Nutraceuticals: The Past, Present And The Future

Dietary Supplement
Category: Food industry
Posted By: Green Jeeva

In the last few decades, the global market of food supplements has witnessed a rapid surge. Although the industry of nutraceuticals emerged around the 1990s, it grew explosively during the first decade of the 21st century with a 7.3% annual growth rate. (1) It is because people nowadays have finally understood the importance of nutritious foods after they have witnessed loads of diseases and ailments prevailing in the global arena.

As per the recent publications focusing on the various aspects of nutraceuticals, it can turn out to be a good alternative to pharmaceuticals. As a matter of fact, recent studies show some promising results as far as nutraceutical products are concerned which you can find as you proceed with this article.

Besides, many devote consistent efforts in order to present the effectiveness of herbal nutraceuticals on curative disorders like allergies, cancer cardiovascular, diabetes, etc. So, let's explore more about nutraceuticals in detail.

The Past: Take A Glance at The History

Humans have always recognized natural products to be the primary source having high nutritional value since ancient periods. Dietary requirements have played a major role before the time when the concepts of “Nutrition” came into being.

In fact, the subject has always remained a matter of interest as well as an important area of research. Speaking of biomedical research in the last two decades, it revealed the vital role of your diet in maintaining overall health.

Many old civilizations like Indian, Chinese, Egyptians, and Sumerians were some early ones to recognize food as nutrition or medicine. The modern market of nutraceuticals developed in Japan around the 1980s. Since then, the nutraceutical industry grew alongside modern technology.

The Present: What Exactly Are Nutraceuticals?

The term “Nutraceutics” is derived by combining two words “Nutrition” and “Pharmaceutics”. For the record, the person behind the naming of this term was Stephen De Felice who coined it in the year 1989.

So, nutraceutical products are the ones that are natural or even bioactive compounds with medicinal properties. They can possibly augment your health and act as a catalyst to maintain it as well. It includes functional foods and dietary supplements.

Such products are isolated out of herbal products, specific diets, dietary supplements, as well as processed foods, for instance, cereals, beverages, soups and so on. You can find nutraceutical products in the market available in different forms like tablets, pills, powders, vials, capsules, etc.

Additionally, there are several methods of delivering the products including dermal, oral, and even ophthalmic routes. You can get these products from:

  • Food industry
  • Dietary supplement market
  • Herbal markets
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Nutrition conglomerates

Thanks to the potential nutrition and therapeutic effects, herbal nutraceuticals have received commendable interests worldwide. You can achieve so many benefits from nutraceuticals to improve your health, aid in certain health conditions, delay aging, and possibly increase expectancy of your life. You can even support the functioning as well as the structure of your body.

According to some recent studies, nutraceuticals have shown good results against several pathological complications including diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. (2,3)

Therefore, such products are often considered health-promoting sources.

The Categories of Nutraceuticals

In general, Nutraceutical products are categorized under many ways based on application as well as understanding. For instance, it is categorized as per academic instructions, dietary recommendations, design of clinical trials, etc.

However, the most common method of its classification is based on the action mechanism, food sources, chemical nature, etc. Not to mention, the food sources in all nutraceuticals are completely natural. So, here is the basic classification of Nutraceutical products based on food sources:

#1. Probiotics

The history of probiotics can be traced back to more than 2000 years ago with people taking fermented milk. So, basically, you can refer a probiotic as the live supplement of microbial feed administered in appropriate amounts. It is to get maximum benefits like improvement in the microbial balance of intestines. Probiotics include bacteria like:

  • Lactobacilli
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Gram-positive cocci

You can find probiotics in several forms as in powder, liquid, paste, gels, capsules, granules, etc. Certain probiotics generally treat gastrointestinal problems like lactose intolerance, antibiotic side effects, diarrhea, etc. (4)

#2. Prebiotics

The dietary ingredients that affect the host’s body beneficially by altering the metabolism or composition of gut microbes selectively are prebiotics. The short-chained polysaccharides have unique chemical structures.

However, humans cannot digest them directly, in other words, these are oligosaccharides that are fructose based. So, they exist in food naturally or sometimes are being added to foods.

The sources of prebiotics are vegetables such as tomato, chicory roots, alliums, and bananas. Furthermore, you can also find them in peas and beans as well. The studied benefits of prebiotics in appropriate amounts are:

  • Prebiotics promote the growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in your gut to help improve your metabolism. (5)
  • Enhanced lactose tolerance, Intestinal immune stimulation, reduce constipation and regulate blood cholesterol levels. (6)

#3. Dietary Fiber

The food material or plant material which enzymes cannot hydrolyze is known as dietary fiber. Your digestive tract secretes it which can be digested by gut microflora. It includes cellulose, gums, lignin, pectin, hemicellulose, starch, and dextrin.

You can find dietary fiber in fruits, barley, oats, and beans. Furthermore, dietary fibers are categorized into two types based on water solubility:

  • Insoluble Dietary Fiber

It includes cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.

