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Akin to cosmeceuticals, which are a therapeutic blend of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, applied topically on the skin to enhance beauty and prevent premature ageing, nutraceuticals refer to similar products that are taken orally.
Inappropriate dietary habits and a stressful work life are very important contributory factors towards cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, etc. Nutraceuticals are gaining immense popularity these days as people rely more on them for prevention and safeguarding their health, yet at the same time, avoiding side effects from drugs. The philosophy behind nutraceuticals is to focus on prevention, according to a saying by the Greek physician Hippocrates, who said,"Let food be your medicine"
What are Nutraceuticals?
The name neutraceutical combines two words namely nutrients and pharmaceuticals. It was coined in 1989 by Stephen DeFelice. Any product derived from food sources and which provides extra nutritional value including prevention and treatment of life-threatening diseases but is obtained pharmacologically, may be called a neutraceutical.
Categories of Nutraceuticals
1. Nutritional Supplements
Substances with established nutritional value such as vitamins (A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, Folic acid and calcium pantothenate) minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, chromium, iodine etc), amino acids contained in the form of capsules, gels, liquids, etc.

2. Phytochemicals or Herbal supplements
Supplements containing herbs or botanical products as concentrates such as Aloe Vera (useful in wound-healing), Evening Primrose oil (helpful in treatment of Atopic eczema), garlic, ginseng, ginger, green tea (which is an excellent anti-oxidant and prevents against cardiac aliments).

3. Dietary supplements
Products intended to supplement the diet and containing one or more of the following ingredients such as prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants (Vit C, Vit E, Carotene etc) and enzymes.
Over the years, nutraceuticals have attracted considerable interest. They are widely consumed by people for delaying the biological age clock, prevention against life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular phenomenon, hypertension and renal diseases, certain types of cancers and infections. Of late, they have been found be play a role in modifying allergies, dementia, obesity and Parkinsons disease.
To conclude, nutraceuticals help in combating some of the major health problems of the century. With ever-changing lifestyles, the antioxidant defence mechanisms of the body are often overloaded resulting in oxidative stress. Nutraceuticals have proven health benefits and if consumed, within their acceptable recommended dietary intake (RDA), they would help in keeping diseases at bay while promoting wellbeing.

The author is a Doha-based dermatologist and works at Dr Hassan Al Abdulla Medical Centre.
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