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Nutraceutical Niche

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[Photo of Niche]
Have you noticed that many food products now advertise some miracle nutrient that will make you healthier, taller, stronger or more intelligent? This is nothing new, but the use miracle claims in advertising used to be more restrained.

I remember a long-running advertising campaign for a brand of margarine that could make children grow taller, but mostly that was it. Most other food products were marketed for their taste, value for money or their overall health benefits. Basing an advertising campaign solely on the health benefits of a specific nutrient is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Of course, there are  ingredients that have proven health benefits like Vitamins A  and C. In the past decades, though, we have been introduced to other healthy-sounding substances like l-carnitine, lycopene and soluble fiber, all of which were featured in the marketing campaigns of specific food items.

This increasing trend is mostly being fueled by the increasing number of studies proving that fruits and vegetables contain more health giving-ingredients than previously thought. Substances in fruits and vegetables that are found  in relatively large amounts like as sugars, acids and vitamins have long been recognized for their health benefits to humans. As technology and research techniques improve, other substances in fruits and vegetables that were previously ignored have been getting the spotlight.

Claims that a certain ingredient or component in a food will improve a specific part of your physiology go back to the use of traditional use of food for healing. Of course, traditional food products are very much still in use, but in recent years, this concept has been given the impressive term “nutraceuticals”.

Marketing Health

Nutraceuticals is a combination of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceuticals,” and can be defined as food-derived products that may have health benefits. Nutraceuticals are generally available in capsules or tablets. The word “nutraceuticals” is mostly a marketing term, though,  and not scientific.

They are different from functional foods in that these are usually whole foods that are consumed as part of your regular diet. Functional foods contain substances that provide health benefits in addition to their nutritional value.

Nutraceuticals go beyond just being food. These are actually the concentrated, homogenized, or powdered extracts of specific substances that occur naturally in a certain food. All for the convenience of the consumer who wants the  benefits of the extract without having to eat his fruits and vegetables.

Traditional food extracts were something your grandmother bought from an obscure vendor in that Chinese drugstore on that street you’ve never heard of . With the growing trend in nutraceuticals, though, pills made from every vegetable and claiming health benefits for every ailment are advertised on giant billboards by your favorite celebrities.

Nutraceuticals have entered the mainstream market with neutraceutical products appearing on grocery shelves. The greatest boost for neutraceuticals, however, are  in their use as ingredients and additives in popular food products. One example is the increasing number of instant-coffee mixes infused with extracts of mushroom, ginseng, and other vegetable products on the market.

No Approved Therapeutic Claims

There is no doubt that there are a lot of health benefits from consuming the whole fruit or vegetable. However, NO ONE knows for sure whether you can get the same health benefits once the fruit or vegetable has been subjected to heat, maceration and other processes to be turn it into powder form and  put into capsules. In fact, manufacturers are required by law to state that their products might not actually work.

This, of course, will not stop the consumer from looking for, and buying better and healthier products.

Print ed: 09/09


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