Health Talk | Consumers want nutraceuticals, but are they actually beneficial? - Hindustan Times
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Health Talk | Consumers want nutraceuticals, but are they actually beneficial?

Mar 01, 2024 10:12 PM IST

The country’s apex food safety regulator FSSAI is working on setting standards for nutraceuticals as its market is set to have explosive growth in the country

The country’s apex food safety regulator— the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)— is working on setting standards for nutraceuticals as its market grows in the country. Recent reports on human studies from Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital seem to suggest the use of a combination of copper and resveratrol— a nutraceutical— has shown to degrade the circulating chromatin (fragments of chromosomes from dying cancer cells) thereby reducing toxicity; health experts, in general, say more studies are required to establish the real health benefits.

Nutraceuticals, also known as functional foods, are largely nutritional supplements containing mostly vitamin C and D, and Zinc. PREMIUM
Nutraceuticals, also known as functional foods, are largely nutritional supplements containing mostly vitamin C and D, and Zinc.

What are nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals, also known as functional foods, are nutritional supplements containing mostly vitamin C, Zinc and vitamin D. They are available in several forms such as pills, syrups, capsules, powders, gummies, chewables etc. According to industry insiders, nutraceuticals have grown tremendously in popularity and acceptance in India, especially with everyone keen on working towards strengthening their immunity in the post-Covid world. The bioactive derivatives from sources like phytochemicals, antioxidants, amino acids, fatty acids, and probiotics, found in nutraceuticals make them a viable defence against viral attacks.

Regulatory mechanism

Nutraceuticals are regulated by the country’s apex food regulator— Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). In one of its recent scientific committee meetings, nutraceuticals were specifically mentioned as one of the challenging areas as its use is clearly increasing among the masses, especially in the post-Covid era where everyone seems to be keen on boosting their immunity. “That has created an increased demand for such products; therefore these need to be well regulated,” said a senior government functionary, requesting anonymity.

According to the national food regulator, the market for nutritional supplements is anticipated to expand from $4 billion in 2017 to $18 billion in 2025.

Crackdown on substandard products

Last year, the Centre began to crack down on substandard nutraceuticals and health supplements sold in the market, Union minister of health and family welfare Mansukh Mandaviya told the parliament. The minister also said that FSSAI was taking steps to create awareness among consumers about safety from all sorts of adulterated and spurious food items including dietary supplements.

“The demand was anyway growing but now post-Covid-19, there has been a sudden surge in the volumes being consumed. Almost everyone is looking at boosting their immunity that has seen the increase in demand but it needs to be seen what is being sold in the name of these health supplements or nutraceuticals. Ingredients are important as in many cases it may harm a person,” said a senior Central government official, requesting anonymity.

The food regulator also issued an advisory for states to verify compliance by manufacturers and distributors, especially ensuring no false and misleading label/health claims associated with these products are made.

Rhythma Kaul, national deputy editor, health, analyses the impact of the most significant piece of news this week in the health sector.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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