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Nutraceuticals: What’s that?

Aug 13, 2001

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, as the saying goes. But do you have apples everyday or rather do you remember to have apples on your dining table. Not feasible, right? Why bother now that you have simple pills to pop up instead. That’s exactly what nutraceuticals is all about. Nutraceuticals describes a host of preparations, which are gaining acceptance these days to substitute your ideal diet. The term “nutraceuticals” combines the word “nutrient” with “pharmaceuticals” to describe dietary supplements used for the treatment or prevention of diseases.

Nurtraceuticals are derived from naturally occurring substances that should ideally form part of your daily diet or which have some remedial values. Take for example, broccoli vegetable, which is supposed to protect against cancer. However, consuming broccoli may not be feasible everyday, but a 500 mg tablet of broccoli extract may just do the trick. Grapes are rich in flavonoids, which have anti-oxidant properties. Garlic is beneficial to control cholesterol levels. The list is long. In short, nutraceuticals can be an alternative to the most suitable diet for you.

Nutraceuticals need not come only as tablets. They could be foods and beverages too. The beverage segment is one of the fastest growing sub-segments of the nutraceuticals markets and also has the benefit of being convenient for the addition of nutraceutical ingredients. Beverages could include meal replacement beverages, lifestyle and wellness beverages, medicinal teas and isotonic beverages. In the U.S., the beverage market accounts for $1.17 billion of the nutraceuticals market, valued at approximately $86 billion and growing 10% annually.

It is estimated that more than 100 million people in the U.S. use nutraceuticals. In Japan, about 47% of the population consume these products. The interest in nutraceuticals could be related to a perception that “natural is good”. They are particularly favored for their supposed benefits in chronic disease and in trying to ward off the effects of aging. Optimism regarding their roles in preventing disease may have also contributed to their popularity.

Go to the pharma store in your neighborhood and you will find hosts of medicines claiming to improve your memory skills, body resistance, stamina, delaying your aging process, etc., etc. Take for example, a product from Ajanta Pharma called ‘Carofit’. The product is essentially a carrot extract supplemented with essential vitamins, supposed to be taken only once with your breakfast. The company claims that the product is effective for a range of issues including repairing tissue damage, improving immunity, to reduce environmental pollution effects etc. Convenient, isn’t it?

There is no doubt that the concept of nutraceuticals is catching up in India. However, the key deterrent for the nutraceutical industry growth in India is affordability. The guy on the street is not going to consume a vegetable extract if it costs him many times higher than the vegetable itself.

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