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Actives refer to bioactive compounds within nutra
Wednesday, 20 September, 2023, 12 : 00 PM [IST]
Dr Ganesh J Bhavsar
Nutraceuticals have gained significant attention in recent years as consumers become more conscious of their health and well-being. These compounds are defined as products derived from food sources that provide extra health benefits beyond basic nutrition. They bridge the gap between food and medicine, offering a preventive and therapeutic approach to health management.

The term "nutraceutical" encompasses a wide range of substances, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, plant-derived compounds, probiotics, and more. However, one subset that has garnered particular interest is active nutraceutical ingredients.

Active nutraceutical ingredients refer to the bioactive compounds within nutraceuticals that exert specific physiological effects on the human body. These ingredients have gained popularity due to their potential to address various health concerns, from supporting heart health to enhancing cognitive function.

The worldwide nutraceutical market can be segmented as two types: ingredient type and application. By ingredient type, the market is segmented into prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, proteins, omega-3 structured lipids, phytochemicals and plant extracts, fibres and specialty carbohydrates. On the basis of application, the market is segmented into functional foods, functional beverages, dietary supplements, animal nutrition, personal care and cosmetics, and others. Geographically, the market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, South America and Middle East & Africa. In the current scenario, the market for active nutraceutical ingredients is witnessing robust growth, driven by factors such as increasing consumer awareness, rising health consciousness, and a growing aging population. To understand the current landscape better, let's explore the various types of active nutraceutical ingredients.

    I. Market Trends
Global Growth and Demand
The nutraceutical ingredients market is projected to register a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period (2023-2028). Consumers are taking more concern about improving their health than paying huge medical bills for treatment, that’s why most people are turned toward nutraceutical ingredient products. Nutraceuticals are becoming more important around the world, and the average consumer is starting to eat them regularly. Also, people are less active due to sedentary lifestyle, which could lead to digestive problems like constipation, bloating, and indigestion. The global spread of Covid-19 is inspiring people to use nutraceutical-based products that will strengthen their immune systems and keep them fit and healthy. Functional beverages are one of the fastest-growing segments, and emerging markets have growth potential for these beverages. Within the functional beverage segment, fortified water and ready-to-drink beverages are seeing increased consumer demand. The market for active nutraceutical ingredients is experiencing robust growth on a global scale. This growth can be attributed to several factors like i. Increasing Consumer Awareness, ii. Aging Population, iii. Lifestyle Diseases.

The Role of Consumer Awareness
Consumer awareness and education play a pivotal role in shaping the market for active nutraceutical ingredients. People are increasingly researching and seeking information about the benefits of specific ingredients and their impact on health. This heightened awareness has led to a surge in demand for products containing active nutraceutical ingredients.

Additionally, the influence of social media and online platforms has facilitated the dissemination of information about nutraceuticals. Consumers are now more empowered than ever to make informed choices about their health, contributing to the growth of this market.

Key Market Players
The active nutraceutical market is highly competitive and populated by a diverse range of companies such as Cargill Incorporated, BASF SE, Archer Daniels Midland Company, International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc, and Koninklijke DSM NV, which are the main players in the nutraceutical market. The market can be further segregated as:
i. Pharmaceutical Companies
ii. Nutritional Supplement Manufacturers
iii. Functional Food and Beverage Manufacturers
iv. Biotechnology Firms
v. Startups and Innovators

Overall, the market's diversity and competitiveness have led to continuous innovation and product development, providing consumers with a wide range of choices.

    II. Recent Research Developments
Active Nutraceuticals for Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular diseases remain a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Active nutraceutical ingredients have been the focus of extensive research in this area. Some notable developments include:

i. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, have demonstrated significant cardiovascular benefits. Research has shown that these active ingredients can reduce triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of heart disease.
ii. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10, a compound involved in cellular energy production, has been studied for its potential in improving heart health. It may help reduce the risk of heart failure and improve symptoms in individuals with existing heart conditions.

Cognitive Health and Brain-Boosting Nutraceuticals
As the aging population grows, cognitive health has become a major concern. Active nutraceutical ingredients have been investigated for their role in supporting brain function and memory:
i. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba extract is known for its potential to enhance cognitive function and memory in older adults. It is often included in supplements targeting brain health.
ii. Phosphatidylserine (PS)

PS is a naturally occurring phospholipid that plays a crucial role in cell membrane structure, particularly in brain cells. Supplementation with PS has been associated with improved memory and cognitive function.

Weight Management and Metabolic Health
Obesity and metabolic disorders are significant public health challenges. Active nutraceutical ingredients have been explored as potential aids in weight management and metabolic health:
i. Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract contains bioactive compounds called catechins, which may help boost metabolism and promote weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.
ii. Chromium Picolinate
Chromium picolinate is a mineral that has been studied for its potential to improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar levels.
Immune Support Nutraceuticals
The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified interest in immune support nutraceuticals. Several active ingredients have been investigated for their immune-boosting properties:
i. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a well-known immune-boosting nutrient that supports the body's defence against infections.
ii. Zinc
Zinc is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, and supplementation may help reduce the duration and severity of colds.
 III.  Future Outlook
The future of active nutraceutical ingredients is poised for exciting developments. Several key trends and areas of exploration are likely to shape the industry in the coming years:

Advancements in Nutrigenomics
Nutrigenomics is an emerging field that explores how specific nutrients and active ingredients interact with an individual's genes. This personalised approach to nutrition may lead to tailored nutraceutical formulations that optimise health outcomes based on an individual's genetic profile.

Personalised Nutrition
The concept of personalised nutrition is gaining traction, with the potential to revolutionise the nutraceutical industry. As technology and data analytics advance, consumers may have access to personalised recommendations for active nutraceutical ingredients based on their unique health needs and genetic makeup.

Sustainable Sourcing and Production
Sustainability is a growing concern for both consumers and the nutraceutical industry. Future developments may focus on sustainable sourcing of active ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, and environmentally responsible production practices.
    IV. Conclusion
The current scenario of active nutraceutical ingredients is marked by remarkable growth, driven by factors such as increasing consumer awareness, an aging population, and a focus on health and wellness. These ingredients, derived from vitamins, minerals, amino acids, plant compounds, probiotics, and more, offer a diverse array of health benefits.
While the regulatory landscape varies from one country to another, the industry continues to evolve to meet consumer demand for safe and effective products. Research into active nutraceutical ingredients for cardiovascular health, cognitive function, weight management, and immune support is ongoing, offering promising prospects for addressing some of the world's most pressing health concerns.

As technology advances and our understanding of nutrigenomics deepens, the future of active nutraceutical ingredients holds exciting possibilities for personalised nutrition and sustainable practices. With these trends, the industry is poised to continue its growth and innovation, ultimately benefiting the health and well-being of consumers worldwide.

(The author is assistant professor, MIT ADT University, Pune)
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