All About Super-Nutrients

Nutraceuticals

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

You’d sure think what the buzzword about nutraceuticals is all about. Because, the expression seems to be doing the rounds, much more than its equally noted ‘corollary’ — functional foods.

Here goes —

Nutraceuticals are simply functional foods with specific health and medical benefits. They also refer to dietary supplements and/or nutritional ingredients that promote optimal health and wellness.

The lexicon defines a nutraceutical as “any food or food ingredient which is considered to have a beneficial effect on health.”

The expression denotes any food product, or supplement, that may have a beneficial functional, or physiological, effect on the body.

The word, nutraceuticals, emerges from two recognisable terms — nutrition and pharmaceuticals.

The term is also — as is well-known — broadly used in reference to a vitamin supplement pill, an energy-enhancing drink, and also foods that have functional effects, such as lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.

Nutraceuticals are derived from medically-beneficial foods extracted from select plants and animal sources.

They are used to supply missing nutrients from our diet. Examples:

  • Folic acid to prevent birth defects
  • Fibre to provide antioxidants and also reduce the risk of colon cancer — to illustrate a notable case in point.

Nutraceuticals may also be a part of nutritionally-enriched ingredients used to fortify food formulae in a planned and specified manner -— to achieve specific nutritional results, or goals. They are usually natural in composition and process.

In technical phraseology, nutraceuticals are “natural, bioactive chemical compounds that have health-promoting, disease-preventing, and also medicinal properties.”

Nutraceuticals: Some Examples

  • Fortified Foods. Breakfast cereals with added vitamins and minerals. Example: iron, zinc, vitamin B12 [cobalamin], folic acid etc.,
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements. These are offered as distinct supplements, or as a blend with diverse aggregates of different substances
  • Additional supplements. These are supplements other than vitamins and minerals. They are suggested to have a beneficial effect on health. Example: fish oil, garlic, echinacea, primrose oil, ginkgo, glucosamine, co-enzyme Q10 etc.,
  • Energy drinks and tablets. These contain stimulants — caffeine, sugars, isotonic drinks, and salts
  • Pre/Probiotics. These are foods that contain the ‘good’ bacteria — to improve health. Example: yogurt, which contains lactobacillus, a bacterium suggested to improve digestive health and also reduce the incidence of heart disease and certain forms of cancer
  • Synbiotics. These are combinations of probiotics[helpful gut bacteria] and prebiotics [non-digestible fibres that help these bacteria grow].
  • Foods to reduce cholesterol. One good example is spirulina; another is licorice. The two are evidenced to lower cholesterol.

The Nutraceutical Revolution

Nutraceuticals today have brought in a new era of change — a new dimension to health and healthcare.

What does this connote, in real terms, you may well ask. Here it is:

There is no need for you to reach your medicine chest at the familiar onset of a sneeze, today. You could instead go for high-tech nutrients that can mend your cold — naturally.

For example, you’d now take or administer echinacea, a nutraceutical, at the onset of a cold attack — to nip the cold affection in the bud.

Nutraceuticals are today used to treat a wide range of chronic maladies — from aging, asthma, cancer, depression, diabetes, hypertension, immune anomalies, and obesity to premenstrual syndrome [PMS] and stress.

This isn’t all. Nutraceuticals also offer a host of benefits in everyday ailments such as fatigue and stress to high cholesterol and diabetes — to name just a few.

Take a multivitamin-mineral pill, for good health, you sure do, today. This is not all. You can also now ‘play’ Dr Dean Ornish in an explorative capacity, in consultation with a qualified healthcare professional/therapist — to ‘reverse’ heart disease, thanks to specific nutraceuticals that can help you come to grips with the disorder.

The Big Advantage

A nutraceutical is a nutrient that is applied pharmaceutically. More than a forerunner that has brought in a breath of fresh air to healthcare, they provide us with a remarkable health protocol. Reason enough why they are now being used widely in conventional medical treatment and alternative healing practices, more than ever before.

You know them, don’t you — that nutraceuticals are broadly applicable nutrients. They are packed not only to provide nutrients, but also guide biochemical changes and work effectively at the cellular level.

Put simply, nutraceuticals not only change your lives; they can also turn the face of healthful living for the better — to promote optimal wellness and longevity.

Most importantly, they are, in optimal professionally-prescribed dosages, safe and versatile.

Smart Range & Balance

Nutraceuticals form a great range of supplements such as vitamins, herbs, minerals, amino acids, phytochemicals etc., which can be used to treat a variety of problems — chronic, or otherwise.

They are also the most adaptable. Besides, they provide the most promising, tangible benefits in maintenance of health and medical treatment.

Having evolved on a broad pedestal, based on one of medical science’s most wholesome dimensions — the study of uses followed by results — nutraceuticals also stand up to evaluation assessed on measurable parameters in terms of their therapeutic value and outcomes.

You’d call them super-smart nutrients, or what you may, because they seem to know just where to act in the body — and, restore that fine sense of balance to your entire being.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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