Can Nutraceuticals Help Fight Diseases ?

Can Nutraceuticals Help Fight Diseases ?

      Nutraceuticals: Benefits, Types, & Their Role in Health & Disease

      The goal of maintaining good health is challenging every day with the increase of nutraceuticals. The term nutraceutical was coined by Stephen DeFelice in 1989.

      These supplements are found in food, pharmaceuticals, herbal and dietary industries. Nutraceuticals are products with biological functions that are derived only from foods. In this guide, you will find the benefits, types, and their role in preventing diseases.

      What Are Nutraceuticals?

      Many bioactive compounds have been commercialized in the form of pharmaceutical products such as pills, capsules, gels, solutions, granules, etc., that contain food extracts or phytochemical-enriched extracts that directly or indirectly provide health benefits, including prevention and treatment of diseases. These are known as nutraceuticals.

      Nutraceuticals are diet supplements that deliver a concentrated form of a presumed bioactive agent from a food, presented in a non-food matrix, and used to enhance health in dosages that exceed those that could be obtained from normal foods (Zeisel, 1999). Nutraceuticals are a combination of nutrients and pharmaceuticals. A healthy diet helps the body to repair, grow, and function well. 


      Nutraceuticals: Uses and Benefits

      Nutraceuticals have antioxidant qualities and are essential for improving health. They aid in the body's defence against dangerous free radicals, which can harm DNA and cells and result in a number of health problems. Additionally, these substances prevent the body's fats from being harmed by oxidative stress, a process known as lipid peroxidation that is linked to ageing and chronic illnesses.

      Nutraceuticals also assist in mitochondrial repair, which is necessary for effective energy production and proper cellular operation. By lowering inflammation, which is a major contributing factor to the onset of chronic illnesses like arthritis and heart disease, they improve overall health. 

      Prevents Lipid peroxidation

      Lipid peroxidation is a process where antioxidants attack free radicals that affect the lipids containing carbon-carbon double bonds, mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

      The presence of antioxidants (vitamin E, glutathione, ascorbic acid, etc.) keeps free radical production under check, and ultimately minimize lipid peroxidation.

      Scavenge Reactive species

      Nutraceuticals like beta-carotene, polyphenols, and vitamins C and E have potent antioxidant properties. They donate electrons to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS), preventing oxidative damage to cells and tissues. Some nutraceuticals can activate endogenous antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, which are crucial for ROS neutralization.

      Repairs mitochondria

      Glutathione present in our mitochondria plays a key role in keeping our mitochondria healthy as it serves as the gatekeeper, keeping damaging molecules out of mitochondria and serving to repair any damage done to these essential organelles. Glutathione is also present in many protein-rich foods.

      Reduces Inflammation

      The anti-inflammatory activity of nutraceuticals can modulate the functions of immune cells or the activity at a tissue and organ level, which are involved in the secretion of signalling molecules or ROS and RNS.

      Increase Immune response

      Some nutraceuticals, like vitamin D, support the development of immune cells (T cells and macrophages) crucial for defence. Others, such as beta-glucans in mushrooms, boost antibody production to fight infections.

      Nutraceuticals classification

      Based on origin and availability, nutraceuticals are classified into

      • Traditional
      • Non-traditional

      Traditional Nutraceuticals

      Traditional nutraceuticals occur naturally and consist of fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc., Based on their structure and function they can further be classified as functional foods, carotenoids, herbs, fatty acids, prebiotics, and dietary supplements.

      • Functional Foods

      Daily foods like cereals, fruits, meat, dairy, and beans are functional foods with health benefits from their active ingredients. Rice in India for carbs, low fat, and salt. Tomatoes' lycopene fights cancer and lowers blood pressure. Soybeans' saponins offer antioxidants and enhance enzymes.

      • Dietary Supplements

      Dietary supplements are extracts or components from food sources that come in forms like liquids, powders, tablets, and capsules, and may not require a prescription. They support an individual's overall health. These supplements provide essential nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamins A and C, and omega-3 fatty acids. Iron is used to enhance ATP production and increase blood oxygen supply, while folic acid promotes erythropoiesis and maintains healthy nerves.

