The father of nutraceuticals: “The placebo effect is real”

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Veteran researcher Dr Stephen de Felice invented the term ‘nutraceutical’ in 1989 and ever since he has been imploring the sector to design and conduct better human clinical trials to back the medicinal potential of bodily nutritional interventions.

That said, the founder and chairman of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine and keynote speaker at this year’s Vitafoods expo and conference in Geneva next month, said nutraceuticals, like many drugs, benefitted from a placebo effect.

“Placebo is a huge positive thing with dietary supplements,”​ Dr de Felice said. “If they don’t work at all you will have a huge placebo response.”

Tackling the cultural “blindspot”

While that effect is real, he said there needed to be a cultural shift in the nutrition sector to engage in more pharma-style research of the kind required by the European Food Safety Authority to back health claims in the European Union.

“The pharmaceutical industry is a clinical research-driven culture. The nutrition food industry is not a research-driven culture. It’s based on scientific evidence here, maybe a little clinical data there…”

Dr de Felice said the market could, “triple or quadruple easily in a short period of time”​ if better clinical data could be gathered.

Dr de Felice is the keynote speaker at the Vitafoods conference and expo in Geneva, Switzerland. It runs from May 22-24.

Related topics: Research, Product claims

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1 comment

There is no placebo effect

Posted by Bill Sardi,

There is no such thing as placebo effect. This was proven by researchers in Germany who wound that placebo always produced the same effect as "no treatment." The body does heal itself and any agent may appear to work because of that, but that is not a placebo effect. There are some irreversible conditions that are reversed with nutriceuticals. What Dr de Felice says is that there isn't enough research to validate nutriceuticals. But great research doesn't equate with sales. Pycnogenol has a body of over 300 positive scientific studies but is mired as a poor selling botanical extract. There are 350 brands of resveratrol pills, but only two that have undergone human trials. Most of the industry relies upon borrowed science.

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