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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 47-53

Nutraceuticals and their medicinal importance

1 Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Anna University of Technology Tiruchirappalli, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Pharmaceutics, Periyar College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Life Sciences, School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, International Medical University, 57000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Date of Web Publication27-Sep-2012

Correspondence Address:
Sakthivel Lakshmana Prabu
Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Anna University of Technology-Tiruchirappalli, Tiruchirappalli - 620 024, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2278-344X.101661

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Lifestyles of human beings have changed drastically due to the industrial age, increasing work, living speed, longer work schedules, and various psychological pressures, which have led to an increased incidence of diabetes, obesity, various cancers and vascular diseases. With recent advances in medical and nutrition sciences, natural products and health-promoting foods have received extensive attention in the public. To achieve better quality of life, people started eating more vegetables, fruits, dietary supplements, nutraceuticals, phytotherapeutical substances and other plant foods. The demand for nutraceuticals and phytonutrients has increased over the past few years and they are being used by people for various therapeutic outcomes. This article brings out the importance of nutraceuticals and their usage in various diseases and ailments.

Keywords: Health benefits, nutraceuticals, nutrient, therapeutic activity

How to cite this article:
Prabu SL, Suriyaprakash TN, Kumar CD, Kumar SS. Nutraceuticals and their medicinal importance. Int J Health Allied Sci 2012;1:47-53

How to cite this URL:
Prabu SL, Suriyaprakash TN, Kumar CD, Kumar SS. Nutraceuticals and their medicinal importance. Int J Health Allied Sci [serial online] 2012 [cited 2023 Dec 10];1:47-53. Available from: https://www.ijhas.in/text.asp?2012/1/2/47/101661

  Introduction Top

Hippocrates (460-377 BC), the well-recognized father of modern medicine, stated "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food", to predict the relationship between appropriate foods and health and their therapeutic benefits. [1] Human lifestyles have changed drastically over the last few decades due to industrialization and changing work cultures which have forced people into various fast-eating cultures with more instant and tasty meals, but decreased the quantity and quality in nutrients. At the same time, industrialization has simultaneously caused air and water pollution, and soil and food contamination because of extensive use of various chemicals, heavy metals, electromagnetic waves, and other potentially harmful man-made items. These problems have led to an increased incidence of diabetes, obesity, cancers, vascular diseases, physiological problems, as well as other degenerative diseases leading to severe immune dysfunction.

Consumers are deeply concerned about how their health care is managed, administered and priced. They are frustrated with the expensive, high-tech, disease-treatment and management approach predominant in modern medicine; as the consumer is seeking complementary or alternative beneficial products and the red tape of managed care makes nutraceuticals particularly appealing. [2] Obtaining adequate nutrients from various foods plays a vital role in maintaining normal function of the human body. With recent advances in medical and nutrition sciences, natural products and health-promoting foods have received extensive attention from both health professionals and the public. New concepts have appeared with this trend, such as nutraceuticals, nutritional therapy, phytonutrients, and phytotherapy. [3],[4]

"Nutraceutical" is a term coined in 1979 by Stephen DeFelice. It is defined as "a food or parts of food that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease." Nutraceuticals may range from isolated nutrients, herbal products, dietary supplements, and diets to genetically engineered "designer" foods, and processed products such as cereals, soups, and beverages. A nutraceutical is any non-toxic food extract supplement that has scientifically proven health benefits for both the treatment and prevention of disease. Nutraceuticals also refer to natural functional/medical foods or bioactive phytochemicals that have health-promoting, disease-preventing or medicinal properties. These nutraceuticals in general contain vitamins, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, or other necessary nutrients, depending on their emphases. [5],[6] These nutraceuticals are used in nutritional therapy based upon their chemical structures and biological functions. [7]

The other components of our definition of nutraceutical include the statements "for disease treatment and prevention" and "administered with the intent of improving the health and well-being of animals". When a dietary supplement, nutraceutical or other feed is intended to be used for the treatment or prevention of disease, in essence it "becomes" a drug. [8]