      • Herbs

      The shortest form of plants that don't have trunks is called herbs. Leaves, roots, stems and flowers are mixed into a solution for medication. Different kinds of herbs are used for cooking purposes like coriander, mint leaf, etc. They are heroes of aroma in cooking and have anti-oxidant properties. Aloe vera has antioxidant and wound-healing abilities. Garlic and ginger reduce bad cholesterol. Herbs like rosemary, ginger, garlic, turmeric, fennel, etc., reduce cholesterol levels, maintain blood pressure levels, and regulate blood sugar levels leading to reduced risk of age-related diseases like heart failure, Alzheimer’s, etc.,

      • Probiotics

      These are groups of living organisms that are non-harmful and provide health benefits when consumed by an individual. Mainly Bfidiobacterium and Lactobacillus are heroes of prebiotics genera. They help balance the gut microbiome, and digestion, reducing inflammation, and preventing digestive issues. A healthy gut is linked to both physical and mental health. Lactobacillus plantarum protects skin from ageing and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. 

      • Prebiotics

      Prebiotics are feed for probiotics. These are types of carbohydrates. Galacto oligosaccharide and inulin are examples of prebiotics. They are not digested and degraded by bacterial enzymes. So bacteria in the gut are used as a nutrition source. They help prevent gut dysbiosis and maintain gut health by reducing inflammation and oxidation. Prebiotics such as garlic, oats, apples, bananas, etc., provide energy to your colon cells, produce necessary mucus, and aid in reducing inflammation.

      Non-traditional Nutraceuticals

      Non-traditional nutraceuticals are produced by humans or genetically engineered like fortified and recombinant nutraceuticals. The products that are not available naturally and are synthesized using various methods are non-traditional nutraceuticals. Using breeding or biotechnological techniques for cultivating nutrient-rich products is one example of nontraditional nutraceuticals.

      • Fortified Nutraceuticals

      These nutraceuticals refer to the process of enhancing the nutritional value of daily meals by adding vital vitamins and minerals that can fill in dietary gaps in people. As far as we know, iodine addition to salt was initiated in numerous regions across the globe. Another is the addition of vitamins A and D to dairy products. Over time, many Western countries have started adding folic acid and iron to their flour. To reduce micronutrient deficiencies fortified nutraceuticals are preferred.

      • Recombinant Nutraceuticals

      Biotechnology tools have been effectively applied through the fermentation process in various food materials, such as cheese and bread, to extract enzymes that are useful for providing necessary nutrients at an optimum level.

      Allergy and nutraceuticals

      Allergies result from the immune system overreacting to chemicals. Allergens most frequently encountered are dust mites, food, pollen, and pet dander. Dietary supplements known as nutraceuticals are advertised as having health advantages over and above their nutritional content. Nutraceuticals are becoming more and more popular as a tool for managing allergies

      One such nutraceutical is Quercetin, a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin inhibits histamine and pro-inflammatory mediators, regulates Th1/Th2 balance, and reduces antigen-specific IgE production by B cells.

      Alzheimer's disease and nutraceuticals

      A neurodegenerative disorder called Alzheimer's disease is typified by the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain, which causes brain cell destruction and cognitive deterioration. Nutraceuticals are essential for reducing inflammation, shielding the brain from damage, and improving cognitive function. 

      Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids, protect neurons from damage caused by amyloid protein, which lowers the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. They also encourage the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, a crucial part of the brain for memory and learning, and enhance improved blood vessel function, which is necessary for supplying oxygen and nutrients to brain cells.

      Cardiovascular diseases and nutraceuticals

      Heart disease and stroke are two of the most common causes of death worldwide. Leading a healthy lifestyle is crucial, and one promising approach is the use of nutraceuticals. Numerous studies have been conducted on the potential of these chemicals, which are included in various foods and supplements, to reduce the risk of heart disease and enhance cardiovascular function.

      Antioxidants like selenium and vitamins C and E play a crucial role in protecting the body from oxidative stress, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Coenzyme Q10 is essential for energy synthesis in cells and acts as an antioxidant, benefiting heart health and potentially alleviating heart failure symptoms.

      Plant sterols, naturally found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, help lower LDL cholesterol by blocking its absorption. Curcumin, from turmeric, offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, reducing the risk of heart disease. Green tea, rich in catechins, is associated with decreased heart disease risk by lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels.

      Cancer and nutraceuticals

      Cancer, a widespread and significant health concern, affects millions worldwide. While conventional cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, have made considerable progress, interest in complementary and alternative approaches is growing.

      Some nutraceuticals that provide benefits in preventing cancer are resveratrol in grapes, curcumin, and EGCG in green tea are just a few examples of phytochemicals that naturally occur in plants and have the potential to prevent cancer due to their ability to reduce inflammation, induce cancer cell apoptosis, and limit the proliferation of cancer cells.

      Diabetes and nutraceuticals

      Diabetes, a widespread chronic illness characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, is typically managed through medication and lifestyle changes. Nutraceuticals are gaining attention for their potential benefits in managing Type 2 diabetes. 

