Healthy living

application to many conditions are currently under examination. One recently published report by researchers at Murray State University in the US, for example, examined the benefits of nutraceuticals for arthritis, a condition that affects more than 46 million Americans, to investigate the beneficial, and adverse, effects of nutraceuticals.

Certain nutraceuticals, such as Rhodiola rosea, are said to help relieve symptoms of stress and fatigue.

The percentage of respondents who categorise their state of health as ‘very’ or ‘quite’ healthy, compared with 66.8% in the 2016 survey.


The percentage of adults planning to take more food supplements as they get older.

72.2% 81.2% HFMA 64

The percentage of the 25–34 age group who are planning to increase their consumption of food supplements.

Beyond that, nutraceuticals can also play a key role in addressing the secondary effects of Covid-19, notably the stress, anxiety and mental fatigue that go hand-in-hand with restrictions on movement, social distancing and lockdown. Rhodiola rosea, also known as arctic root or golden root, is just one example of a botanical supplement believed to provide relief from stress and fatigue, as well as treating symptoms of depression and improving brain function. Similarly, ashwaghanda, also known as withania somnifera or Indian ginseng, is said to reduce levels of stress hormone cortisol, boost testosterone, reduce inflammation and supposedly improve memory.

Under the microscope

The rising tide of interest in nutraceuticals is changing perceptions among consumers about how specific nutrients can benefit the human body and how they, as individuals, can define their own roadmap to a healthier life.

“As demonstrated by the number who see supplements as a good investment in health, confidence in supplementation is high,” notes Mills- Robert. “There is always the need to educate the public about what they are and what they do, especially when lockdown data is showing that more consumers are self-researching online for the information that they need. This makes it all the more pressing to make sure that consumers are engaging with information about supplements that is reliable and credible.” With the wealth of information available online it can be hard to decide which sources to trust and which to treat with a healthy dose of scepticism. That decision, however, is steadily becoming easier, as in-depth scientific research gathers pace. A snapshot of ongoing research projects shows that many different plants and their potential

Similar research is under way to examine how different nutraceuticals can aid the prevention of cancer, improve brain health, and treat skin disorders, cardiovascular disease and renal disease, as well as reduce anxiety and stress. As the body of scientific evidence grows, it will become easier for self-educating consumers to find the right supplements to meet their specific needs, providing that the plant-based nutraceuticals they seek are not only available in their domestic markets, but also meet the right quality standards.

Quality over quantity

In the global nutraceuticals market, product quality can vary greatly, and there is no consistent regulatory standard, particularly for new or exotic ingredients about which health claims are made. As well as researching the benefits and looking at credible scientific studies, consumers also need to look closely at the suppliers and the regulatory standards under which they operate to avoid buying supplements with low-quality or ineffective ingredients. In terms of regulation, nutraceuticals are treated differently in different jurisdictions. In the US, for example, the terms ‘nutraceutical’ and ‘bioceutical’ are not defined by law. Depending on the health claims made for a particular ingredient, a product could be regulated as a drug, a food ingredient or a dietary supplement.

In Europe, nutraceuticals require authorisation under the Novel Food Regulation and in the UK, which is no longer an EU member state, legislation is currently aligned with the EU but will no doubt follow its own course in the years ahead. “There are certain areas where the regulatory framework can more logically recognise the function and nomenclature of certain health supplements, such as probiotics – especially in the UK post-Brexit,” believes Mills-Robert. “This is something that the HFMA is actively engaged with, advocating for our members at an influential level.” It takes time for science to explore the claims made for nutraceuticals and other food supplements, and even longer for regulation to catch up with the science, but there is plenty of motivation for both scientists and regulators to be heavily focused on this market. After all, the will of consumers is strong and their focus on personal health in the current climate can only be a good thing. ●

Ingredients Insight /

Fernando Calmon/

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