What are Nutraceuticals and Why Should I Care?

January 09, 2019

What are Nutraceuticals and Why Should I Care?

The theory behind nutraceuticals is the prevention of diseases through proper nutrition. The role nutraceuticals play in our health is under intense investigation and the outcome could completely change the healthcare industry. The focus on food as medicine can have long-ranging effects on the way supplements, restaurants and grocery stores can market their goods. It will also have implications for regulators and the food industry.

What are Nutraceuticals?

Nutraceutical is a general term that describes a that come from foods with additional health benefits besides the normal nutritional value. They are usually viewed as broad therapies used to promote overall health, manage symptoms, and prevent malignant infestations. The term is actually a combination of the words nutrient and pharmaceutical. The term was created in 1989 by Stephen DeFelice. He founded the Foundation for Innovation Medicine in Crawford, New Jersey. The basis of nutraceuticals comes from the ideas of the Greek doctor Hippocrates, who believed that food was the best medicine.

How nutraceuticals are defined will vary depending on the source. They can be defined based on their natural sources, chemical makeup, and pharmacological conditions. The most common nutraceutical categories are supplements, functional foods, farmaceuticals, and medicinal foods. Dietary supplements are regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not drugs. These supplements contain concentrated levels of nutrients that come from food products. They are usually produced in the form of a pill, capsule, liquid, or powder.

Different Types of Nutraceuticals

In general, functional foods are considered whole foods which could reduce chronic diseases and provide overall good nutrition. Medicinal foods are designed to be consumed orally under the supervision of a medical professional for the purpose of managing a specific disease based on established medical investigations. The term “farmaceutical” was derived from a combination of the words “farm” and “pharmaceutical”. Farmaceutical foods are produced by modifying crops or animals. Supporters of these foods feel that they are more cost-effective and can substantially increase profits for farmers.

Common examples of nutraceuticals are everywhere. Fish oil is taken to reduce inflammation and curb depression. Antioxidants in the form of green tea extracts or organic compounds found in vegetables of the broccoli family can reduce cancer risks. Probiotics as medicine have been used to help anything from IBS to inefficient digestion to even things like ADHD and depression. Many of the recent breakthroughs in modern medicine have found that some old wives' tales about nutrition and health have been correct.  

Possible Health Benefits

Nutraceuticals have gained plenty of attention in recent years because of their potential health and safety benefits. They also don't have the bothersome side effects of medical drugs. They could play an important part in numerous biological functions to include antioxidant defense, cell compromising, gene expression, and mitochondrial protection. Nutraceuticals have a countless number of potential health benefits to include slowing the aging process, increasing life expectancy, and supporting normal body functions. They also have positive effects on chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal and gastrointestinal problems, and numerous infections. Some nutraceuticals boost immunities against diseases such as allergies, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, eye conditions, obesity, and Parkinson's disease.

Nutraceuticals vs Dietary Supplements

Nutraceuticals do much more than simply supplement the diet. They also treat and prevent diseases. Nutraceuticals are more appealing because they can treat diseases without bad side effects. These compounds are often food products that consist of many different organic compounds that can work in tandem to create a desired healing effect. The FDA does not recognize or regulate the term “nutraceutical” and views them as dietary supplements. For this reason, many sources have a hard time differentiating the two and will typically group them together. This may change in the future as more information is gained on nutraceuticals.

Nutraceuticals through Diet

While the benefits of nutraceuticals far outweigh the disadvantages, they can be costly. In some cases, you can get many of the benefits of a nutraceutical by choosing a diet plan that highlights things like Omega-3 oils, probiotics, or antioxidants. Plans that avoid foods that trigger complications in the body, like inflammation, can be a great complement to taking nutraceuticals that target specific conditions. It becomes a one-two punch toward fighting disease and prolonging wellness.

In closing, nutraceuticals have numerous advantages and have a focus on prevention. They have the potential to treat and prevent a wide range of diseases by boosting the immune system. They also can slow the aging process and increase life expectancy. They can accomplish all of the above with fewer side effects than lab-created compounds.