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What Are Nutraceuticals?
Definition of a Nutraceutical:
"Food, or parts of food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease."

                                               Dr. Stephen DeFelice, Foundation for Innovation in Medicine

Nutraceutical Categories:

Dietary Supplements including botanicals:

  • Vitamins, minerals, co-enzyme Q, carnitine
  • Gingsing, Gingko Biloba, Saint John's Wort, Saw Palmetto

Functional Foods:

  • Oats, bran, psyllium and lignin's for heart disease and colon cancer
  • Prebiotics - oligofructose for control of intestinal flora
  • Omega-3 milk in prevention of heart disease
  • Canola oil with lowered triglycerides for cholesterol reduction
  • Stanols (Benecol) in reduction of cholesterol adsorption

Medicinal Foods:

  • Transgenic cows and lactoferrin for immune enhancement
  • Transgenic plants for oral vaccination against infectious diseases
  • Health bars with added medications

What Caused the Rapid Emergence of Nutraceuticals?

Consumers dissatisfied with drug costs and conventional healthcare are turning to unproven and untested natural products for treatment and prevention.
  • Chronic diseases with poor therapeutic alternatives
  • Hurried impersonal exchanges with providers stressed by managed care
  • Desire for personalized medicines
  • Large population trying to stave off the effects of aging
  • New focus on preventive medicine
  • Public perception that "natural is good"

More than 40% of Americans use alternative medical therapies, nutraceuticals (herbals/botanicals) account for a significant proportion.  

Nutraceuticals, The Alternative Crop For Wellness And Prevention


Fund an initiative at the National Nutraceutical Center that brings together industry, academia, and government to jointly apply cost-effective scientific approaches in agricultural and manufactural efforts to make nutraceuticals a highly profitable crop.  The Center will disseminate the results to the general public and to healthcare, agriculture, and manufacturing industries and will focus on:

  • Basic and clinical research to determine key plant components, effectiveness, dosage levels, and interactions with other nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.
  • Basic agricultural and plant biotechnology studies to determine how to grow nutraceuticals, maximize key ingredients, and develop a cash crop potential.
  • Quality assurance and standards development at all levels of supply/manufacturing.

Today’s Problem:

  • U.S. healthcare costs are the highest in the world, while morbidity and mortality measures are not correspondingly the highest.
  • Consumers dissatisfied with drug costs and conventional healthcare are turning to unproven and untested natural products, nutraceuticals, for treatment and prevention.
  • Supply of "certified" products is limited and demand exceeds supply.
  • Most raw materials are imported and lack government/industry control on product quality and contamination.

The nutraceutical industry in the US is about $86 billion. This figure is slightly higher in Europe and, in Japan, represents approximately a quarter of their $6 billion total annual food sales - 47% of the Japanese population consume nutraceuticals.

What Are the Benefits of Nutraceuticals in Medicine?

  • Higher Confidence in Product Quality and Effectiveness
  • Improved Market for Nutraceutical Products
  • Increased Public Awareness
  • Increased Healthcare Industry Awareness
  • Establishment of a Self-Governing Agenda

Nutraceuticals as an Alternative Crop

Nutraceuticals, foods or food components that help in prevention or treatment of disease, are made from herbal/botanical raw materials.  This is a rapidly growing industry (7-12% per year) with more than 100 million people in the U.S. using these natural products.  With extensive anecdotal data on exciting health results, nutraceuticals promise significant contributions to disease prevention.   Nutraceutical crops can replace or complement traditional crops and, with vertical integration into American agriculture and manufacturing, will impact rural economic development.  There are, however, barriers to the introduction of nutraceutical crops:

  • Common belief that only imported herbals/botanicals are effective.
  • Little data on the cultivation and adaptability of popular herbals/botanicals.
  • Little data on how to make nutraceuticals a cash crop equal to more traditional crops.
  • Wide range of manufacturing processes with no attention to product extraction, effective "shelf-life", storage, ingredient standards or contamination.
  • Pending federal regulations which could further restrict the supply of natural products.

The South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) is working with FDA and USDA, will provide neutral leadership for the Center.  A broad base of biomedical and agricultural expertise will come from selected centers of excellence including the Medical University of South Carolina and Clemson University.

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