Worldwide Modern Tendencies in Nutraceuticals

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In the past ten years, people have considerably changed attitudes toward their health. We are no longer comforting ourselves that there are pills to help us. We don’t want to get sick anymore, which is, by far, a different approach to life. Physical activity, correct diet, and nutraceuticals make up the three pillars of the new way of thinking.

What are the nutraceuticals, and how are they different from food supplements?

Many people, especially in the West, have tried to balance physical activity and a good diet. Unfortunately, almost everyone above 40 years of age concludes that it is nearly impossible. One of the reasons is that our joints wear out with age, and physical activity becomes more limited. Meanwhile, the right foods in the needed quantities lead to gaining extra weight. That is why we need modern pharmaceutics to serve as a third pillar.

In the last several years (from 2005 until 2009), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has made a complex assessment of substances used as food supplements and provided the most precise definition. According to EFSA, food supplements “are concentrated sources of nutrients (i.e., mineral and vitamins) or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect that are marketed in “dose” form (e.g., pills, tablets, capsules, liquids in measured doses).” Thus the term “food supplements” has become legally defined while its synonym nutraceuticals have remained a marketing term.

Nutraceuticals and biohacking

The market for nutraceuticals has seen maximum growth during the last five years. Today, it’s estimated at 117 billion dollars (and this does not include functional and sports nutrition). According to the data of the international research center, New Medicals, summarized in the report “Global Demand for Nutraceuticals,” in the early 2000s, the industry grew at an annual average growth rate of 7.3 percent, while during 2010-2020 this rate has doubled. At the same time, according to the forecast “Nutraceuticals Market – Growth, Trends, and Forecast” (2020 – 2025), while so far the industry leaders were the U.S. and Japan, now Europe has become an active contender.

One of the reasons could be related to the popular trend of biohacking. In 2017, an American from Silicon Valley, Serge Faguet, published an article titled, “I’m 32 and spent $200k on biohacking. Became calmer, thinner, extroverted, healthier & happier,” which became a topic of many discussions by the end of 2018. It also owes its popularity to the two photos where the young millionaire features two handfuls of dietary supplements he takes every day.

It is noteworthy that the importance of food supplements for biohacking has coincided with the EFSA concept, saying that food supplements are intended to correct nutritional deficiencies, maintain an adequate intake of certain nutrients, or support specific physiological functions.  They are not medicinal products and are not intended for medical treatment, and they are designed to preserve and improve the quality of life at any age. Actually, freedom from aging is the main idea behind the Nutraceuticals.

Suddenly, Europe has realized that it misses opportunities rejecting natural medicine and is starting to catch up.

New research in nutraceuticals

The researchers from Europe focus not on searching for new active substances but on making already known supplements more biologically accessible. This is one of the main challenges of Nutraceuticals since scientists already know which substances or medicinal plants are necessary to strengthen joints and blood vessels, improve digestion, and enhance our sleep.

At the same time, the chance to target a particular organ of our body with a necessary substance is not always present, as the substance can dissipate in our body without bringing the desired benefit. The European manufacturers’ research, titled “Nutraceuticals’ Novel Formulations: The Good, the Bad, the Unknown and Patents Involved,” was intended to confront this challenge. Today, the major investments are channeled into research and innovation.

One of the most popular methods for increasing biological accessibility is to select compatible substances. It is well-known that some vitamins, microelements, and amino acids support and enhance each other while others are antagonists and are better taken at different times of the day.

Scientists have discovered that, sometimes, the issue is not so much that various chemical substances interact with each other but that they affect our body in a particular sequence. Some active components trigger specific receptors, which, in their turn, allow our body to identify and absorb necessary components. That is why, for the moment, researchers focus mainly on the analysis of compatibility as well as on natural ways for supplements’ activation. Thus, it became known that Omega-3 supplements should be taken with fats, while sleep-inducing supplements should be consumed no later than 2-3 hours before bed.

Meanwhile, more complex technologies are already patented or are in the process of receiving patents.

  • Nanoparticles

These are used as a means of transportation for poorly soluble or insoluble natural substances. While these substances have unique properties, they often go clean since they are not absorbed by our gut and don’t enter the bloodstream. Nanoparticles help to resolve this problem.

  • рН-sensitive capsules

The thing is that the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine have different acidity. Meanwhile, activating various dietary supplements requires a certain level of pH. Thus, smart capsules are made to release various ingredients into different parts of the digestive system.

  • Dendrimers

These are repetitively branched macromolecules. They are soluble in bodily liquids, allowing them to integrate active components of dietary supplements in their nucleus or fix them on their surface, activating at various times and in different bodily organs.

According to the data of the international research center, New Medical, Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland have become the main centers of nutraceutical innovation in Europe.
At the same time, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is still cautious about introducing nanotechnologies in Nutraceuticals since there is not sufficient research on the safety and toxicity of these additives, according to the report “Nutraceuticals and nanotechnology.”

Thus, the combined dietary supplements remain the main focus of European Nutraceuticals for the moment. Still, the mono-supplements (one vitamin, one micro-element, or one amino acid) do not lose their popularity since many consumers are interested in taking only one specific element instead of a diverse set of components.

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