Today with the  onset  of regulations  being  at  the  final stage for  Nutraceuticals   and   Ayurceuticals  the  day is not  too  far that there  will be  lot  more  of synthetic Nutraceuticals that will come into the market as the plant kingdom may not be sufficient enough as organised farming  is not  a part  of the  whole chain culture of Nutraceuticals.
A few farming sectors in the globe such as for Aloe vera etc have been a success because of organised farming. But however with thousands of herbals, this sector is still lacking to give a sup- port to the Nutraceutical industry by the backup of organised farming to produce high quality herbals.
Therefore the tussle that may come in is quality supply and   demand. This is where chemistry plays a major role and perhaps the single bio- active molecule as one isolates from natural sources and the same molecule is synthesised and is 100% pure then chemistry would tell there is no difference between the two (natural and synthetic) and they are identical and their biological activity is same and also the synthetic one perhaps is much cheaper and therefore afford- able to the masses.
Here is one example I would like to give and is that of Vanilla and Vanillin. The backward  integration of Vanilla production jumped  up  all of a sudden  couple  of five years back but  it crumbled down at the same speed ending  up  with  suicides  of farmers because  the  market  also fell down. Lot of confusion  was prevalent  be- tween Vanilla, Vanillin and the curing of Vanilla pods which ended  up with a long  storage  process  of 180 days and as such infrastructure was not available.  Hence the fall and slump in the demand of the market was too quick. What happened was, there was no holistic planning and investment.
The plants grew faster than the infrastructure and the money was counted before the chicks were hatched. Vanilla extract is allowed regulatory wise and Vanillin is also allowed in foods. When you look of Vanilla it is a group of molecules and the flavour that comes out is as a result of the group of molecules perhaps very similar to Basmati flavour even though the main predominant factor is 2-ace- tylpyrroline but the entire flavour is due to a host of series of molecules that gets liberated when Basmati rice is cooked.
However,  when  one  adds  Pandana leaf to normal rice while cooking which is practiced  in the south  west part   of  Karnataka  one   gets   similar smell as that  of Basmati rice. Of course Pandana leaf also has the ingredient of 2-acetyl-pyrroline! Does this mean that one can add synthetic 2 acetyl-pyrroline to normal rice and call it Basmati rice? Certainly not.
Therefore  the  finger  print  of some of the excipients and extracts which are well known  for their  preventive aspects  of health  must be preserved and  contained  and  not  reduce   to a  single  molecule  which  will once again make it closer to drug and will have to follow perhaps same route.
Therefore it is very essential just like the difference between Vanilla being a group of molecules giving a fantastic flavour and taste,  Vanillin  being a single molecule can make a difference between the two in the sensory profiles. This is especially so when one scores and Vanilla was preferred even though Vanillin was purer!
The scoring of sensory profiles may be true for Vanilla but the scoring of health profile for Nutraceuticals and Ayurceuticals are equally important for extracts, excipients and other major way of making the bioactives available together so that the synergistic approach  of these  bioactives will ultimately work most of the times.
With due respect to individual molecules that may be certainly needed for scientific studies it is worth the rupee as we take it forward.  But we must never forget that the holistic approach of using the entire  leaf for example  in the case of mint or coriander or curry leaf as against just a single molecule like menthol   or  ß-cymene  or  even ß-caryophyllene  in curry leaf can be quite different than using the whole curry leaf itself.
So it is this aspect that has to be kept in mind and perhaps  the  future  will emerge  calling these  groups  of molecules as one ‘single group of ingredient’ called as Bionutraceuticals  from each  plant  species. Does this mean that the other group will be called as Synthetic Nutraceuticals? I am sure that  is not the purpose  of this article but certainly we must look at a holistic approach  and not forget it even  though sometimes  a single molecule  is better  than  many  small amounts of ingredients   which  may also sometimes act as inhibitors if not purified.  Therefore it is the balancing power of pure Science and Chemistry and the balancing power of the traditional knowledge and traditional wisdom that will play the future role of these groups  of molecules  either alone or together.
We need to weigh them  properly with a clear scientific basis before  coming  to  any conclusions or labelling it as bio or synthetic or nature  similar or nature  alike or nature  identical  or biosimilars from biotechnology  innovations   and   so on. This needs urgent harmonisation of terminologies to  keep  pace  with the new regulations  and to make the implementation for the regulators simple and more easy.

Read Previous

Opportunities & challenges for direct marketing in Indian healthcare!

Read Next

Supplier giant ConAgra gets into ingredient business

Leave a Reply