      Cinnamon, a flavorful spice, contains bioactive compounds that may improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control. Bitter melon, a vegetable in Asian cuisine, offers anti-diabetic properties with polypeptide-P and charantin, which help regulate blood sugar levels and enhance glucose uptake. Resveratrol, found in red wine and grapes, can reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity. While incorporating these nutraceuticals into your diet can complement diabetes management, they should not replace prescribed medications.

      Eye disorders and nutraceuticals

      Our eyes serve as windows to the outside world, allowing us to appreciate the beauty and wonders around us. Yet, various factors, such as age, lifestyle, and genetics, can lead to eye conditions that affect our vision. Nutraceuticals such as antioxidants offer advantages in improving eye health.

      The lens of the eye becomes clouded by cataracts, causing hazy vision. Antioxidant-rich diets high in vitamins A, C, and E can help lower the incidence of cataract development. These vitamins, along with zinc, selenium, and lutein, are found in nutraceuticals, which may help prevent cataracts or reduce their advancement.

      Obesity and nutraceuticals

      Obesity is a global health crisis impacting both individuals' well-being and healthcare systems. While diet and exercise play a fundamental role in weight management, many people turn to nutraceuticals as additional support in their weight loss journey.

      These nutraceuticals include:

      • Green Tea Extract: Containing catechins like EGCG, it boosts metabolism and fat oxidation, aiding in weight loss and increased calorie burning.
      • Garcinia Cambogia: The hydroxy citric acid (HCA) in this tropical fruit extract can suppress appetite and inhibit fat production, though individual results may vary, necessitating consultation with a healthcare provider.
      • Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Found in meat and dairy, this fatty acid may impact fat metabolism, potentially reducing body fat while preserving lean muscle mass.
      • High-fiber supplements: Nutraceuticals rich in fiber, like psyllium husk or glucomannan, enhance satiety, supporting calorie restriction and weight management efforts.

      Difference Between Nutraceuticals and Pharmaceuticals

      Nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals are two different classes. While nutraceuticals are nutrient-rich nutritional supplements made from whole foods or portions of food sources, pharmaceuticals are FDA-approved medications used to treat illnesses and deliver instant relief. There few differences between them.

      Composition Nutraceuticals are made of natural components

      Pharmaceuticals are synthetic compounds created for particular medicinal uses

      Intent Nutraceuticals are mostly used for general health maintenance and may improve overall well-being

      Pharmaceuticals are concentrated on treating or by curing particular diseases and ailments

      Regulation Nutraceuticals are subject to fewer regulations

      Pharmaceuticals go through rigorous testing and approval procedures to guarantee safety and efficacy


      Nutraceuticals are frequently sold over the counter

       Pharmaceuticals are usually recommended by medical professionals



      In conclusion, nutraceuticals, derived from natural sources, play a significant role in promoting overall health and addressing various health concerns. They offer potential benefits for conditions ranging from allergies and diabetes to eye disorders, obesity, and more. Nutraceuticals provide a complementary approach to traditional pharmaceuticals, focusing on wellness and prevention, but their efficacy and safety should be considered. Additionally, they are available without prescriptions, offering accessibility to individuals seeking to enhance their well-being.



      1) Can nutraceuticals replace prescription medications?

      Although they usually cannot take the place of prescription drugs for some medical diseases, nutraceuticals can be helpful for enhancing overall health and preventing some health disorders. Prescription drugs are subject to stringent safety and efficacy regulations since they are frequently used to treat or manage severe medical problems.

      2) Are there any potential side effects of nutraceuticals?

      Yes, some side effects are allergies and gastrointestinal problems like upset stomach, diarrhoea, or constipation are common adverse effects. But this differs depending on the product and the person.

      3) Can nutraceuticals be used as a preventive measure against diseases?

      Yes, nutraceuticals are frequently employed as a preventive measure against a range of various diseases. They are usually comprised of natural components that promote general health and well-being, such as vitamins, minerals, or bioactive chemicals. Nutraceuticals can lower the chance of developing certain diseases when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

      4) Are there age restrictions for nutraceutical use?

      No, there is no age restriction for using nutraceuticals but one should be aware of its side effects and should consult a paediatrician before giving it to children. 

      5) Do nutraceutical supplements help?

      Yes, nutraceutical supplements help the body by providing nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds that are absent in the regular diet. These fill up the need for nutrient deficiency, maintain health, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

      6) Are nutraceutical supplements safe to take?

      Yes, they are safe to take. When taken as prescribed and for the right reasons, nutritional supplements can be safe. However, safety can differ based on the particular supplement, its quality, dosage, and personal characteristics.

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