Food Based Approach for Nutraceuticals, Nutritionals and Naturals


The variety of food that one consumes in India and in many parts of the world too is a huge treasure supplying the body with lots of Nutritionals, Nutraceuticals and Natural molecules. The body has the fantastic mechanism to metabolise what it needs and throw away the rest. Unless one eats abnormally large amount of certain foods due to greed of uncontrolled mind, generally toxicity arising out of food in terms of Nutraceuticals, Nutritionals or Naturals is not a major concern. But food based approach is important subject to safe food in terms of microbes, toxins, chemical contaminants, etc. Generally the body handles very well supplying itself of the above three ingredients from food so wonderfully that we take it for granted!

Let us address the area of the Nutritionals that we get from a variety of foods that the Indian cuisine gives (assuming one can afford it in today’s high cost of foods and high end lifestyle). A large amount of Nutritionals especially the basic Nutrients such as quality proteins, needed carbohydrates and quality fat along with vitamins and minerals should have no problem for the body when a variety of the food is affordable and consumed regularly. But when one looks at clinical situations, obviously the intervention of the doctors, hospitals and mega doses of Nutrients become very essential in order to overcome nutritional crises. However chronic malnutritive situations are haunting us, not necessarily always based on economic criteria, but also those who can afford but have wrong food habits and a very different life style of not eating a balanced diet.

Today’s market is loaded with many supplements, complements, caplets, capsules, tablets, liquid concoctions, etc. which tries to give over & excess and above what the body requires of these Nutritionals giving an impression to the consumer that one will be more healthy, if one takes more of these supplements beyond what is needed, sometimes even the claims of preventing some genetically transmitted diseases! What is needed ultimately is in the area of Nutrients a balanced diet with an eye on safe and quality food and also foods that are rich in quality proteins and supplies a plethora of vitamins and minerals and of course must address the Micronutrients and Nutraceuticals too. The choice is that of the consumer if one can plan well provided he or she has enough information to do so. It is this information that must be in the media continuously including SMS’s and must be a constant load of informatics that should reach the public continuously and dynamically.

When it comes to Nutraceuticals the story is different. This is over and beyond the Nutrients and Nutritionals and there is a feeling that XYZ Nutraceutical is going to be an alternative to medicine and either before the disease or during the disease or managing the disease itself. This is a very complex situation and it is not so simple as one comes across many wrong labels and over claims in the market. It is important that the consumer evaluates these parameters and takes a very conscious decision with the preferred choice of what is important based on the knowledge base that one must acquire or being informed by the media. Therefore consumer education becomes a very crucial factor in combating many a wrong marketing for the sake of quick sales and profit. However there are genuine players, there are genuine molecules which is well founded by science and I think it is important to have those also in the prescribed and required quantities not taking grams and grams thinking more of it is more better. Certainly not! Hence a balanced approach is needed for Nutraceuticals as much as Nutrients and Nutritionals.

When it comes to the story of Naturals, it is completely different from Nutritionals and Nutraceuticals. What is meant by Natural Tea!? What is meant by Natural groundnut?! What is meant by Natural rice!? I am not talking here about organic, I am talking about the word Natural. It is over used and especially used to confuse the consumer who in turn pays so much value to the word natural that it looks like there is another set of agri-products which is unnatural in the same market for the same category of agri-commodities and therefore one should buy Natural!! It is absolutely misleading and most of the times therefore proper appraising of information to the consumer is essential in this area also. In this angle, the role played by natural ingredients, natural flavours has to be phenomenally high such that the convenience of manufacturing products containing natural molecules or nature identical molecules or natural similar molecules becomes advantageous and not a bottleneck.

Certain natural ingredients and flavours are allowed in food, but nature similar, nature identical and natural molecules in some other sectors is completely banned without any scientific reason. This kind of duality of double standards in the area of Naturals confuses the consumer more and loses the confidence of science and opportunity for industries to manufacture even well accepted safe products around the globe and in India and requires much more urgent attention. Science with hard work does produce many natural molecules and risk assessment and safety being proven, there should be no reason why they cannot reach the public through safe food products.

In conclusion, science is universal for all the above three areas (3N) and many of the regulatory decisions must be science driven and at the same time it must also get into self-assessment of regulations which will ultimately be the driving force for the industry. Therefore when we talk of Nutritionals, Nutraceuticals and Naturals there is lot more than just the words which goes beyond the general comprehension of the consumer all the way to regulatory to the manufacturers as well as the policy makers and all these matters in bringing in an overall healthy diet for the consumer and will have a greater supplementary effect on food based approach. It is the variety of diet, it is the multiplicity of different kinds of food in different regions of India inclusive of traditional food and ethnic food perhaps taken in limited quantities with enough burning of calories through daily exercise may mean a ‘Swachh Health’ for India. Beyond what we attribute to fast foods and may be there can be another buzz emerging word called slow foods!! It is not too far and we may have one!

However all foods cannot be eaten in that large quantity to give you the benefit of the three sectors of molecules and hence intervention of the non-food based approach through ingredient addition is also needed when these are needed for the healthy and normal functioning of the body but cannot be met daily for the food based approach. Industry has a greater role in this vacuum to be filled up for ‘Swachh Health’ for everybody in the country interfacing with regulatory and is the urgent need of this sector for a safe and 3N NuFooDS.

Read Previous

FSSAI appoints new members for scientific panels

Read Next

Looking back & ahead

Leave a Reply