Nutraceuticals: Facts and Future


The word nutraceutical is the hybrid of ‘Nutrition’ and ‘Pharmaceutical’. “Nutraceutical” is a term which was coined by Stephen DeFelice in 1979. It is defined as “a food or parts of food that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.”  Nutraceuticals may range from isolated nutrients, herbal products, dietary supplements and diets to genetically engineered “designer” foods and processed products such as cereals, soups, and beverages (Sakthivel et al, 2012). A nutraceutical is any non-toxic food extract supplement that has scientifically proven health benefits for both the treatment and prevention of disease. Nutraceuticals also refer to natural functional/medical foods or bioactive phytochemicals that have health-promoting, disease-preventing or medicinal properties. These nutraceuticals in general contain vitamins, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, or other necessary nutrients (Zeisel, 1999 and Whitman. 2001). Nutraceuticals are the products which are derived from food sources with a purpose to provide extra health benefits, besides the basic nutritional value found in foods.  These products prevent chronic diseases, improve health, delay the aging process, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body (Singh and Sinha, 2012). 

On the basis of availability of foods in market, nutraceuticals may be classified into two categories:  Traditional nutraceuticals and Non-traditional nutraceuticals  (Anjali et al, 2018).   Functional foods are commonly referred to as traditional nutraceuticals. They are consumed as a part of regular diet so as to get valuable effects directly (Whitman 2001). Non traditional nutraceuticals are the products or plant materials which are prepared artificially such as biotechnologically engineered foods, follow-on added ingredients or agricultural breeding (Kwak and Jukes 2001). Cereals breed by adding vitamins and minerals, flour fortified with folic acid and orange juice prepared by adding calcium are used to enhance the valuable properties of these products (Dureja  et al, 2003).

The nutraceutical industry is expanding at a pace far exceeding the growth of food and pharmaceutical industries. The prevention and treatment with nutraceuticals is considered by the  Public health authorities as a commanding  tool to maintain health and to perform against nutritionally induced acute and chronic diseases, thereby promoting optimal health, longevity and quality of life.  It is quite imperative that the nutrients found in several foods, fruits and vegetables are responsible for the well documented health benefits. The mechanistic actions of natural compounds involve a wide variety of biological processes, which include activation of antioxidant defenses, signal transduction pathways, cell survival-associated gene expression, cell proliferation and differentiation and preservation of mitochondrial integrity. These properties are found to play a major role in the protection against the pathologies of numerous age-related or chronic diseases (Kumar and Kumar, 2015).

The consumers should be made aware about the nutraceuticals and its recommended daily doses. The nutraceutical products are a joint research effort of pharma, food and chemical industry. Growth of nutraceuticals  is being given a boost as healthcare industry is expanding  in India, and more number of  people want to treat their disease by improving their health with the help of Fast Moving Healthcare Goods. The proverb  “an apple a day will keep the doctor away” has been replaced by “nutraceutical a day keeps the doctor away”. People are quickly shifting  to food supplements to improve well being where the  pharmaceuticals  doesn’t work (Kumar and Kumar, 2015).

In today’s system of Medicine and Healthcare, the plant derived nutraceuticals are of great importance. The major area of concern is lack of quality control. Food laws regulate the quality of plant material and manufacturing processes used for nutraceuticals  but these lack the specificity required for botanical drugs which can in turn lead to serious consequences. For safety maintenance and advances of nutraceuticals,   professionals and regulatory bodies need to play a major role. The demand of nutraceuticals in future depends upon consumer perception of mankind and the relationship between diet and disease. In the promotion and care of human health, even though nutraceuticals and functional foods have significant role to prevent diseases, the health professionals, nutritionists, biotechnologists, regulatory toxicologists and nutraceutical industrialists should work together to chalk the strategies and plan appropriate regulation to provide the ultimate health and therapeutic benefits to mankind which are pure, efficient and safe (Pandey et al, 2011). 

It is evident from the vastly growing nutraceutical market that the consumers are seeking minimally processed food having additional nutritional benefits and organoleptic value. This scenario is further propelling expansion in the nutraceutical markets worldwide.  It seems as if the emerging nutraceuticals industry is destined to occupy the landscape in the new millennium. Its tremendous growth has implications for the food, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and agricultural industries (Kumar and Kumar, 2015). Several scientists believe that enzymes represent another exciting aspect of  nutraceuticals. "Enzymes have been underemployed. They are going to be a hot area in the times ahead.  Another potent technology is the fermentation using microbes to create new food products.  It is difficult to reverse global trends about healthy products. 

It has been anticipated that companies taking the lead by investing strategically in science, product development, marketing and consumer education will not go unrewarded (Pandey et al., 2010) Nutraceuticals supplied through oral or transdermal delivery system would provide well targeted health benefits with optimal bioavailability. With the evolution of “Smart Nutraceuticals”, a Futuristic “Physician’s Desk Reference” would contain information related to individual genetic profiles to be matched with specific nutritional interventions as well. This would be a major improvement over current nutritional recommendations which being too generalized reportedly benefit only 60% of population (Ball, 2003).

For cardiovascular disease risk reduction, the dietary interventions open novel, potentially easy and affordable possibilities for population-based strategies and opportunity to utilize the nutraceuticals to positively influence cardiovascular risk factors should be recognized as an enormous opportunity (Nikhra V, 2019).The process of nutrition and assimilation is a complex process. Similarly, the role of various nutrients with dietary intake, too, is surrounded by half-baked hypotheses, biased research studies and lack of long-term control studies. The scientific stance is ruined and hinderance posed to  rational outlook by these factors. There is a requirement for unbiased position statement, rational directions for nutritional research and wholesome views related to the results from the nutritional science-based research.

Affiliations: 1. Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana
2 Head, Department of Food Technology, Mata Gujri College, Fatehgarh Sahib.


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