What are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties. There are more than thousand known phytochemicals. It is well-known that plant produce these chemicals to protect itself but recent research demonstrate that they can protect humans against diseases. Some of the well-known phytochemicals are lycopene in tomatoes, isoflavones in soy and flavanoids in fruits. They are not essential nutrients and are not required by the human body for sustaining life.
How do phytochemicals work?
There are many phytochemicals and each works differently. These are some possible actions:
•Antioxidant - Most phytochemicals have antioxidant activity and protect our cells against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Phytochemicals with antioxidant activity: allyl sulfides (onions, leeks, garlic), carotenoids (fruits, carrots), flavonoids (fruits, vegetables), polyphenols (tea, grapes).
•Hormonal action - Isoflavones, found in soy, imitate human estrogens and help to reduce menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.
•Stimulation of enzymes - Indoles, which are found in cabbages, stimulate enzymes that make the estrogen less effective and could reduce the risk for breast cancer. Other phytochemicals, which interfere with enzymes, are protease inhibitors (soy and beans), terpenes (citrus fruits and cherries).
•Interference with DNA replication - Saponins found in beans interfere with the replication of cell DNA, thereby preventing the multiplication of cancer cells. Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, protects DNA from carcinogens.
•Anti-bacterial effect - The phytochemical allicin from garlic has anti-bacterial properties.
•Physical action - Some phytochemicals bind physically to cell walls thereby preventing the adhesion of pathogens to human cell walls. Proanthocyanidins are responsible for the anti-adhesion properties of cranberry. Consumption of cranberries will reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and will improve dental health.
How do we get enough phytochemicals?
Foods containing phytochemicals are already part of our daily diet. In fact, most foods contain phytochemicals except for some refined foods such as sugar or alcohol. Some foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruits and herbs, contain many phytochemicals. The easiest way to get more phytochemicals is to eat more fruit (blueberries, cranberries, cherries, apple,...) and vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, broccoli,...). It is recommended take daily at least 5 to 9 servings of fruits or vegetable. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in minerals, vitamins and fibre and low in saturated fat.
Future of phytochemicals
Phytochemicals are naturally present in many foods but it is expected that through bioengineering new plants will be developed, which will contain higher levels. This would make it easier to incorporate enough phytochemicals with our food.
List of phytochemicals
Flavonoids are water soluble polyphenolic molecules containing 15 carbon atoms. Flavonoids belong to the polyphenol family. Flavanoids can be visualized as two benzene rings which are joined together with a short three carbon chain. One of the carbons of the short chain is always connected to a carbon of one of the benzene rings, either directly or through an oxygen bridge, thereby forming a third middle ring, which can be five or six-membered. The flavonoids consist of 6 major subgroups: chalcone, flavone, flavonol, flavanone, anthocyanins and isoflavonoids.
Together with carotenes, flavanoids are also responsible for the coloring of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Flavonoids are found in most plant material. The most important dietary sources are fruits, tea and soybean. Green and black tea contains about 25% percent flavonoids. Other important sources of flavonoids are apple (quercetin), citrus fruits (rutin and hesperidin),
Flavonoids have antioxidant activity. Flavonoids are becoming very popular because they have many health promoting effects. Some of the activities attributed to flavonoids include: anti-allergic, anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. The flavonoids quercetin is known for its ability to relieve hay fever, eszema, sinusitis and asthma.
Epidemiological studies have illustrated that heart diseases are inversely related to flavonoid intake. Studies have shown that flavonoids prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein thereby reducing the risk for the development of atherosclerosis.
The contribution of flavonoids to the total antioxidant activity of components in food can be very high because daily intake can vary between 50 to 500 mg.
Red wine contains high levels of flavonoids, mainly quercetin and rutin. The high intake of red wine (and flavonoids) by the French might explain why they suffer less from coronary heart disease then other Europeans, although their consumption of cholesterol rich foods is higher (French paradox). Many studies have confirmed that one or two glasses of red wine daily can protect against heart disease.
Tea flavonoids have many health benefits. Tea flavonoids reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein, lowers the blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Soy flavonoids (isoflavones) can also reduce blood cholesterol and can help to prevent osteoporis. Soy flavonoids are also used to ease menopausal symptoms.
A flavonoid fraction from cranberry extract inhibits proliferation of human tumor cell lines
Flavonoids and Heart Health: Proceedings of the ILSI North America Flavonoids Workshop, May 31-June 1, 2005, Washington (USA)
Pure epicatechin is an odorless white powder. Epcatechin is a flavonol belonging to the group of flavonoids.
Epicatechin is present in many plants. High quantities can be found in cocoa, tea and grapes.
