Nutraceuticals are products extracted from plants and converted to medicinal form. They are supplements that are of great benefit to the body; they give the body the essential fatty acids, proteins and other nutrients. They are of health benefits, for instance, they can prevent and treat diseases.
These supplements are seen as good alternatives to the expensive and complex approaches to treatment of diseases that has currently been adopted in the first world countries.
Any food with essential fatty acids, proteins and other nutrients can as well be referred to as nutraceuticals or simply functional foods. For instance, fortified foods; milk fortified with vitamin D, or with those enzymes that help in milk digestion for the lactose intolerant people. Even orange fortified with vitamin C or calcium are examples of functional foods. Nutraceuticals are basically dietary supplements.
Given the fact that nutraceuticals are derived from food materials, and not from chemicals found in food, they are considered natural. For example when women take oestrogen from wild yam or soy, they are taking nutraceuticals. This contrary to when oestrogen has been produced chemically.
Folic acid is one of the well-known and widely accepted nutraceuticals as a beneficial supplement. Studies have shown that when women taken folic acid before getting pregnant, they will have a lower risk of getting babies having neural tubes.
Fish oil and flaxseed supplements are nutraceuticals used to lower cholesterol levels or lowering chances of contracting heart diseases due to the omega 3 fatty acids in them.
Antifungals and antiseptics are nutraceuticals used for their antioxidant properties. Many vitamins derived from plants are good nutraceuticals. Moreover, herbal supplements such as black cohosh, kava and tyrosine have equally gained popularity.
It is very important to note that some nutraceuticals have their benefits not supported by research. They are in most cases not exposed to the thorough testing needed in approving prescription medication. It is therefore very much possible that the information about certain nutraceuticals could have as well been blown out of proportion or simply not true.
Nutraceuticals should be taken as any other type of medicine. It is therefore possible that they react with each other or other prescribed medicine. Some nutraceuticals can make expectant women abort, and should therefore not be taken by pregnant mothers.
Generally, children are not allowed to take any type of nutraceutical. It is good to seek the opinion of a well-trained doctor before giving nutraceuticals to a child or any person for that fact. Some nutraceuticals can be of harmful effect to some of its partakers.
In the last ten years, the demand for nutraceuticals has experienced a maximum growth. The present global nutraceutical market is roughly $177 Billion US Dollars .The nutraceutical industry has adopted key strategies to keep with the world trend. It has put a lot of investment in research and development so as to come up with innovative approaches, how to verify health claims of their products and market research.
The US, European Union and India are the world’s current largest markets of nutraceuticals. However, it is prospected that by 2030, China would have surpassed all of them. The nutraceutical companies in the United States of America are already exploring the possibilities of making their product more diverse, and make their nutraceutical products more natural. This can be explained by the fact that the US consumers tend to be extremely sensitive on matters related to health, and have of late been pushing their nutraceutical suppliers to use natural ingredients.