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Nutraceuticals: (1) What is a nutraceutical?

By Esther Bull, Lisa Rapport and Brian Lockwood

Over the past few years, an increasing number of dietary supplements have become available in supermarkets and health food shops and theyare also available for purchase in pharmacies.

The term “nutraceutical” is used to describe these medicinally or nutritionally functional foods. Nutraceuticals, which have also beencalled medical foods, designer foods, phytochemicals, functional foodsand nutritional supplements, include such everyday products as “bio”yoghurts and fortified breakfast cereals, as well as vitamins, herbalremedies and even genetically modified foods and supplements. Manydifferent terms and definitions are used in different countries, whichcan result in confusion.

The term “nutraceutical” was coined in 1989 by Stephen De Felice,founder and chairman of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, anAmerican organization which encourages medical health research.He defined a nutraceutical as a “food, or parts of a food, that providemedical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment ofdisease”.

In Canada, a functional food has been defined as being “similar inappearance to conventional foods … consumed as part of a usualdiet” whereas a nutraceutical is “a product produced from foods butsold in pills, powders, (potions) and other medicinal forms notgenerally associated with food”.

In Britain, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food hasdeveloped a definition of a functional food as “a food that has acomponent incorporated into it to give it a specific medical orphysiological benefit, other than purely nutritional benefit”.

To read the full article, download the attached PDF

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10996063

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