals is that chemical components derived from plants, foods and microbial sources play an important role in the link between food and health. Research has shown that these chemical compounds found in foods are often very effective. It is these components, not flavor or nutritional value that provide the body with medicinal benefits for long-term health.
Nutraceuticals is considered to be part of the alternative medical field. It is a broad umbrella that encompasses any product derived from food sources that provide extra health benefits. Nutraceuticals products claim to prevent chronic diseases and improve ones health. Additionally some products offer ways to delay the aging process and increase life expectancy. There are a wide variety of products available on the market today; this is due to the minimal regulation over the nutraceutical label on products. Nutraceutical foods are not subject to the same testing as pharmaceutical drugs. Examples of nutraceuticals include antioxidants, probiotics, phytochemicals, botanicals, herbal extracts and many, many more. Overall nutraceuticals can be broken down into four categories: dietary supplements, functional foods, medical foods and farmaceuticals.
Dietary supplements are probably the most well known nutraceuticals and most used. These are products that contain nutrients derived from food products that are intended to supplement ones diet. Dietary supplements are taken by mouth in a liquid, tablet, capsule, soft gels, or powders. There are a variety of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and metabolites. Dietary supplements do not have to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration therefore it is hard to determine the exact amounts of nutrients within each product.
Unlike dietary supplements, functional foods allow the consumer to eat enriched foods close to their original or natural states. Enriched or fortified foods have the nutrient content restored to similar levels before it was processed. When foods are processed some of the nutrients are removed. Nutrification is the process by which the nutrients are restored back into the foods. In some cases additional nutrients are added. Functional foods are readily available to the public. Not all foods are available in functional food form.
Medical foods unlike any of the other nutraceuticals are not readily available to consumers. Medical foods are formulated or regulated by the FDA to be consumed and administered internally under the supervision of a physician. Medical foods are intended for dietary management of a disease or condition. Medical foods are designed to meet certain nutritional requirements for people diagnosed with specific illnesses. These foods can be ingested by mouth or through a feeding tube and are monitored by a medical supervisor.
Farmaceuticals is a melding of farm and pharmaceuticals. It refers to genetically modifying agricultural crops and animals, to produce medically valuable compounds. These compounds such as proteins can then be collected and purified for use. Farmaceuticals is thought to be more cost effective than conventional biotechnology.