Nutraceuticals are food or components of food

Nutraceuticals are food or components of food
which provide health benefits beyond basic
nutrition including the prevention and treatment
of diseases. There has been an increase in
life expectancy of individuals and this trend is likely to
continue globally. In parallel to this modern day life
styles are associated with growing levels of stress, poor
eating habits, lack of exercise and these have contributed
to an increase in chronic disorders such as obesity,
cardiovascular disease, diabetes, digestive disorders etc.
Obesity is directly related to an accelerated onset of
diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The World Health
Organisation (WHO) predicts that there will be more than 1.5
billion obese people globally by 2015. The UK has the highest
percentage of obese adults (62.2%), followed by Germany
and Spain where over 50% of the population is overweight.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) which includes myocardial
infarction (heart attack), hypertension (high blood pressure),
hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol) and cerebrovascular
disease (stroke) is the number one cause of death in developed
countries. Many factors pre-dispose to CVD including poor
diet. The European population is aging fast and will challenge
the resources of health care providers. The WHO estimates that
about 16.6 million people around the globe die of CVD each
year and the prediction is that this may rise to 11.1 million by
2020. As far as digestive health is concerned it is estimated
that currently 1.0 million people in France, Germany, Italy, Spain
and UK are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Another
issue linked to this is the growing prevalence of food allergies.
This is also placing a huge financial burden on health care
providers and many governments are urging the public to
take care of their individual health and improve their life style
especially by changing their diet.
Nutraceuticals should be able to contribute to the prevention
of the chronic diseases mentioned above and there are many
players emerging in this area and they all contribute to the
health and wellness market. All these organisations have to
address three key issues of technology (1) establishment of
scientific assessment standard for prevention of diseases (2)
establishment of assessment system for disease prevention
by human trials and (3) establishment of seamless system
to transfer stage from basic research to industrialisation.
Consumers are seeking novel food products which can
enhance their health and factors currently influencing the
growth of the nutraceutical sector include regulatory issues,
consumer opinions, and the need for more conclusive research
into new and novel ingredients.
The issue of regulation is an important one for all concerned.
Within the European Union there are two categories of claims
on foods: nutrition claims and health claims. The nutrition
claims deal with content claims and comparative claims
whilst the health claims deal with functional claims based on
generally accepted scientific data and on newly developed
scientific data. It’s likely that regulatory issues have put
financial pressures on some nutraceutical companies and this
may have led to a slowing down of the introduction of novel
products. However, the regulatory issues also provide a new
window for marketing and promoting nutraceuticals especially
those directed at chronic diseases associated with age. The
companies need to comply with the legislation and have a
unique opportunity to work with government agencies and
health providing organisations such that the nutraceuticals can
be effectively marketed and directed at those who will benefit
the most. To achieve this the companies need to significantly
invest in research and development, advertising and
promotional activities and effectively communicate the benefits
of nutraceuticals to the consumers staying within the legislative
boundaries and this will be linked to ethical marketing which
the consumers are also seeking. In times of hard economic
realities nutraceuticals have a role to play in maintaining health
of the general population thus contributing to the savings in
health care costs. This is the key to success in the European
and worldwide nutraceuticals market.
Professor Khalid Rahman
Professor of Physiological Biochemistry
Liverpool John Moores University