A nutraceutical is a substance with various physiological benefits that protect against chronic disease. The below article is detailed on the same.
A wholesome diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and a combination of macronutrients, is essential for good health. Insufficient nutrition can lead to oxidative stress leading to other health issues. Nutrition research is constantly growing with discoveries and innovative technologies. Nutraceuticals are recent advancements in this field that bridge the gap between nutrition and medicine. A nutraceutical is defined as a substance with a physiological benefit or protection against chronic disease. These products are typically derived from food sources with nutritional and medicinal uses. Nutraceuticals are often called functional foods, medical foods, designer foods, phytochemicals, and dietary supplements.
Nutraceuticals are broadly classified into two types: their function, food source, and bioactive components. The two types of nutraceuticals are dietary supplements and functional food.
Dietary Supplements: These products contain nutrients derived from food products and are usually concentrated in a suitable dosage form. These supplements can include vitamins, amino acids, herbs, minerals, etc. Nutraceuticals are often available in powders, tablets, capsules, and liquids.
Functional Foods: Functional foods provide various health benefits other than basic nutrition. These nutraceuticals include whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced dietary components that can promote optimal health and lower the chance of developing chronic diseases. Functional foods are available as pasta, cereal, whole grains, and yogurt.
Nutraceuticals have received considerable interest in recent years due to their potential nutritional values, affordability, safety profile, and therapeutic effects. They are used as an alternative or additional treatment in conjunction with pharmaceuticals for preventing diseases and improving overall health.
Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease: Nutraceuticals contribute to preventing the onset of chronic diseases and reducing the associated complications. They can combat various health conditions, like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory-based diseases.
Improve Eye Health: Certain nutraceuticals can help improve eye disorders and conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and visual disorders. Nutraceuticals, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and vitamin E, lower the risk of cataracts. Essential fatty acids like omega-3s are necessary for optimal visual development and retinal function.
Improve Immune Function: Nutraceuticals like green tea, blueberries, amino acids, and vitamin D are immune boosters and are found helpful in improving and supporting immune health and thus help prevent disease. Herbs and plant extracts such as echinacea and astragalus are beneficial in developing and regenerating stem cells. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties of garlic are known to enhance the functioning of the immune system.
Improve Gut Health: Nutraceuticals like prebiotics, probiotics, flavonoids, aloe vera, resveratrol, and omega-3 and omega-6 acids can restore and promote the growth of good bacteria and reduce the negative effect of harmful bacteria in the gut. In addition, nutraceuticals can affect inflammation pathways and play an essential role in strengthening the body’s natural gut defense mechanisms.
Support Reproductive Health: Many nutraceuticals play a significant role in male and female reproductive health. Nutraceuticals help improve male fertility and dysfunction and prevent damage to sperm. In addition, certain nutraceuticals can affect hormones, help improve fertility, preconception, and pregnancy outcomes in women, and provide support during menstruation.
Treat Inflammation: Nutraceuticals are important in preventing and treating inflammation due to the presence of phytochemicals in them. They can decrease oxidative stress in chronic inflammatory diseases like asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
Enhance Sports Medicine: Nutraceuticals are beneficial in sports medicine by improving athlete performance and reducing oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, which results from strenuous exercise.
Prolonged Life: Nutraceuticals reduce the risk of many health problems and help the body recover quickly. Certain nutraceuticals in citrus fruits and soybeans help restore healthier cells and enhance gene expression. Nutraceuticals can also slow the aging process and thus promote longevity.
Improve Mental Health: Research suggests that nutraceuticals play a vital role in preventing, managing, and treating certain mental health disorders and psychological functioning. For example, nutraceutical compounds, including omega-3, vitamins B and D, magnesium, iron, zinc, curcumin, lycopene, and beta carotene, have improved mood, stress, anxiety, depression, and cognitive functioning. In addition, nutraceuticals that have antioxidant properties help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Unlike pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals are comparatively safe and can improve health naturally. However, certain nutraceuticals can pose some complications, including:
Allergic reactions from interactions with other nutraceuticals or therapeutic medications.
Adverse drug-supplement reactions.
Nutraceuticals have powerful effects on the body, and that is why it is essential to consume only the recommended doses of nutraceuticals. Consult a healthcare professional to learn more about the benefits and risks of nutraceutical use.
Nutraceuticals have acquired substantial interest due to their potential nutritional values, safety, and therapeutic effects. These substances help improve health, slow the aging process, prevent chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, and support the structure or functioning of the body. However, a few studies have shown that nutraceuticals can pose some complications, like allergic reactions, toxicity, and adverse drug-supplement reactions. Consult a healthcare professional for details on nutraceutical therapy.
Last reviewed at:
01 Jun 2022 - 3 min read
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