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Nutraceuticals: History, Definition, & Opportunity

Nutraceutical is a term used to describe any product that has been derived from food sources which offer additional health benefits on top of the basic nutritional value naturally found in the foods that the product is made from.

They may be considered to be an unspecific biological therapy designed to promote health and general well-being, or they can be used to control the symptoms of a disease or condition as well as to treat and prevent malignant processes.nutraceutical manufacturing

The term was first coined in September of 1989 in Cranford, New Jersey by the founder and chairman of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, Stephen DeFelice.

The idea behind the concept of nutraceuticals is to prevent illness, in accordance with the famous saying by the Greek physician, Hippocrates- the father of medicine- who is quoted as having said: “let food be your medicine.”

It is worth noting that the Hippocratic oath that doctors take is based on his philosophy of medicine.

The role of nutraceutical products in nutrition is an important area of investigation, with broad implications for the people who use these products, healthcare providers, regulatory bodies, as well as for food producers and distributors.

Types of Nutraceutical

The definition of nutraceutical depends on their source. A nutraceutical can be classified based on their natural components, pharmacological attributes, or the chemical constitution of these products. Frequently, they are categorized into the following categories:

  • dietary supplements
  • pharmaceuticals
  • functional food
  • medicinal food

Dietary Supplements

A dietary supplement is a consumable product containing nutrients that are derived from other food items.

Dietary supplements are often concentrated into the form of a liquid, pill, capsule, or powder.

Though this category of product is regulated by the FDA, they are controlled in ways that differ to the ways drugs and other products are controlled.

Functional Food

According to the accepted definition, functional food includes whole foods, fortified foods, and enhanced dietary elements which may lower the risk of disease and provide health benefits beyond the basic nutrients contained in it.

Medicinal Food

Medical food is specially formulated to be administered internally under the strict supervision of a physician.

It is intended for use in specific dietary management programs for the treatment of a specific disease process or condition which may have distinct nutritional requirements established by medical evaluation.

The Potential Health Benefits of Nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals have attracted a great deal of interest over the years since 1989, due to the many potential nutritional and therapeutic effects they may offer.

The concept is also broadly considered to be vastly safer and less toxic when compared to synthetic pharmaceutical products which invariably come with a host of unpleasant and dangerous side effects.

Nutraceuticals may have a role in a wide range of living processes such as antioxidant defense, cellular proliferation, genetic protection and expression, as well as safeguarding the integrity of mitochondria.

For these reasons, nutraceuticals are widely thought to have uses for the promotion of health, the prevention of chronic diseases, the postponement of aging factors, increasing life expectancy, and to offer support for a multitude of ordinary vital functions as well as the integrity of tissues, organs, and systems of the body.

Nutraceuticals are widely considered healthy sources for nutrients useful in the prevention of life-threatening conditions like diabetes, renal, disorders, gastrointestinal conditions, and various infections.

A wide variety of nutraceuticals is proven to fill important roles in the immune status of users and reduction of their susceptibility to specific diseases.

They are also capable of exhibiting disease-modifying effects that are related to oxidative stress such as allergies, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, visual impairment, Parkinson’s, and obesity.

The Growing Global Demand for Nutraceutical Products

The global nutraceutical market has expanded dramatically over the past ten years.

While the industry first emerged in the 1990s, it has undergone explosive growth in a very short amount of time. between 1999 and 2002 the industry developed at an average rate of 7.3% each year- but beginning in 2003- the rate more than doubled to 14.7%.

Currently, the global nutraceutical market has an estimated international value of 117 billion USD.

The reigning current trends are in product customization and specialization. This is especially so in more developed markets.

Investment in R&D to discover and develop new innovative products and approaches to treat conditions and promote health, verifying the claims made by nutraceutical brands and market research are key strategies for players in this exploding industry.

The primary force behind this enormous growth is huge and growing consumer demand.

Consumers want to achieve healthy lifestyles and optimum nutrition to prevent diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

While the US, European, and Indian markets are the world’s largest currently, China is expected to surpass them by 2030.

The Mild Wild West

The explosion in opportunities for companies of all sizes, new players, tiny startups- and just about any type of business model you can imagine are all possible in the private label nutraceutical market.

This is because of special regulatory freedoms that these products enjoy due to their being chiefly food products.

Further, the technology needed to market, produce and move these products are smaller, cheaper, and better than ever.

There’s nearly no limit to the amount of innovation yet to be exerted, business models are extremely flexible, and the risk is quite low compared to other industries.

This means if you’re looking for an opportunity to start a business with low barriers to entry, a huge and level playing field, and virtually unlimited room for growth- then nutraceuticals are for you!

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