Epicatechin is a strong antioxidant, has insulin mimic action and improves heart health. Dr. Norman Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School found that Kuna indians, who live on the San Blas Island Chain in Panama and drink high quantities of cocoa drinks, have a lower risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes compored to the Indians living on the mainland. Dr. Norman Hollenberg even suggests to consider epicatechin as a vitamin.
Attenuation of diabetes
Studies show that epicatechin and other flavonoids exert a protective role on osmotic fragility of cells, similar to that of insulin. The mechanism of action of epicatechin is different to that of insulin and remains speculative. In diabetic red blood cells epicatechin causes an increase in acetylcholinesterase activity. This activity is significantly lower in type 2 diabetic patients.
Epicatechin reduces lipid peroxidation and inhibits platelet aggregation. Epicatechin cause blood vessel dilation by regulating nitric oxide, a molecule secreted by the blood vessel endothelium to signal surrounding muscle to relax.
Dietary Polyphenols and Health: Proceedings of the 1ste International Conference on Polyphenols and Health
(2R,3R)-2-(3,4-Dihydroxyphenyl) -3,4-dihydro-1(2H) -benzopyran-3,5,7-triol; cis-3,3',4',5,7-Pentahydroxyflavane; Epicatechol; epi-Catechin;epi-Catechol;
Ellagic acid is a fused four-ring polyphenol. Pure ellagic acid is a cream to light yellow crystalline solid.
Ellagic acid is present in many red fruits and berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, pomegranate and some nuts including pecans and walnuts. The highest levels of ellagic acid are found in raspberries. In plants ellagic acid is present in the form of ellagitannin, which is ellagic acid bound to a sugar molecule.
Ellagic acid has antioxidant, anti-mutagen and anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown the anti-cancer activity on cancer cells of the breast, oesophagus, skin, colon, prostate and pancreas. More specifically, ellagic acid prevents the destruction of P53 gene by cancer cells. Ellagic acid can bind with cancer causing molecules, thereby making them inactive. In their studie The effects of dietary ellagic acid on rat hepatic and esophageal mucosal cytochromes P450 and phase II enzymes. Ahn D et al showed that ellagic acid causes a decrease in total hepatic mucosal cytochromes and an increase in some hepatic phase II enzyme activities, thereby enhancing the ability of the target tissues to detoxify the reactive intermediates. Ellagic acid showed also a chemoprotective effect against various chemically induced cancers.
A study by Thresiamma KC and Kuttan R.Indian (Indian Journal Physiology and Pharmacology, 1996 October) indicate that oral administration of ellagic acid by rats can circumvent the carbon tetrachloride toxicity and subsequent fibrosis of the liver. Ellagic acid has also antiviral and antibacterial activities.
Facts about Ellagic Acid
Plants produce ellagic acid to protect themselves from microbiological infection and pests.
Pomegranate Juice Ellagitannin Metabolites Are Present in Human Plasma and Some Persist in Urine for Up to 48 Hours
Chemoprevention of esophageal tumorigenesis by dietary administration of lyophilized black raspberries.
Benzoaric acid, eleagic acid, elagostasine, gallogen.
Curcumin is a a water soluble orange-yellow coloured powder. Curcumin is one of three curcuminoids of turmeric. The other two curcuminoids are demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
Curcumin is obtained by solvent extraction from dried turmeric roots.
Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal actions. Studies have shown that curcumin is not toxic to humans. Curcumin exerts anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play an important role in inflammation. Turmeric is effective in reducing post-surgical inflammation. Turmeric helps to prevent atherosclerosis by reducing the formation of bloods clumps.
Curcumin inhibits the growth of Helicobacter pylori, which causes gastric ulcers and has been linked with gastric cancers.
Curcumin can bind with heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, thereby reducing the toxicity of these heavy metals. This property of curcumin explains its protective action to the brain. Curcumin acts as an inhibitor for cyclooxygenase, 5-lipoxygenase and glutathione S-transferase.
Facts about Curcumin
Curcumin is used many foods as colouring, including mustard, margarine, processed cheese, cakes, curry powder, soft drinks and sweets.
1,7-Bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione, turmeric yellow
Coumarin is a phytochemical with a vanilla like flavour. Coumarin is a oxygen heterocycle. Coumarin can occur either free or combined with the sugar glucose (coumarin glycoside).
Coumarin is found in several plants, including tonka beans, lavender, licorice, strawberries, apricots, cherries, cinnamon, and sweet clover.
Coumarin has blood-thinning, anti-fungicidal and anti-tumor activities. Coumarin should not be taken while using anticoagulants. Coumarin increases the blood flow in the veins and decreases capillary permeability. Coumarin can be toxic when used at high doses for a long period
Facts about Coumarin
Coumarin seems to work as a pesticide in the plants that produce it. Coumarin is responsible for the sweet smell of new mown hay.