Nutraceuticals are found in a mosaic of products emerging from (a) the food industry, (b) the herbal and dietary supplement market, (c) pharmaceutical industry, and (d) the newly merged pharmaceutical/ agri-business/ nutrition conglomerates. The goal of achieving an optimal or maximal state of nutrition and health is becoming an increasing challenge with the introduction of many nutraceuticals. [9]

Although most nutraceuticals currently used are known vital nutrients for the human body, many details such as dose, drug-drug interaction, nutraceutical-drug interaction, and their effects on individuals under certain health conditions remain indescribable. [10] Plant biotechnologists have put lots of effort to engineer plants and crops in order to improve their nutritional value to maintain a healthy human body. It has been also proved that any excess intake of any nutrient may not benefit or even can be harmful to health. Already there are many plant biotechnological products currently, which are patented for their medicinal values. Products marketed as functional foods and nutraceuticals are highly variable and are often dependent upon historical if not local allegiances. Nutraceuticals are marketed in concentrated forms as pills, capsules, powders and tinctures either as a single substance or as combination preparations. [11]

Functional food and nutraceutical products represent a value-added growth opportunity for the agri-food industry, both domestically and internationally. The market is driven by the aging population, rising health care costs, advances in food technology and nutrition, as well as a growing consumer understanding of the link between diet and health.

Scientific studies have also expanded to these areas and have given support to many of these products and therapeutic services. Most of the immune mediators like lack of exercise, poor diet, negative emotions and environmental toxicity along with the progression of age, cause variable effects on the human system. However, there is reported literature on the reversal of these variables on the long-term usage of nutraceuticals and products related to it. Various factors that affect our human immune system causing dysfunction are elaborately shown in [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Factors affecting the human immune system

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  Categories of Nutraceuticals Top

Nutraceuticals are non-specific biological therapies used to promote wellness, prevent malignant processes and control symptoms. They are categorized as follows based on their chemical constituents

  1. Nutrients
  2. Herbals or botanical
  3. Dietary supplements [12],[13]

  The Rise of Nutraceuticals Top

The nutraceutical products are recognized not only for their health benefits to reduce the risk of cancer, heart diseases and other related ailments, but also to prevent or treat hypertension, high cholesterol, excessive weight, osteoporosis, diabetes, arthritis, macular degeneration, cataracts, menopausal symptoms, insomnia, diminished memory and concentration, digestive upsets and constipation. Nutraceuticals have also found considerable trust in treating headaches and migraines resulting from stress. Other related neutraceutical products are touted as cures for thinning hair, lack of confidence, poor complexion, varicose veins, alcoholism, depression, and lethargy.

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, herbs, nuts and seeds contain an abundance of phenolic compounds, terpenoids, sulfur compounds, pigments, and other natural antioxidants which act as compounds for the treatment of the above mentioned conditions. Food derived from herbs like garlic, soybean, cabbage, ginger, licorice root and the Umbelliferous vegetables are used commonly for the treatment of cancer. Citrus fruits provide plenty of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and soluble fiber and are also believed to prevent cancers. Garlic powder preparation has some clinical use in reducing mild hypertension.

Compounds like diallyl sulfides, diallyl disulfides and quercetin which are active components of garlic, have known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic activities. Similarly, the active components such as kaempferol and chlorogenic acid in tomato are also understood to have anti-mutagenic activities. Lycopene, which is another substance present in tomatoes, is believed to be the most active oxygen quencher with potential chemo-preventive activities. These observations also suggest that tomato and garlic suspensions have a protective effect on colon carcinogenesis. [5],[6],[7],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18]

Honey has proven antimicrobial activity. Green tea enhances humoral and cell-mediated immunity while decreasing the risk of certain cancers and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Ginseng enhances production of macrophages, B and T cells, natural killer cells and colony-forming activity of the bone marrow. [19] Panax ginseng is reported to prevent irradiation-induced programmed cell death in hair follicles. The dietary plants like soybean, garlic, ginger and green tea reduce the incidence of cancer believed to be through inducing programmed cell death. Soybean extract, in addition, has been shown to prevent development of disease like polycystic kidneys.

