Frequently Asked Questions
What are Nutraceuticals?
Nutraceuticals - often referred to as phytochemicals or functional foods - are natural, bioactive chemical compounds that have health promoting, disease preventing or medicinal properties.
Nutraceuticals are products that are isolated or purified from foods and generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with food (tablets, capsules, drops) that may have physiological benefits and/or have the ability to reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions (Health Canada, 1998).
Examples of nutraceuticals include fish oils, soy isoflavones and canola phytosterols. Since nutraceuticals are sold in medicinal form and not consumed as food, they are often classified as natural health products.
What are Free Radicals?
Free Radicals are defined as an atom or group of atoms that has at least one unpaired electron and is therefore unstable and highly reactive. In animal tissues, free radicals can damage cells and are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related diseases.
Free radicals in the human body are unstable electrically charged molecules that are generated when oxygen and ultraviolet light interact with water and proteins and other molecules inside human cells. These free radicals in turn damage other molecules and a cascade of injury develops. This cascade can damage DNA, cell membranes, collagen and elastin, which results in premature aging of the skin and the organism as a whole.
Free radicals are generated in the very act of breathing and are a by-product of this process. The human system has developed a mechanism for neutralizing these potentially harmful chemicals. This system consists of natural antioxidants also known as free radical scavengers. When more free radicals are generated than can be neutralized the system or organism is said to undergo oxidative stress. These excess free radicals then damage our genes resulting in mutations that can have cancerous potential or can lead to an acceleration of degenerative diseases or premature aging of our skin.
We live in a polluted environment that allows our skin to come in contact with ingested, inhaled, and cutaneously absorbed pollutants. These pollutants increase the number of free radicals that cannot be neutralized by the natural system, and nearby molecules get damaged. Ultraviolet light can act in a similar fashion and produce large quantities of free radicals that lead to accelerated damage. The constant exposure of the skin to excess free radicals leads to further activation of enzymes involved in causing inflammation. The inflammation can then cause activation of matrix metalloproteinase’s, otherwise known as collagenases. These collagenase enzymes break down the normal structure of collagen, which contribute to the sagging skin of prematurely aged individuals.
What are Cosmeceuticals?
Cosmeceutical products are marketed as cosmetics; they normally contain biologically active ingredients. Examples include anti-wrinkle skin creams with ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid and dimethylaminoethanol and creams containing cellular replenishment serum that are purported to have protective and anti-aging properties. Moisturizers and sunscreens are other well-known types of cosmeceuticals.
While the cosmeceuticals are the fastest growing segment of the multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry, the United States Food and Drug Administration does not currently recognize cosmeceuticals, and while drugs are subject to a review and approval process by FDA, cosmeceuticals are not.
Additional Information: Cosmeceutical Market Opportunities