Food Items As Nutraceuticals

1. Plant Materials

As in ancient times, in the last century plant materials were the source of the medicinal principles. Crude herbs in the form of teas and encapsulated powders dominated the market; later on, plant-active principles were identified and identical compounds to the natural substances were synthesized. Based on these synthetic structures, new preparations with greater activity were developed. Herbal products were removed from conventional medical use in the mid-20th century not necessarily because they were ineffective but because they were not as economically profitable as the newer synthetic drugs. Nevertheless, the new synthetic drugs, with enhanced potency, have side effects and also greater cost. Consequently, synthetic drugs require the close supervision of an expert, a physician, to employ them to best advantage. These three factors (side effects, greater cost, and medical supervision) caused people to return to the natural options, assuming that crude drugs could be used without much processing. These products are generally mild, cheaper than synthetic drugs, and they can be acquired without obtaining a prescription from a physician. Besides, herbs may correct symptoms that synthetic medicines cannot. Additional factors influencing the movement toward functional foods are the aging population, ever-increasing health care costs, consumer demand for healthier foods, and food regulation. Thus, the use of nutraceuticals in daily diets can be seen as means to reduce escalating health care costs, that will contribute not only to a longer life span, but also, more importantly, to a longer health span.81618 In most of the 20th century healthy foods were milk, meat, eggs, cheese, bread, and possibly fish. Now, in the 21st century, healthy foods are almost every edible part of the plant, cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish.19

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