The vast number of nutraceuticals, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other ingredients, are like an alphabet soup ranging from A to Z. [20] At the head of the list are anthocyanins, which are flavonoids that make up the intense blue pigments and are usually found in wild blueberry fruits. Antioxidants are important because they neutralize free radicals, which can damage DNA molecules and thereby lead to cancer and other dangerous diseases. Antioxidants also retard the effects of aging. At the end of the alphabet, Z stands for zinc. This mineral is essential for normal growth, appetite, and immune function. Zinc is an essential component for the normal function of more than 100 enzymes involved in digestion, metabolism, and wound healing. Dietary sources of zinc include liver, beef, and the dark meat of poultry. In the middle of the alphabet, one finds the popular three 'Gs' namely, ginkgo, ginseng, and guarana. [21] The former is purported to increase mental activity. Both ginseng and guarana are said to provide energy. [22]

  Nutraceuticals as Therapeutic Agents Top

The majority of the nutraceuticals do possess multiple therapeutic benefits and have been claimed to have physiological benefits [23] or provide protection against various diseases as the following products:

➢ Cardiovascular agents
➢ Anti-obese agents
➢ Anti-diabetic agents
➢ Anti-cancer agents
➢ Immune boosters
➢ Substances that manage chronic inflammatory disorders and
➢ Formulations to cure degenerative diseases
  Flavonoids as Nutraceutical Ingredients Top

The major active nutraceutical ingredients in plants are flavonoids. As is typical for phenolic compounds, they have antioxidant, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, anti-ulcer, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, vasorelaxant, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-thrombogenic, cardioprotective and anti-neoplastic activities in addition to their profound effects on the central nervous system. [24]

Various common nutrients, phytochemicals and their associated health benefits along with their medicinal properties are enlisted in [Table 1], [Table 2] and [Table 3].
Table 1: Common herbal and phytochemical products[26]

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Table 2: Important phytochemicals (nutraceuticals), their corresponding plant sources and medicinal properties[27]

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Table 3: Nutraceuticals used in various diseases[27],[28]

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  Importance of Unit Conversion Top

To achieve the overall goal of balancing dietary nutrient content to meet the specification needs, it is imperative that a supplement be appropriately matched to the basic forage program. The nutrient content of a product may be presented either on a per pound basis, per ounce basis or per dose basis. The difficult part here is interpreting and comparing nutrient concentrations of differing products based on the label claim information. Therefore we must carefully read the label information and convert the information to an equivalent basis for comparison. [25] The nutritional conversion factor is shown in [Table 4].
Table 4: Nutritional conversion factor

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  Conclusion Top

Industrialization has caused high levels of atmospheric pollution. Vast resources of water, soil and food are contaminated owing to the extensive use of various chemicals and harmful products, which is leading to be potentially harmful to human beings. The raised demands for health care have dramatically increased the cost of medical care. Therefore, people have tried to achieve a better quality of life by eating more vegetables, fruits, and other plant foods, taking dietary supplements or nutraceuticals. We believe that development of nutraceuticals and functional foods with distinctive genetic and ecotype traits has the potential to deliver unique products to the world at large. Development of better characterized and research-proven products will help enhance consumer confidence in nutraceutical and functional food products in the rest of the world.

