What are nutraceuticals?


The term emerged in the late 80s resulting from the contraction and union of "nutrition" and "pharmaceutical". Nutraceuticals are bioactive compounds that occur naturally or by chemical or biological synthesis. The objective of its use is to improve nutrition and, consequently, health. They can be used for both humans and animals.

As we already know, the healthcare trend is booming, so it is not surprising the increase in the demand for this component. Thus, an important aspect of pet humanization is that people are paying greater attention to safety and nutritional needs; and as this comes at a higher cost, the rise in the global middle-class population (along with higher income available) helps the industry to develop along this path.

Currently, the owners want to give their 4-legged children the most pleasant and long life possible. Apart from going to the veterinarians, when necessary, they look for other ways to prevent disease or nutritional problems.

Thanks to advances in the pet food industry, there is scientific evidence for the beneficial effects of many nutraceutical compounds.


Types of nutraceuticals

Although there is no official regulation about the types of nutraceuticals, they are often classified as:

• Dietary supplements: They contain nutrients derived from food and usually come in liquid, capsules, or powder form. They are regulated by the FDA, although differently from drugs.

• Functional Foods: Fortified, enriched, or improved dietary components that may reduce the risk of chronic disease and provide an additional health benefit.

• Medicinal foods: used to treat a specific disease or condition (diagnosed by a doctor and administered under his supervision).


General benefits attributed to the use of nutraceuticals

• Creation of specialized formulas

• Improved palatability

• Improved nutritional quality

• Improved nutrient digestibility and bioavailability

• Increased antioxidant defenses

• Improves cell proliferation, gene expression, and protection of mitochondrial integrity

• Prevention of chronic diseases

• Delayed aging

• Increased life expectancy

• Reduction of probability of contracting diabetes and renal or gastrointestinal disorders


Most popular nutraceuticals

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Coming from fish oils such as salmon and anchovy, for example, they are the most used and on which the most studies have been carried out. They are used to enhance essential nutritional functions and for their beneficial effects on the immune system response. In addition, it is said that they slow down the aging process.

Vitamin cocktails

The dietary supplement with various antioxidant vitamins (C, E, L-carnitine, lipoic acid, glutathione, etc.) is considered beneficial in periods of stress for the animal such as pregnancy, lactation, exercise, aging, and obesity, among others.


The problem of nutraceuticals? Their loophole

It appears that nutraceuticals have more than one health benefit for animals; however, there is a universal problem: there is still no legal definition for them. This results in manufacturers not having specific legal indications on their use. Thus, they also do not have to prove their benefits or where they get them.

The truth is that not enough information is yet known to confirm that these compounds provide the attributed benefits, so it is impossible to define doses and mechanisms to achieve a particular result. Nowadays, the dosage nutraceuticals usage is an uncertain and empirical process.

In cases of plant extracts such as: Vaccinium Myrtillus (European blueberry), Curcuma longa (turmeric), Echinacea Angustifolia (echinacea), or Silybum marianum (milk thistle), the difficulty is twofold; they not only represent a challenge for the correct dosage but also for its standardization.

The same goes for propolis: a resinous mixture that bees collect from various botanical sources. Its composition has more than 300 identified active components, and despite being a promising nutraceutical due to benefits associated with its components such as immunomodulators, antioxidants, and antimicrobials, more research is needed on its effect on dogs and cats.


In conclusion

We know that, in 2019, North America was the segment that presented the most participation in the use of nutraceuticals for their pets. The increasing number of one-person families, the rising cost of veterinary medicine, and the late aging of the pet population are some of the principal causes that push owners to seek natural and organic preventive alternatives.

Consumers' preference for this type of product undoubtedly leads us to rethink the strategies and mechanisms we use in the pet food manufacturing process and what role nutraceuticals play in each of them.

However, consumer pressure has meant that today (and we proudly say it!), the most important thing in the pet food industry is to improve formulas. Now, we offer diets based on conscientious, scientific nutrition. That is a battle that we have all won through hard work, research, and dedication.

What do you think of these components? We invite you to share your opinion in the comments.


By: All Pet Food

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