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Nutraceuticals and functional foods: an approach to improve the human health

Author: 
Swati Rai and Prof. Sunita Mishra
Subject Area: 
Life Sciences
Abstract: 

Functional foods and nutraceuticals provide an opportunity to improve the human health, reduce health care costs and support economic development in rural communities. The tenet “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” espoused by Hippocrates nearly 2,500 years ago, is receiving renewed interest. Within the last decade, however, the term functional as it applies to food has adopted a different connotation—that of providing an additional physiological benefit beyond that of meeting basic nutritional needs. In particular, there has been an explosion of consumer interest in the health enhancing role of specific foods or physiologically- active food components, so-called functional foods (Hasler, 1998). While nutraceuticals, sometimes referred to as natural health products, are often used in medicinal forms as tablets, capsules or liquid. Among diseases of concern, cancer and coronary heart disease (CHD) are high on the list. In this respect, phenolics of plant origin, as an example, have been found to act as free radical scavengers, inhibitors of cholesterol oxidation and DNA breakage, among others, thus serving as potential cancer preventing agents. On the other hand, marine foods have often been considered as “heart food” because of the role of their omega-3 fatty acid constituents in lowering of triacylglycerol and cholesterol levels and hence the incidence of CHD. This review article focused on some examples of the functional foods and nutraceuticals and their health benefits, like probiotics and prebiotics, proteins and peptides, oils and fatty acids, carbohydrates and fibers, catchine and lycopene.

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