Phytotherapy has emerged as a new concept of health and consumption of plant mediated nutraceuticals has become very popular because of their less or no side effect as compared to non-herbal origin. Risk of toxicity or adverse effect of drugs, led us to consider safer nutraceuticals, and functional food based approaches for health management.
Nutraceuticals is a term to define substances, which are non-traditionally recognized nutrients but have positive physiological effects on human body. They do not easily fall into the legal category of food and drugs and often inhabit a grey area between the two. The active ingredients are phytochemicals, such as lycofene in tomatoes, allicin in garlic, isoflavines in soyabeans, glucosamine in ginseng, Omega-3 fatty acids in linseeds, epigallocatechin gallate from green tea, etc. These phytochemicals, also called functional food, may be extracted and consumed as supplements or ‘functional food’ or may have therapeutic value when consumed in whole food.
Within European Union (EU) medicine law a nutraceuticals can be defined as a medicine for two reasons – (1) it can be used for the prevention, treatment or cure of a condition or disease, or (2) it can be administered with a view to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions in human being. So far as the promise of nutraceuticals are considered in two ways, viz. potential nutraceuticals and established nutraceuticals. Similarly, the food products used a nutraceuticals are categorized as (i) Prebiotic, (ii) Dietary fibre (iii) Omega-3 fatty acid, and (iv) antioxidant.
The expanding nutraceuticals market indicates that end users are seeking minimally processed food with extra nutritional benefits and organoleplic value. This development, in turn, is propelling expansion in the nutraceuticals market globally. The emerging nutraceuticals industry seems destined to occupy the landscape in the new millennium. Its tremendous growth has implications for the food, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and agricultural industries. Scientists believe that enzymes represent another exciting frontier in nutraceuticals. These are underemployed and going to be a hot area in the future.
Fermentation technology using microbes to create new food products also represent potentials. The interaction of nutraceuticals with food and drugs is another area, which should be taken into consideration. The effect of different processing methods on biological availability and effectiveness of nutraceuticals, remains to be determined.