  Summary of Work done by the Contributors Top

The authors of this review article have done considerable work associated with nutraceuticals. The authors have published numerous research publications on nutraceuticals. Moreover, the authors are well versed with the analytical methods and standardization methods of different nutraceuticals. Most of the projects handled by the authors in the past and at present are based on nutraceutical origin. Through these associations as mentioned above, the authors have gained a vast knowledge on nutraceuticals and are aware of most of the literature published on nutraceuticals. The corresponding author has done his doctoral research on Rosin, which is a nutraceutical. Other authors of this manuscript have done their respective main research on nutraceuticals as well. Dr. Dinesh has done his doctoral study on custard apple, which is used as a hematinic and has a nutraceutical source. There are numerous publications which have been published by the authors on the analytical methods of nutraceuticals. With these above mentioned credentials, we believe that we could be qualified for writing this review article for your journal. [28]

  References Top

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4.Berger MM, Shenkin A. Vitamins and trace elements: Practical aspects of supplementation. Nutrition 2006;22:952-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Zeisel SH. Regulation of "nutraceuticals". Science 1999;285:185-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Whitman M. Understanding the perceived need for complementary and alternative nutraceuticals: Lifestyle issues. Clin J Oncol Nurs 2001;5:190-4.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Brower V. Nutraceuticals: Poised for a healthy slice of the healthcare market? Nat Biotechnol 1998;16:728-31.  Back to cited text no. 7
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9.Gibson RA, Makrides M. n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acid requirements of term infants. Am J Clin Nut 2000;71:251-5.  Back to cited text no. 9
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11.Stephen AM. Regulatory aspects of functional products. In: Mazza G, editor. Functional foods: Biochemical and processing aspects. Basel:Lancaster; CRC Press, 1998  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Hathcock J. Dietary supplements: How they are used and regulated. J Nutr 2001;131:1114-7.  Back to cited text no. 12
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  Medknow Journal  
14.Functional Foods in Japan, Medical Food News, May 1997 No. 6. Available from: http://www.medicinalfoodnews.com/vol01/issue2/japan. [Accessed on 1 st December 2011].  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Heyland DK. In search of the magic nutraceuticals: Problems with current approaches. J Nutr 2001;131:2591S-5S.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Elizabeth AC. Over the -counter products: Nonprescription medications, nutraceuticals, and herbal agents. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2002;45:89-98.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Kalra EK. Nutraceutical definition and introduction. AAPS PharmSci 2003;5:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Sengupta A, Ghosh S, Das S. Tomato and garlic can modulate azoxymethane-induced colon carcinogenesis in rats. Eur J Cancer Prev 2003;12:195-200.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Klein C, Sato T, Meguid MM, Miyata G. From food to nutritional support to specific nutraceuticals: A journey across time in the treatment of disease. J Gastroenterol 2000;35:1-6.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Pszczola, DE. The ABC′s of nutraceutical ingredients. Food Technol 1998;52:30.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Hasler CM. A new look at an ancient concept. Chem Ind 1998;2:84.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Stauffer JE. Nutraceuticals. Cereal Food World 1999;44:115-7.  Back to cited text no. 22
23.Rajasekaran A, Sivagnanam G, Xavier R. Nutraceuticals as therapeutic agents: A review. Res J Pharm Tech 2008;1:328-40.  Back to cited text no. 23
24.Tapas AR, Sakarkar DM, Kakde RB. Flavonoids as nutraceuticals: A review. Trop J Pharm Res 2008;7:1089-99.  Back to cited text no. 24
25.Saun RJ. Feed Additives, Nutritional Supplements and Nutraceuticals for Horses. Available from: http://www.vbs.psu.edu/extension/resourcesrepository/publications/EqFeedAdditive-VanSaun-PVMA06. pdf [Accessed on 16 th December 2011].  Back to cited text no. 25
26.Basu SK, Thomas JE, Acharya SN. Prospects for growth in global nutraceutical and functional food markets: A canadian perspective. Aus J Basic Appl Sci 2007;1:637-49.  Back to cited text no. 26
27.Lockwood brain, nutraceuticals. second ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2007. p. 60-5.  Back to cited text no. 27
28.Chaturvedi S, Sharma PK, Garg VK, Bansal M. Role of Nutraceuticals in health promotion. Int J PharmTech Res 2011;3:442-8.  Back to cited text no. 28


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]

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