Caffeine is a water-soluble alkaloid. Pure caffeine is a white odourless crystalline powder with a very bitter taste. Caffeine is closely related to other alkaloids such as theophylline (mainly found in tea) and theobromine (mainly found in cacao beans). The difference between these three molecules is the position of the methyl groups.
Caffeine is found in many everyday products, including tea, cola nuts, coffee, chocolate, mate and guarana. It is also found in some softdrinks (mainly colas and energy drinks) where it is artificially added.
Caffeine acts on the nervous system by blocking adenosine receptor thereby slowing down nerve cell acitivity. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, respiration and blood circulation. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic. Caffeine increases the circulation and oxidation of fatty acids. This is why caffeine is used by sportsmen to increase fatty acid metabolism. Caffeine is often used in combination with aspirin to treat headaches. Caffeine can also have negative impact on health, especially if overdosed. There is evidence that too much caffeine can reduce bone density and caffeine is not recommended for pregnant women. Moderation is the key to caffeine consumption.
Facts about Caffeine
Caffeine containing plants have been used by different cultures over centuries. Tea from caffeine containing plants was used to treat headaches, coughs and even plague. Only recently caffeine is used to stay awake and relieve fatigue. Caffeine is now one of the most widely used phytochemical.
Caffeine is not addictive but it can be habbit forming. Although caffeine is not toxic to humans in normal levels, it is very toxic to animals, such as dogs and horses.
Beta-sitosterol is a phytosterols or plant sterol. The structure of beta-sitosterol is similar to that of cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol differs from cholesterol by the presence of an extra ethyl group
There are many plant sources of beta-sitosterol, but the most important are wheat germ, rice bran, flax seeds, peanuts, soybeans, pumpkin seeds and corn oil. Muli and co-workers showed that a plant-based diet, rich in fibre, soy and flax seed, can increase serum levels of beta-sitosterol.
Beta-sitosterol is mainly known and used for its cholesterol lowering property. But studies have shown that the phytochemical may have other health benefits: easing symptoms of benign prostatic enlargement, reducing risk of cancer and prevention of oxidative damage through its antioxidant activity.
Epidemiological and experimental studies have suggested a protective role of beta-sitosterol in the development of some types of cancer such as breast, colon and prostate cancer. In-vivo studies have shown that the phytochemical inhibited proliferation and induce apoptosis in human solid tumors such as colon and breast cancers. The studies about the protective effect of beta-sitosterol on breast cancer only involved in-vitro experiments using cultured breast cancer cells. These studies clearly show that the phytochemicals kills breast cancer cells and is not toxic to normal cell. Clinical studies linking beta-sitosterol and breast cancer are still missing but some scientists suggest that it may improve the efficiency of tamoxifen, a drug often used to treat breast cancer.
Beta-sitosterol is an antioxidant able to reduce DNA damage, reduce the level of free radical in our cells and to increase the level of typical antioxidant enzymes.
Regular intake of beta-sitosterol may reduce blood cholesterol levels by directly inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol also prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
Clinical studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of beta-sitosterol in patients with prostate enlargement. The phytochemical decreases post-void residual urinary volume and increases urinary flow rate in these patients.
(3beta)-stigmast-5-en-3-ol, 22:23-dihydrostigmasterol, alpha-dihydrofucosterol, cinchol, cupreol, rhamnol, quebrachol and sitosterin.
Beta-carotene is the most common form of carotene and belongs to the group of terpenoids. Pure beta-carotene is red to purple colored oil. It is not soluble in water. Beta-carotene which is used in drinks is encapsulated with starch or gelatin to make it soluble.
Beta-carotene occurs in colored fruits and vegetables such as mango, apricot, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash and collard greens.
Beta-carotene has received a lot of attention as potential anti-cancer and anti-aging phytochemical. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. Studies indicate that diets low in beta-carotene can increase the body's susceptibility to damage from free radicals, resulting in an increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancers. Beta-carotene supplements may help reduce sun induced skin damage. Smokers should avoid large doses of beta carotene supplements. Beta-carotene is one of the many carotenoids that our body can convert into vitamin A (retinol).
Beta-carotene acts as an anti-cancer agent through its antioxidant property but it also seems to stimulate cell to cell communication. Poor communication between cells may eventually lead to cancer. However, beta-carotene may cause adverse effects on smokers. Two studies indicate that heavy smokers and drinkers may have an increased risk of lung cancer or heart disease, when taking daily more than 20 mg synthetic beta-carotene as supplements. A study by Harvard School of Public Health published in January 2004 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention indicates that beta-carotene consumed as part of natural foods has no such negative effects.