  • Soluble Dietary Fiber

It includes pectin, β-glucans, gums, hemicellulose, mucilage, etc.


Dietary Fiber Levels (in g/100 g)







Baked beans


Whole meal bread


#4. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Or PUFA

PUFA is essential for the functioning of the human body and they can be introduced into diets externally. They are divided into two types:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It benefits the human body by protecting against cardiovascular health conditions, and antithrombotic conditions. (7,8) It also has amazing effects on the health of premature infants.

The sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fishes like salmon, mackerel, tuna, fish oils, flaxseeds, canola, soybeans, nuts, etc.

  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids

#5. Polyphenols

Plants form phytochemicals in large groups to protect themselves from reactive oxygen species and photosynthetic stress. You can find approximately 8000 kinds of polyphenols, some of the important ones are flavones, flavanols, flavanones, flavan-3-ols, and anthocyanins.

Presently, dietary polyphenols are creating interest among people due to its beneficial effects on cellular processes, apoptosis gene expression, intercellular signaling, etc.

Besides, studies show that polyphenols possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, anti-microbial and cardioprotective activities. (9)

Consequently, they can play an important role in regulating blood sugar and neurogenerative disorders. The good sources of polyphenols are red wine, tea especially green and black tea.

#6. Antioxidant Vitamins

Antioxidant vitamins include vitamin C and Vitamin E along with carotenoids that can help in oxidative reactions. (10)

As a matter of fact, oxidative reactions give birth to several diseases like cancer, cataracts, cardiovascular diseases, etc.

So, taking these vitamins might help and can be found in vegetables and fruits like oranges, lemons, etc.

#7. Spices

People use spices in their foods for thousands of years for enhancing its aroma, color, and flavor. As per a recent research, dietary spices have immense effects on health due to their antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating effects. (11)

As a result, your body could get lots of benefits from spices to improve conditions like gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, and reproductive conditions.

Good sources of spices beneficial for your health are onion, cloves, garlic, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, etc. Let’s see the associated benefits as well.


Health Benefits

Onion, Garlic, Fenugreek, Red Pepper, Turmeric, curcumin

Blood cholesterol regulation (12)

Curcumin and onion

Blood sugar regulation (13)

Turmeric, Ginger, Garlic, Mustard

Anti-inflammatory effects. (14)

#8. Selenium

Selenium is a trace element which is essential for your body to fight against reactive oxygen toxicity, regulates cell redox state, and thyroid hormone regulation. The richest source of selenium is brazil nuts having about 200mcg of selenium for every ounce.

It must be noted that the deficiency of selenium causes severe health effects like Keshan disease. (15) On the other hand, high selenium levels in blood cause selenosis with symptoms like hair loss, gastro upsets, fatigue, irritability, mild nerve damage, etc. (16)

The Future: What Nutraceutical Industry Will Look Like

By the looks of the present influence of nutraceuticals and its eminence in the global market, one can forecast its future to be dominant. There would be a rapid increase in the demand of nutraceuticals along with aspects such as:

  • Functional Foods

In the future, the demand for nutrition foods will further increase. It is because people are now becoming more health conscious. So, now you would be thinking what a functional food really means? So, here is the answer.

Functional foods are food or some food ingredients that contain some specific health benefits which are beyond the typical nutrients that they contain.

Now, with the rapidly growing interest of the public towards nutritious foods to prevent diseases, its market is also soaring high. In a similar fashion, the biggest market for functional foods is China, Europe, and Asia. As per estimation, the global market for functional foods in 2018 was almost about 161.49 Billion USD. (17)

  • Utilization of Analytical Devices

The composition of plant extracts is complex in nature; therefore, it becomes challenging to analyze it. As a result, it gives rise to analytical devices focused on examining molecules and their chemical structure.

There are devices like Thin Layer Chromatography or TLC, HPTLC, etc. for analytical separation. So, with rapid advancement, this aspect will also flourish more to develop new devices.

  • New Entries

One can witness the advancements in the arena of food supplements that are enriched by microorganisms concerning probiotics, prebiotics, and symbiotic bacterium. With this, there are some emerging products such a bud-derivatives. They present many novelties and characters when you compare it with other products.

As a matter of fact, recent discoveries say that it might prove useful in various health problems. So, the future will witness new such discoveries and the world of nutraceuticals will go on flourishing.

