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Liposomes, nutraceuticals, nootropics, extra virgin, and fermentation: What’s in a name?

What is an adaptogen?

An adaptogen is a substance that interacts with the body in a positive way to restore balance (homeostasis) in circumstances of stress. This reduces the effects of stress on the body, making it less taxing. Modulating stress affects various systems and functions in the body. These involve hormones, neurotransmitters, mood and sleep. Adaptogens are mostly herbs. The following three criteria are used to identify an adaptogen:

  1. Produces a non-specific reaction, and increases bodily resistance against a wide range of harmful stimuli.
  2. Results in a normalizing response after exposure to physiological, emotional, or mental stressors.
  3. Is non-toxic and does not cause substantial changes in the physiological, emotional or mental state of a person in non-stressful situations.

What is a nutraceutical?

The term nutraceutical is a contraction of the words "nutrition" and "pharmaceutical". It describes a large group of products that are derived from food but also have very specific health effects. As example, herbs, vitamins and minerals, nutraceuticals fall under the umbrella term of dietary supplements. Well-known examples of nutraceuticals are palmitoylethanolamide, R-alpha-lipoic acid, and n-acetyl-cysteine.

What are nootropics?

A nootropic is a dietary supplement (or a substance with a different classification) that specifically affects the functioning of the brains. A nootropic supplement often contains a synergistic formulation but it can also consist of a single substance consisting used on its own. There are six classifications of nootropics.

  1. Medications
  2. Substances that act to protect nerve and brain tissue (called neuro-protective agents)
  3. Substances that stimulate blood flow to the brains
  4. Substances that modulate specific neurotransmitters
  5. Specific nutrients derived from herbs and food
  6. Adaptogens

What is the blood-brain barrier?

In circumstances of threat the brain invokes various specific protection mechanisms. The skull provides protection against outside dangers. Against dangers from within, the blood-brain barrier is the first line of defense.

The blood-brain barrier is literally the boundary between the circulatory system and brain tissue. The blood-brain barrier can be viewed as a border crossing, where beneficial substances are selectively granted access and harmful substances selectively denied access.

This border patrolling affects the functioning and effectiveness of dietary supplements. Difference in molecular form may make a huge difference. For example, liposomal magnesium or magnesium threonate are better absorbed in the brain than is, for example, magnesium citrate.

What is a liposome?

Liposomes resemble hollow balloons, but at a macro-molecular level. The advantage of liposomes is that as carriers of active ingredients they are able to make transport and absorption of nutritional supplements more effective. Liposomes are used to make so-called nano-capsules, composed of phospholipids forming a protective outside and an active substance on the inside. Enclosed active ingredients may be anything from R-alpha-lipoic acid to vitamin C. This technology is called micro-encapsulation.

Liposomes make for only one of a number of similar innovative ways to encapsulate active substances, including micelles, fat droplets, nano-emulsions and polymer matrices.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a natural process in which micro-organisms are used to make a food product. In the fermentation process, bacteria, fungi or yeasts convert components that make up a food source. This affects acidity, taste, smell and/or appearance. Examples of commonly used fermentation-based products include kefir, beer and sauerkraut. Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, fermentation is different from rotting. Rotting implies that cells of food sources decompose under oxygen-rich conditions. Fermentation, the other hand, is a form of chemical conversion under low-oxygen conditions.

What is extra virgin?

The term extra virgin hails from the olive oil industry but it can be applied to any oil. In essence, extra virgin oil is cold-pressed and unrefined. Extra virgin product variants are rightly advertised as premium products because their quality and nutritional value is higher than that of refined or heated variants. Other requirements for an extra virgin label include the oil not to have been fermented or artificially purified.

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