What are Nutraceuticals?

What are Nutraceuticals?

Nutraceuticals have taken the food and medical world by storm. People are choosing these foods to promote their overall well-being. The promise of living a healthy life by consuming such foods is highly appealing and they can be beneficial. However, there needs to be more awareness to separate what is helpful from what is just a gimmick.

Can Food be Used as Medicine?

Nutraceuticals combine the nutritional value of food with health benefits. some researchers and consumers consider them to be biological therapies that act as a preventative measure against significant health problems. The focus of nutraceuticals is the act or prevention. By keeping our health in balance, we could potentially prevent chronic disease and prolong life expectancy. There is also the simple function of supporting the overall processes of the body so that you can live your life in the most effective way.

There Are More Nutraceuticals Around Than You Think.

A lot of products can be labelled as nutraceuticals. We can be put into four basic categories:

  1. Food supplements contain nutrients derived from other food products but in pill, capsule, liquid or powder form. Essentially, food supplements are concentrated nutrients and are very beneficial for someone who is lacking in their diet. For example, if someone isn’t consuming enough Omega 3 or Iron, then they can easily buy supplements to replace what they are missing. Nevertheless, food supplements shouldn’t replace meals. You will recieve most nutritional benefits derive from having a healthy, balanced diet. Supplements are simply there to help if you are ever deficient of a specific nutrient.
  2. Another important nutraceutical category is medical food. Under the guidance of a qualified doctor, medical foods are made to be administered internally through a tube. This is especially beneficial for people who cannot eat solid food for medical reasons. By receiving nutrition in liquid form, people with such conditions can live more of a normal, healthy life because they can still be sustained without the physical act of eating. Anyone who requires dietary management like this will be established by a medical professional.
  3. Farmaceuticals (or bio-pharmaceuticals) is the attempt from biotechnology firms to create medicines from agricultural animals. Through genetic modification, such animals can be created to produce large volumes of certain proteins in their milk, eggs or blood. The proteins would then be purified for consumption then used to treat diseases.
  4. Functional foods are enriched with dietary components that assist the prevention of chronic disease. These foods go beyond the health benefits of the nutrients already contained therein. For example, probiotic yoghurts would count. They already have nutritional value, but are also said to help digestion and overall health but this has often been disputed.

Not All Nutraceuticals Are Healthy.

Though there are nutraceuticals are beneficial, others can actually be detrimental to our health and we need to be aware of them. Quite often, companies can use the label of ‘health benefits’ to boost sales of a product that can do more harm than good.  For example, the Japanese market currently sells beer which contains collagen. The product promises to better skin health whilst in something that isn’t healthy; making it more attractive to have a treat that has “health benefits”. There has been some controversy about this product, mainly that collagen is a protein which if digested will be broken down in the stomach with no benefits reaching the skin. Not only that, consuming alcohol is dehydrating which is extremely bad for skin.

Overall, nutraceuticals can be beneficial but they work in different circumstances for different people. It is always good practice to research before you choose to consume anything that supposedly has health benefits because you don’t know what you’re getting. Talking to your doctor in the first instance is always the best thing to do.