What are Nutraceuticals?

Nutraceuticals is a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.


Nutraceutical products can be considered non-specific biological therapies used to promote general well-being, control symptoms, and prevent malignant processes.

The term “nutraceutical” combines the two words of “nutrient,” which is a nourishing food component, and “pharmaceutical,” which is a medical drug. The name was coined in 1989 by Stephen DeFelice, founder and chairman of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, which is an American organization located in Cranford, New Jersey.

The philosophy behind nutraceuticals is to focus on prevention, according to the saying by a Greek physician Hippocrates (known as the father of medicine) who said “let food be your medicine”. Their role in human nutrition is one of the most important areas of investigation, with wide-raging implications for consumers, healthcare providers, regulators, food producers, and distributors.

Categories of nutraceuticals

The definition of nutraceuticals and their related products generally depends on the source. These products can be classified on the basis of their natural sources, pharmacological conditions, as well as chemical constitution of the products. Most often, nutraceuticals are grouped into four categories that include dietary supplements, functional food, medicinal food, and farmaceuticals.

A dietary supplement represents a product that contains nutrients derived from food products and is often concentrated in liquid, capsule, powder, or pill form. Although dietary supplements are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, their regulation differs from that which is involved in drugs and other food products.

According to their generally accepted definition, functional food includes whole foods and fortified, as well as enriched or enhanced dietary components that may reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.

Medical food is formulated to be consumed or administered internally. under the supervision of a qualified physician. Its intended use is specific dietary management of a disease or condition for which distinctive nutritional requirements are established by the medical evaluation and on the basis of recognized scientific principles.

Farmaceuticals are medically valuable components produced from modified agricultural crops or animals. The term is a combination of the words “farm” and “pharmaceuticals.” Proponents of this concept are convinced that using crops, and possibly even animals, as pharmaceutical factories is much more cost-effective than conventional methods, with higher revenue for agricultural producers.

Potential health benefits

Over the past several years, nutraceuticals have attracted considerable interest due to their potential nutritional, safety, and therapeutic effects. These products could have a role in a plethora of biological processes, including antioxidant defenses, cell proliferation, gene expression, and safeguarding of mitochondrial integrity.

Therefore, nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, prevent chronic diseases, postpone the aging process, and in turn increase life expectancy, or just support the functions and integrity of the body. These products are considered to be healthy sources for the prevention of life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, renal and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as different infections.

A wide range of nutraceuticals has been shown to impose crucial roles in immune status and susceptibility to certain disease states. Nutraceuticals also exhibit disease-modifying indications related to oxidative stress including allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, eye conditions, Parkinson’s diseases, and obesity.


Read what the NIH has to say about Nutraceuticals


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