What are Nutraceuticals?

what are nutraceuticals

You might have heard of the terms “pharmaceutical” and “nutrition,” but what would you call a combination of them both? Enter nutraceuticals!

Nutraceutical products are derived from food sources offering nutritional and potential wellness benefits. The history and use of nutraceuticals can be traced back to ancient civilizations that used certain dietary ingredients in foods, herbs, and spices for their effects.

Modern nutraceutical supplements only came into the spotlight recently as scientists and dieticians started to explore the potential benefits of specific compounds found in our food. Supplements with nutritional value were then designed to compensate for any deficiencies or shortfalls in our diets.

In the last few decades, food supplements began to gain traction as the desire for personal health and well-being grew. This led to explosive growth in the supplement market and rapid commercialization of the industry. Regulations were also introduced in many countries to ensure the safety and efficacy of the products.

Today, the nutraceutical industry continues to enjoy rapid growth and expansion, and a massive range of products like herbal remedies and natural supplements are available for those who are increasingly interested in a holistic approach to wellness.

Understanding Nutraceuticals

Definition and Types

As mentioned earlier, nutraceuticals, a combination of the words “pharmaceutical” and “nutrition,” are products derived from food that have nutritional and potential wellness value.

For example, dietary supplements are concentrated sources of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. When taken in addition to your regular diet, supplements can boost your nutrient intake.

In addition, fortified and functional foods are common products that have been enhanced with nutrients to boost your intake. Common foods that can have a boosted nutritional profile include yogurt, cereals, juices, milk, eggs, and tea.

Nutraceuticals are also found naturally in our food. For example, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish and seafood, probiotics in fermented food such as yogurt or kombucha, and fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and fiber.

The Science Behind Nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals are full of bioactive compounds that provide various potential benefits.

Probiotics – These trillions of healthy bacteria that live in your gut keep your body balanced and can support your immune system. They are found in fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, and miso.

Prebiotics – Prebiotics are what your probiotics will munch on. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains such as garlic, leeks, bananas, and apples are natural sources of prebiotics.

Antioxidants – Antioxidants such as polyphenols, carotenoids, and flavonoids may help your body fight unstable molecules called free radicals. You absorb free radicals from external sources such as smoke, pollution, and industrial chemicals.

If you have excessive free radicals in your body, this leads to a condition called oxidative stress. Prolonged periods of oxidative stress have been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are found in many sources like eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, and seafood. These fatty acids may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and high cholesterol.

Combined, these nutraceuticals provide essential nutrients that can promote overall wellness.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

While nutraceutical products can easily be bought over the counter in grocery stores or health food shops, these products are regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.

Under DSHEA, all nutritional supplements are sold as food products rather than drugs, which means they can be sold without approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). However, manufacturers must ensure that their products are safe and accurately labeled.

In addition, supplement manufacturers must adhere to GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) established by the FDA. These standards take into account the manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and storage of supplements to ensure quality and consistency.

The FDA monitors the safety of supplements with facility inspections and reporting. They also have a MedWatch program to help identify potential safety issues and concerns.

The Market and Consumer Trends

The term “nutraceutical” was first coined in Japan around the 1980s by Dr. Stephen DeFelice from the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, describing food compounds that provide numerous wellness benefits. Japan was one of the first countries to introduce functional and fortified foods that contained added nutraceuticals and bioactive compounds that could benefit wellness.

Today, the desire for personal wellness has never been greater, and the demand for nutraceuticals is worldwide. The global market size in 2023 was estimated at US 317 billion and is projected to grow 9.6% annually.

A rising awareness of healthier diets, lifestyle choices, and preventative healthcare primarily drives this explosive growth. The market has become increasingly diverse, and many products targeting different health concerns are now available. From gummies, powders, drinks, foods, herbal products, and botanicals, nutraceuticals can be found in almost any store you’re in!

Challenges and Criticisms

Because the industry is relatively new, the amount of research that substantiates health claims is currently limited and frequently challenged. The lack of clinical evidence means that we often have to rely on marketing claims that might not be backed by scientific research.

In addition, because nutraceuticals don’t require FDA pre-market approval, there are some concerns about product safety, quality controls, and accurate label information. One way to counteract this is to purchase only from reputable, GMP-certified sources.

Final Thoughts

Although we do not fully understand the impact of nutraceuticals on our health, early clinical trials have already shown great promise in the use of these compounds to support wellness with little to no side effects.

The supplement industry is enjoying explosive growth with no signs of slowing. However, with this growth also comes challenges like quality control, mislabeling, and product safety.

Natural Supplement Manufacturing is a GMP-certified provider of top-quality white-label and private-label supplements. Drop us a note and let us help you develop your very own supplement brand or expand your existing product line!

Nutraceuticals FAQs

What distinguishes nutraceuticals from dietary supplements?

Nutraceuticals are derived from food sources that offer wellness benefits beyond basic nutrition. They are formulated to support the immune system or cognitive function. Dietary supplements are products containing one or more ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, or herbs. They are usually used to address deficiencies or nutrient gaps in your diet.

Are nutraceuticals regulated by the FDA?

Nutraceuticals are classified as food products under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Manufacturers do not need FDA approval before sale, but they must adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Can nutraceuticals claim to treat diseases?

While nutraceuticals can claim to support overall wellness, they cannot claim to treat diseases without FDA approval.

What are some examples of nutraceuticals?

Some examples of nutraceuticals include omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants such as carotenoids and polyphenols.

How significant is the nutraceutical market?

The global market size in 2023 was estimated at US 317 billion and is projected to grow 9.6% annually.

What are the main criticisms of nutraceuticals?

The nutraceutical market is a relatively new one, and hence, there is limited research in the field, and substantiating health claims can be a challenge. In addition, because manufacturers do not require FDA approval before going to market, there are some concerns about quality control, safety, and efficacy.

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