Nutraceuticals are health-giving substances derived from food or part of a food and are used to prevent and treat diseases. An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal defined these substances as "foods that provide more than simple nutrition; they supply additional physiological benefit to the consumer."
Nutraceutical labels list many beneficial ingredients, including soy protein, dietary fiber, probiotics, and phytoestrogens. Like pharmaceutical drugs and vitamins, each individual nutraceutical has particular uses and benefits. Several popular nutraceuticals are ALA, glucosamine, and red rice yeast. Let's consider these three substances, and the benefits of nutraceuticals will become clearer.
ALA or lipoic acid is a naturally-occurring antioxidant found in every cell of the body. The body manufacturers ALA itself, and it is also found in red meat, yeast, and organ meats. This popular nutraceutical creates energy by converting the glucose in the body. This lowers blood sugar, alleviates the pain of peripheral neuropathy, and protects brain and nerve tissue.
Another nutraceutical widely used is glucosamine. Another naturally-occurring substance, its main use is in building cartilage in the body. Glucosamine is not found in foods, and the supplement is made from shellfish. Many people with osteoarthritis and joint pain benefit from using it because it increases the cartilage and fluid surrounding the joints. It is also an anti-inflammatory that reduces stiffness and swelling.
The third popular nutraceutical is red rice yeast. Just as it sounds, this is yeast grown on rice. In China, red rice yeast is called Zhi Tai and is used for many gastric ailments. The substance contains monocolins that inhibit cholesterol from forming--very much like the statin drugs. Taking red rice yeast lowers cholesterol and improves circulation.
These are just three of the many nutraceuticals that can improve health and prevent disease. M. Tandon, in Let Food Be Your Medicine, says that a "diet rich in nutraceuticals, along with regular exercise, stress reduction, and a healthy body weight, will maximize health and reduce disease risk." Nearly all health professionals believe that diet plays a strong role in developing certain chronic diseases, and nutraceuticals are a logical adjunct to eating nutritiously.
The benefits come from nutraceuticals being highly concentrated forms of super foods. It’s an age old cliché, but what you put into your body has a direct impact on the quality of your physical life. The FDA doesn’t consider many holistic products as relevant to treating disease and physical ailments, but the FDA is saturated with former high ranking corporate executives from the industries that would be directly affected by the legitimizing of many of these products.
You can only know for sure if you try them and feel the results yourself. Nutrition is the key component to health, and finding new ways to get concentrated nutrition by way of nutraceutical products can be of great benefit to your body.
Scott is a freelance writer on a variety of topics including health and wellness. When he is not writing he is hiking in the mountains of upstate New York.