Nutraceuticals are based on the idea that certain foods and their components can play an active role in preventing disease and improving well-being. They are also used in cosmetics to improve the skin.
What are nutraceuticals?
Nutraceuticals are foods or food components that provide health benefits beyond their basic nutritional value.
These compounds may include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other bioactive components present in specific foods.
The fundamental idea behind nutraceuticals is to harness the health benefits of foods in a more concentrated and targeted way, often in the form of supplements.
Origins of nutraceuticals
It was Dr. Stephen DeFelice, a physician and founder of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, who in 1989 proposed the term “nutraceutical”, merging the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical” to describe natural substances and bioactive compounds present in foods that offer health benefits beyond their basic nutritional value.
Although the term is relatively recent, the idea that foods can have healing properties has existed for centuries in various cultures through traditional medicine and herbalism.
This approach has expanded over time, and now includes not only essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, but also a variety of bioactive compounds, such as phytochemicals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics, among others.
Benefits of nutraceuticals
Nutraceuticals offer a number of health benefits due to the bioactive components they contain. These include antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, zinc and selenium, as well as flavonoids and carotenoids, which work to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.
Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 (EPA and DHA) and omega-6, are crucial for cardiovascular, brain and nervous system health. Probiotics, beneficial microorganisms present in fermented foods, promote digestive health and can improve gut microbiota and the immune system.
Polyphenols, such as catechins in green tea, resveratrol in red wine and curcumin in turmeric, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dietary fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, is essential for digestive health and helps control blood sugar and cholesterol. Essential amino acids, building blocks of protein that must be obtained through the diet, are also key components.
- Blueberries are rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins.
- Spinach is a source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant.
- Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for cardiovascular and brain health.
- Almonds, walnuts, chia and flax provide essential fatty acids, fiber and other nutrients.
- Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Ginger is known for its antiemetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Green tea contains catechins, antioxidant compounds associated with various health benefits.
- Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which may have positive effects on cardiovascular health.
- Extra virgin olive oil is a source of healthy fats and antioxidants.
- Garlic has antimicrobial and potentially beneficial properties for cardiovascular health.
- Probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented foods that contain beneficial bacteria for intestinal health.
- Seaweeds are sources of omega-3, vitamins and minerals.
The efficacy of some nutraceuticals has been demonstrated in scientific research, both for health improvement and cosmetics. In any case, the classification of a food as a nutraceutical is often based on the presence of specific compounds and their health benefits.
In addition, the quantity and quality of these compounds can vary depending on the variety of food and how it is grown or processed. Effectiveness also varies depending on the individual, the skin type and the objective to be achieved.
Nutraceuticals in cosmetics
Nutraceuticals are being used in cosmetics to take advantage of the skin benefits derived from the bioactive components present in these ingredients.
- The benefit of the antioxidant properties of these ingredients is intended to combat oxidative stress, protecting the skin against free radicals and contributing to the prevention of premature aging.
- In addition, the incorporation of anti-inflammatory components that can soothe skin irritations and reduce inflammation is pursued, thus improving the overall health of the skin.
- Likewise, by integrating nutraceuticals into cosmetic products, the aim is to provide deep hydration and nutrition, using essential fatty acids and other ingredients to improve skin elasticity and firmness.
- Collagen stimulation by certain nutraceuticals helps to keep the skin smooth and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The inclusion of these components can also have a positive impact on skin radiance and vitality.
They can be found in various formats, as they are currently marketed in serums, creams, lotions, facial masks, oils and even oral supplements.
Combining cosmetic treatments with nutraceuticals can enhance overall efficacy, as they can deliver beneficial ingredients from within the body.