Nutraceutical properties of fats and oil

Nutraceuticals play an important role in our changing lifestyle as they are used for various reasons like improving health, delaying aging process, preventing chronic diseases and aiding in many body functions.

What are Nutraceuticals?

The word Nutraceuticals has been coined by Stephen DeFelice. Nutraceuticals are components present in food that provide certain benefits to the body like the prevention and treatment of various diseases.

Nutraceuticals are emerging as a potent therapeutic supplement and as an essential nutrient which regulates biochemical metabolites and phyto-hormones in the body. Nutraceuticals are typically consumed as a part of human diet and are normally present within foods, vegetable oils at low levels and in variable compositions. Nutraceuticals are also present in natural foods like citrus fruits, cereals dairy products, herbs, milk and dairy products. Apart from these, lipids have appeared as a component of nutraceutical products.

A functional food for an individual can represent as a nutraceutical for some other individual. Some examples of nutraceuticals are fortified dairy products like milk, yoghurt, etc and citrus fruit based juices for e.g. orange juice.

Lipid functional foods can be classified into –

  • Fatty acid (omega-3 and omega-6)
  • Fat soluble vitamins
  • Structured lipids
  • Food supplements.

Lipids have emerged as functional food because they maintain energy balance and lower the risk of diseases. Lipids include fats and oils where fats are solid and oils are liquid at room temperature. Lipids are important for a healthy and balanced diet. They are necessary in prevention of cardiovascular, neurologic and obesity related diseases. They are a great source of essential fatty acids as well (omega-3 and omega-6).

Let’s discuss further about, what are fats?

Fat is usually any ester of fatty acid or a mixture of such compound. Fats are specially referred to triglycerides which are a main component of vegetable oil and fatty tissues in animals. Milk, butter, bacon, lard are some of the common sources of fats. They are main source of food energy and have significant importance in metabolic and structural functions like energy storage and thermal insulation.

What are oils?

Oil is a non-polar chemical substance which is viscous at room temperature. Sources of oils are from animal, plants and petrochemicals. Most oils are unsaturated lipids at room temperature. They are used in preparing food, for medical purposes, for lubrication, in making paints, plastics and other materials.

Sources of omega 3 are mainly marine oils. Oilseeds with high content of polyunsaturated fat and omega-6 are common vegetable oils such as soybean, sunflower, cotton which are in non-hydrogenated form. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been proven to show positive heart and brain health benefits.

Oils from tree nuts are being used in nutraceutical and cosmetic products mainly for their higher amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids. They also have high amounts of essential polyunsaturated lipids such as linoleic acid and linolenic fatty acids in them. Vegetable-oil based Nano formulations have bioactive compounds with nutraceutical properties which aids in prevention and management of diseases. These bio actives are known for constructively enhancing the drug effectiveness. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) of omega 3 lipid act as nutraceutical and functional foods along with being a major nutrient source.

Rice bran is a powerful antioxidant having tocotrienol and gamma oryzanol which are health beneficial compounds. Rice bran oil lowers cholesterol in hypercholesteremic adults. The reduction in cholesterol is mainly due to unsaponifiable compound of rice bran.

Canola oil is a medium chain triglyceride and a phytosterol which helps in reducing LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol and helps in maintaining a healthy weight. Soy oil and fish oil may also help in preventing heart attacks. Flaxseed oil has a high content of unsaturated fatty acid. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is present up to 52% in flaxseed Taking a daily supplement reduces the risk of suffering from a deadly cardiovascular event.

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