Lifestyle related health problems such as hypertension,
diabetes, heart attacks, arthritis, cancers are afflicting an increasing
number of people across the globe and at an early age too.
Indeed, with prohibitive costs of healthcare and high-tech
disease-treatment approach of modern medicine, there has been a paradigm
shift and the buzzword is ‘preventive healthcare’. A holistic
approach through right food, regular exercise regimen and food supplements
is a means towards this end. This is what has brought the world focus
Although nutraceuticals have been an integral part
of medical cabinets in homes across the U.S. and Europe since the 1980s,
they have made their presence felt in India only recently -- the chavanyaprash
and health drinks notwithstanding. So, what exactly are these nutraceuticals
that have caught the imagination of the new breed of health fanatics?
Nutraceuticals are defined as “food, or parts
of a food, which provides health benefits, including the prevention
and treatment of disease.” They are mainly obtained from plants,
especially from those high in nutrition and have a blend of pharmaceutical
and nutritional characteristics.
Primarily preventive in nature, nutraceuticals are
in distinct contrast to drugs whose active chemical substances are used
to treat an illness or symptoms of an illness. However, some nutraceuticals
products also address specific health areas such as heart disease, bone
health and digestive system health. They are others directed at reducing
the risk of cancer, joint health and hormonal imbalances.
Two main categories
Nutraceuticals may be broadly classified into functional
foods and dietary supplements. Functional foods are essentially consumed
as food but are fortified with calcium, iron and other micro chemicals
for health benefits.
These include fruit drinks containing calcium and iron, fortified foods
like iron-enriched cornflakes, calcium rich wheat flour, modified foods
like vegetable oils with improved fatty acid profiles, Vitamin E enriched
eggs and food and beverages with added bio-active ingredients like ginseng
Dietary supplements contain active ingredients of food
or food components that are consumed in capsule, tablet, syrup or injectable
forms. These include vitamins and minerals.
However, the dividing line between functional foods
and dietary supplements is often blurred as they often overlap. Essentially,
the two categories provide the body with the additional nourishment
for therapeutic or curative purposes. Nutraceuticals is the broader
of the two terms because it has been applied to foods and food components
in both conventional and non-conventional forms.
The term “Nutraceuticals” was coined in
1991 by Dr. Stephen de Felice, founder- director of New York's Foundation
of Innovation in Medicine, an American organization that encourages
medical health research.
The emergence of nutraceuticals can be traced back
to the 1980s in the U.S. The prohibitive cost of healthcare coupled
with inadequate insurance coverage prompted the Americans in the 1980s
to look at alternatives like Ayurveda, Chinese, Tibetan and other traditional
By the mid-1980s, they gained wide acceptance as “alternative”
medicine. They became a part of “complementary” medicine
in the mid-1990s where doctors advised people to make “dietary
supplements” a part of healthcare routine. By 2000-01, nutraceuticals
became an integral part of “integrated” medical system.
Nutraceuticals are becoming popular mainly because
they are considered safe, play a vital role in preventive healthcare
and are useful in the treatment of chronic diseases.
Nutraceuticals emerged as an industry in the 1980s
in the U.S. and soon spread their wings to European countries too. The
last couple of decades have seen a whopping growth in the industry in
terms of volume and sales.
The global nutraceuticals industry reached a market
volume of $50.6 billion in 2001. The leading market for nutraceuticals
is the U.S. with a turnover of about $ 29 billion. The projected rate
of growth is 15 per cent annually. According to a market analysis by
Scoping, sales of nutraceutical foods now exceed $90 billion worldwide.
In India, nutraceuticals is a relatively new market.
Separate figures are not available as nutraceuticals sales are clubbed
with pharmaceutical sales in the country. An ORG-Marg survey in October
2002 had estimated the sales of pharmaceutical industry at Rs 17,730
crores, of which the nutraceuticals has a share of Rs 2,060 crores or
12 per cent of the pharmaceutical segment.
