The Skinny on Nutraceuticals

The term nutraceuticals refers to nutritional supplements which are derived from food sources and provide health benefits other than those based on the nutritional value of foods. They may be used to enhance general well-being, to reduce certain symptoms, or to prevent illness. The aim of using nutraceuticals is to prevent illness and maintain good health. The role of nutraceuticals in human nutrition is valuable for health care providers, consumers, and food producers.

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Nutraceuticals by category

Categorization of nutraceuticals typically depends on their source. Most of them are grouped by the following definitions:

Dietary supplements

This category represents products which contain nutrients derived from foods. They are often concentrated in a powder, liquid or pill formulation. Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. Their regulation differs from other foods and drugs.

Functional foods

The functional foods category includes whole foods, and foods which are enriched, fortified, or enhanced in order to reduce the risk of disease. They may also provide other health benefits. Examples of functional foods include oats, eggs which are fortified with Omega-3 fatty acid, and probiotics.

Medical foods

Medical food is made especially for people who have dietary or absorption problems and is prescribed by a doctor. For example, medical foods may be prescribed for people with Crohn’s disease, GERD, ADHD, and ulcerative colitis. This category includes ready-to-drink beverages and low-protein foods.

Farmaceuticals

Biotechnology farmaceuticals are medical components which are produced by modified animals or crops. Examples of farmaceuticals include plants that have been genetically engineered to produce drugs or antibodies. Farmaceuticals provide cost-effective ways of manufacturing drugs or drug components.

Health benefits of nutraceuticals

Over the past few decades, nutraceuticals have drawn a lot of attention because of their therapeutic effects. These supplements provide many roles in human biological processes including immune system defense, gene expression, and cell proliferation. For these reasons, nutraceuticals may be beneficial for preventing numerous chronic diseases such as UTIs, diabetes, and renal disorders.

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