An Overview Of Diseases And The Role Of Nutraceuticals

According to some recent researches on Nutraceuticals, it coins the role of nutraceutical products in supporting defense against many health conditions. It is because major nutraceuticals have some physiological benefits and even provide protection against diseases as they have substances like:

  • Zeaxanthin and Lutein for eye health. (18)
  • Phosphatidylserine, soy isoflavones, and docosahexaenoic for mental health. (19)
  • Melatonin for sleep enhancement. (20)
  • L-carnitine and Melatonin for bone health. (21)
  • Tea, melatonin, Soy, glucosamine, isoflavones for skin health. (22)
  • Pycnogenol for oral Health. (23)


Key Component

Fruits and vegetables



Omega-3 fatty acids

Yogurt and fermented dairy products


Black and green tea


Tomato and its products



Sulfur compounds

Oats and soy foods

Β-glucan and soy protein

Market Analysis

  • Market Report

At present, the global market of nutraceuticals has recorded a total revenue of about 620 billion USD as of 2019. Undoubtedly, many predict that this value would be further increased by almost 7.5% in terms of CAGR from 2019 to 2014. (24)

Therefore, you can witness the market to rise in the upcoming years and become a total of 671.30 billion USD by the year 2024, according to estimations.

Furthermore, the developed markets such as the United States, along with Europe are finding ways to discover the untapped segments of products that are customized based on some health claims.

Nevertheless, functional foods are one of the largest shareholding categories. And, functional beverages and dietary supplements are the ones to follow the suite.

  • Notable Market Trends

1. Developing Regions: Increased Demand

Non-communicable diseases or NCDs, for instance, cancer, lung disorders, cardiovascular ailments, and diabetes, are highly prevalent in developing countries. As a result, the demand for nutraceutical products is already high there and expected to soar even higher.

Furthermore, the rapidly increasing expenditure on healthcare also tends to augment its demand across developing nations.

In fact, nutraceuticals provide an opportunity for developing nations for their economic growth. The nations are endowed with traditional knowledge on the benefits of some plant species and rich biodiversity.

By the looks of market records, it shows a plethora of opportunities in emerging markets like China, Brazil, along with South American and Asia Pacific countries.

Hence, the key players must emphasize on product research more in order to succeed. Subsequently, they must also focus on their consumers to get a better idea about the problems prevailing in the regions.

So, if they know the problems, they certainly must find the solutions leveraging nutraceuticals. It will differentiate them from their rivals and help them to excel.

According to some recent researches on Nutraceuticals, it coins the role of nutraceutical products in supporting defense against many health conditions. It is because major nutraceuticals have some physiological benefits and even provide protection against diseases as they have substances like:

2. Functional Beverages: The Fastest Growing Nutraceutical Segment

Over the years, functional beverages have turn out to be specific and even are tailored as per health benefits, age, and gender. This diversification along with elevated distribution channels have contributed to propelling the demand of the consumers.

Currently, there is an increased ongoing demand for health and immunity drinks. The scope of such a drink is to build up defense of consumers’ health. In this context, energy drinks are the ones gaining the largest revenues.

However, there are other drinks like coffee, RTD tea, enhanced water, etc. are the drinks growing the fastest among functional beverages. The role of functional beverages is:

  • To improve hydration.
  • Contribute to consumers’ nutritional well-being.
  • Help in athletic performance.

Dose Matters

Whenever you take any supplements or drugs, you need to keep in mind the dose that you must take. An excess of everything is bad, isn’t it? And, it might start showing some adverse effects. Similarly, if you take underdose then also it will not benefit you.

Therefore, taking nutraceuticals in proper doses is a must. For this, there some regulatory bodies like US Regulation and EU regulation that specifies the consumptions of each nutraceuticals.

Furthermore, it is always advised to know the quantity of an ingredient that is present in your nutraceutical and how much you need for your body. It will help you to take the required quantity for your body to achieve efficacious effects.

As per many manufacturers, mostly adequate quantity ranges from generally 25% to 33% of supplement dose. In this way, you can save yourself from adverse effects.

Potential Risks

It is a common belief that nutraceutical products are essential remedies for addressing health issues with no side-effects. This belief is a result of the usage of nutraceuticals for longer periods with no serious toxicities.

Although, the belief is true in the case of major nutraceuticals because they have low side effects generally when you compare it with pharmaceuticals. However, they do have some side effects inevitably.

Therefore, nutraceuticals must be prepared by taking the correct ingredients in the correct ratio. Furthermore, the consumers must also take precautions along with the correct dose to avert any mishaps.


With the fast-changing human lifestyles, the defense systems of antioxidants are overloaded most often, thereby, leading to oxidative stress. Moreover, this defense mechanism is greatly influenced by age and welcomes many ailments.

Thus, researches over several decades focus on several nutraceuticals. Such products might function intrinsically on scavenging some free radicals like PUFA or vitamins. It might stimulate the defense systems of your body.

Consequently, it reflects the merits as well as demerits of nutraceutical products among individual to individual. Above all, Nutraceutical products are proving their excellence in providing health benefits to keep diseases and ailments at bay!

Disclaimer: The above statements are not intended to cure any disease or comply with any health benefits. This is solely for information purposes. Please consult your doctor/health practitioner before consumption of the product. Although we take efforts to keep our website informative, we do not guarantee any medical benefits.


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