Nutraceuticals are foods that provide medical or health benefits

Description: Since nutraceuticals are preventives, FDA is less stringent in enforcing regulations on nutraceuticals than on drugs

What are Nutraceuticals?

 Definition

Nutraceuticals are defined as food or parts of food that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.  The term ‘nutraceuticals’ combines nutrition and pharmaceutical.

isolated nutrients, herbal products, and processed foods such as cereals, dietary supplements and specific diets,  genetically engineered foods, soups, probiotics, antioxidants, phytochemicals,fortified food products and beverages all fall in the category of nutraceuticals. The term nutraceuticals was originally defined by Dr. Stephen L. DeFelice, founder and chairman of the Foundation of Innovation Medicine (FIM), Crawford, New Jersey

The medicinal components of food are simple or complex chemical components which are derived from plant, food, and microbial sources. These are known to provide medicinal benefits as part of the food and are valuable to long-term health.

Categories of Nutraceuticals

Some of the important categories of nutraceuticals are

  1. Dietary supplements including botanicals such as vitamins,carotene, minerals, and co-enzyme Q, Ginseng, Gingko Balboa and Saint John’s Wort.
  2. Functional foods such as oats, bran, Probiotics like oligo-fructose used for control of intestinal problems, Omega-3 used in prevention of heart disease, Canola oil for cholesterol reductionand Stanolshelp in the reduction of cholesterol absorption.
  3. Medicinal foods:lacto-ferine for immunityenhancement,transgenic plants for oral vaccination against infectious diseases.
  4.  Some of the other food that is being used for its medicinal value since ancient history areantioxidants such as grapes, flavonoids in citrus fruits, wine, dark chocolate and tea as well asanthocyanin found in berries.

Regulations and the FDA

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, there are no standard regulations that guide the nutraceuticals industry and nutraceutical products. These are considered under the bracket of dietary supplements for all regulatory purposes.

Nutraceuticals foods are not subject to the stringent testing and regulations as pharmaceutical drugs. The American Nutraceuticals Association works with the Food & Drug Administration in developing industry and scientific standards for products and manufacturers,consumer education, and other related consumer protection roles. The FDA alerts the public as well as the providers about the dietary supplement companies receiving warning letters about their products.

Nutraceuticals – Future

In 2005, the National Academies Institute of Medicine and National Research Council created a blue-ribbon committee to create an improved framework for the Federal Food & Drug Administration to evaluate dietary supplements. Even the improved framework fails to distinguish between “nutraceuticals” and “dietary supplements”. Regulations in this direction are yet to be formulated. 

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