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Nutraceuticals and they're increasing popularity

8/3/15 Know Your Nutrition | Volume 1 Article 7.


With all the increased attention on a proper, balanced diet, it is not news that the food we consume contains nutrients that are vital for our bodies to work correctly. And so the definition of a nutraceutical is “Food, or parts of food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.” as defined by Dr. Stephen DeFelice of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine. Included are not only vitamins, minerals, and the like, the longtime superstars of nutrition, but more and more these days, scientists are researching other aspects with benefits such as phytochemicals, bioactive compounds in plants, fiber, and pre and probiotics.

Clemson University cites that more than 40% of Americans use alternative medical therapies, of which nutraceuticals make up a significant portion. There are several reasons alternative therapies are appealing. Among them are the belief of fewer side effects than drugs, cheaper prices, the idea of preventive medicine, and a desire to get back to basics - following the Hippocrates philosophy of “let food be your medicine”. And indeed, science continues to highlight the health benefits of nutraceuticals.

Substances like lycopene, a carotenoid that is a powerful antioxidant, may help in reducing the risk of certain cancers and stroke, as reported by the Harvard School of Public Health. And the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reports that lycopene may also help heart health by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. Lycopene is found in foods such as watermelon and pink grapefruit, but most of the lycopene in the American diet comes from tomatoes.

Nutraceuticals are not only found in what we may think of as foods, but in other edibles such as herbs and spices. Garlic, for example, has been used for many years in traditional medicine, and research suggests that it could help lower blood pressure and slow the hardening of arteries which may happen as people age. Garlic has also shown potential in strengthening the immune system and lessening the symptoms of a cold.

The use of nutraceuticals is increasingly popular. According to Clemson University, more than 100 million people in the US use them. They are also very popular in countries throughout Europe and Japan. Belfast is a list of 1000 botanicals, compiled by Belgium, France, and Italy, based on such qualifications as safety and efficiency. This list is being used as a base, with many more botanicals still being reviewed for inclusion.

From whichever reason stems your interest in nutraceuticals, as Dr Tomislav Meštrović, MD, Ph.D. points out, their role in mitochondrial integrity, gene expression, and reduction of oxidative stress may be very useful in improving health preventively or to boost the body’s natural defenses.

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