It has long been held that our general health can be optimized through a wide variety of habits including a consistently healthy diet. As the importance of diet is increasingly emphasized, studies are being conducted to look deeper at what components of food may be generating positive outcomes. The evidence is starting to develop that supports particular components of food that provide significant links to improved health. The food–health link continues to drive innovation in the growing industry of nutraceuticals.
“Nutraceutical” is an umbrella label that is defined as any substance that may be considered a food or part of a food and provides medical benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. The end product can range from an isolated nutrient to a functional food, from a dietary supplement to a genetically engineered beverage, and many manifestations that fit somewhere in between. The targeted effectiveness varies from product to product as well, with designs ranging from full body system effects to some products designed to generate a result at the cellular level. Treatment claims can also be wide and varied. As the choices for these supplements expand it becomes critical that patients have the resources to make informed decisions about the benefits purported. Many nutraceuticals provide great benefit, but under some circumstances, they may be unnecessary or even risk to your health
Balancing a variety of healthy foods is the optimal way of obtaining the nutrients our bodies need. Dietary supplements are intended to enhance the diet of users. It is always critical to obtain adequate information on the function, benefit, and upper safe limits for any supplement that you may consider taking.
There are several resources to gather information on supplements. If the supplement use is to address a specific health issue, there is probably a good chance that these concerns have been shared with a medical provider. So be sure to consult that provider before purchasing or starting a supplement. Keep in mind that some supplements can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
If conducting research on your own prior to reviewing with a medical provider, consider the reputation of any website from which you gather information. Try to find supporting information from sources that have no monetary interest in the supplement that is being considered. Make sure any data reviewed is current. Analyze the quality of any study data (your medical provider can help with this assessment). Always ask “Does this sound too good to be true?” Many of the latest news headlines make claims of a quick fix that may not be in line with research and science.
Nutraceuticals have a long history of use, but it’s relatively recent that the data supporting the benefits of these diet supplements has been so robust. There are many quality products available. The key is to select the appropriate product for the condition being treated.