The ORG-Marg survey puts the value growth of nutraceuticals
industry at 7 per cent a year and volume growth at 4 per cent for India.
According to the Confederation of Indian Industries
(CII), India’s healthcare industry is expected to grow at 13 per
cent annually for the next six years, which should be music to the growing
Leading players in the nutraceuticals industry include Dabur, Alembic,
Ajanta Pharma, Sami Labs Ltd, Universal Medi Care, Parry’s, Dr
Reddy’s Laboratory, Pharmed, Wockhardt, Nicholas Piramal, Troika
Pharmaceuticals, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, and Ranbaxy. Companies like
Amway, Twin Labs, General Nutrition Centers, Solgar Inc. were pioneers
in the U.S. nutraceuticals market.
The foundation for a multi-crore dollar industry has
been laid in India. The success stories of the early entrants have prompted
major pharmaceutical companies to enter the nutraceuticals area. Johnson
& Johnson, American Home Products and Procter & Gamble have
entered the nutraceuticals business either by acquisition of smaller
companies or starting their own nutraceuticals division.
In India, pharma companies generally make a beginning
with standardized Ayurvedic products or nutraceuticals/ dietary supplements.
Some of the popular nutraceuticals products are Spirulina from Parry’s;
Carofit, Ocugold and Macugold from Ajanta; Winofit, Cartiz, Evapro from
Wockhardt; Rejoint from Nicholas Piramal; Primosa from Universal; Permixon
from Saw Palmetto Harvesting Company; Promensil from Novogen; AntoxCare,
OcuCare and CoQCare from Sami Labs Ltd.
U.S. regulatory exercises
For decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
regulated dietary supplements as foods, to ensure that they were safe
and wholesome. However, the US Congress passed Dietary Supplements Health
and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) to include several provisions that
apply only to dietary supplements and dietary ingredients of dietary
As a result, dietary ingredients used in dietary supplements
are no longer subject to the pre-market safety evaluations. They must,
however, meet requirements of broad band safety provisions.
Through the DSHEA, the meaning of the term "dietary
supplements" was expanded to include such substances as ginseng,
garlic, fish oils, psyllium, enzymes, glandulars and mixtures of these.
Though the DSHEA guidelines for safety of the products
are limited, a nutraceuticals company has to ensure highest standards
as its name and brand equity are at stake. However, maintaining high
safety standards and ensuring efficacy has become voluntary practice
and inevitable, as companies cannot afford to take any risk by offering
sub-standard products. In India, there is no official regulatory body
for monitoring nutraceuticals.
Thus, emphasis is laid on R&D where the products
are put through rigorous clinical tests and scientific documentation.
Multi-phase and multi-location clinical trials for efficacy, and safety
give a company a distinct marketing edge over the others.
However, the nutraceuticals industry is not without
its share of concerns. Tall health claims by some companies, lack of
stringent tests for side-effects and toxicity, inaccurate efficacy claims
make it necessary for nutraceuticals consumption be approved by doctors
keeping in mind the health concern of the public.
It is also important that this emerging area be monitored
by the drugs control department and not placed under Indian Standard
of Medicine category. Nutraceuticals are marketed through three channels:
as over-the-counter product, through multi-level marketing and the ethical
route where doctors’ approval is the key.
India can emerge as a leader in nutraceuticals as it
is a herbal goldmine – a home to almost all kinds of tropical,
sub-tropical and temperate zone plants.
The advantage of knowledge based remedies (Ayurveda)
gives the country a tremendous lead over others. India can emerge a
major player globally in nutraceuticals industry if it develops clinical
documentation and scientific basis to support claims of safety and efficacy.
The nutraceuticals industry is a complex and evolving
industry and is developing its own set of rules for success. Market
analysts and researchers are up beat about the potential.
The sun will shine on those companies who have the
vision to establish new industry standards backed with strong research
(The author is Chairman and Managing Director, Sami