Term used to describe any products derived from food sources that exerts a physiological activity in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods. They can be considered non-specific biological therapies used to promote general well-being, alleviate symptoms and prevent the occurrence of diseases.
The definition of nutraceuticals and related products generally depends on the source. They can be classified on the basis of their natural sources, pharmacological conditions, as well as chemical constitution of the products. Most often they are grouped in the following categories: dietary supplements, functional food, medicinal food, farmaceuticals.
A dietary supplement represents a product that contains nutrients derived from food products, and is often concentrated in liquid, capsule, powder or pill form. Although dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA as foods, their regulation differs from drugs and other foods.
According to their generally accepted definition, functional food is a category which includes whole foods and fortified, enriched or enhanced dietary components that may reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide a health-benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.
Medical food is formulated to be consumed or administered internally, under the supervision of a qualified physician. Its intended use is a specific dietary management of a disease or condition for which distinctive nutritional requirements are established by the medical evaluation (on the basis of recognized scientific principle).
Farmaceuticals are medically valuable components produced from modified agricultural crops or animals.
Over the years nutraceuticals have attracted considerable interest due to their potential nutritional, safety and therapeutic effects. Therefore nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, prevent chronic diseases, postpone the aging process (and in turn increase life expectancy), or just support functions and integrity of the body.