Studies have demonstrated that beta-carotene may be used for skin protection: it reduces UV-induced redness of the skin and improves melasma. Beta-carotene is often use in supplements or topical creams to protect our skin. Too much intake of beta-carotene can result in carotenodermia, a condition that shows a yellowish discoloration of the skin. This is reversible and harmless.
Epidemiological studies show that beta-carotene may improve our heart health by decreasing blood pressure. Beta-carotene may also help to prevent arteriosclerosis by inhibiting the oxidation of lipids.
Facts about Beta-Carotene
Beta-Carotene is a yellow pigment naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables. It also known as a provitamin because it can be converted in our body into vitamin A after oxidative cleavage by beta-carotene 15, 150-dioxygenase. In plants, beta-carotene, acts as an anti-oxidant and neutralizes singlet oxygen radicals formed during photosynthesis. Cooking improves the availability of carotenoids in foods. However, prolonged cooking should be avoided to prevent the formation of change of beta-carotene into the cis-configuration.
Astaxanthin is a red carotenoid pigment. Astaxanthin is similar in structure than beta-carotene. The small differences in structure causes large differences in the chemical properties
Astaxanthin is produced by microscopic small plants: the micro-alga Haematococcus pluvialis. Haematococcus algae can contain up to 30 g of astaxanthin per kg dried algae. These micro-alga are eaten by marine animals including fish, crawfish, crabs and lobster. The Astaxanthin is responsible for the red colour of these animals. Another commercial source is from the ink coloured yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous.
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant. The free radical scavenging activity of astaxanthin protects lipids from peroxidation and reduces oxidative damage of LDL-cholesterol (thereby reducing arterial plaque formation), cells, cell membranes, mitochondrial membranes. Astaxanthin increases strength and endurance.
Astaxanthin seems to improve the immune system by increasing the number of antibody producing cells. Astaxanthin enhances antibody production by exerting actions on T-cells and T-helper cells. Astaxanthin is used to treat neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson?s disease.
Astaxanthin protects the eyes and skin from sun radiation damage by quenching singlet and triplet oxygen. Studies with rats show that astaxanthin reduces retinal injury.
Studies have shown the anti-cancer effects of astaxanthin in rodents. The inhibitory effect of astaxanthin on cancer is stronger han that of beta-carotene.
Facts about Astaxanthin
Most Astaxanthin is not extracted from the marine plants but is chemically produced. In commercial fish and crustacean farms, chemically produced astaxanthin is added to feeds in order to improve the colour.
Allicin is garlic's defence mechanism against attacks by pests. When the garlic plant is attacked or injured it produces allicin by an enzymatic reaction. The enzyme alliinase, converts the chemical alliin to allicin, which is toxic to insects and microorganisms. The antimicrobial acivity of allicin was discovered in 1944 by Cavallito. Purified allicin is not sold commercially because it is not stable and has an offensive odour. Allicin extracted from garlic loses its beneficial properties within hours and turns into other sulphur containing compounds. Diallyl trisulfade, which is similar to allicin but is chemically produced, is stable and is used for treatment bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections.
Allicin is the predominant thiosulfinate in garlic (Allium sativum). Allicin is the chemical responsible for the typical and offensive odor of garlic.
The antimicrobial effect of allicin is due to its chemical reaction with thiol groups of various enzymes.
The incidence of gastric ulcers is lower in populations with high garlic intake. Studies have confirmed that allicin has inhibitory activity on Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria responsible for the development of gastric ulcers. The sensitivity of Helicobacter pylori to allicin might also explain the lower risk of stomach cancer in people with high garlic intake. A study by Ankri et al (1997) demonstrated that allicin inhibited the ability of the parasite Entamoeba histolytica to destroy monolayers of baby hamster kidney cells.
Allicin is not bioavailable and will not get absorbed in the blood, even after ingesting large amounts of allicin.
Intake of Garlic and its Bioactive Components
The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic.
Pharmacologic activities of aged garlic extract in comparison with other garlic preparations.
Bergamot, carrot, coriander, lavender, lemon, lime, nutmeg, orange, rose, blueberry and blackberry.
Geraniol is a natural antioxidant. Geraniol has been suggested to help prevent cancer. Carnesecchi S. et al demonstrated in his study "Geraniol, a component of Plant Essential Oils, Inhibits Grwoth and Polyamine Biosyntehsis in Human Colon Cancer Cells", (Pharmacology, July 2001) that geraniol caused a 50% increase of ornithine decarboxylase activity, which is enhances during cancer growth. Geraniol inhibits DNA synthesis.
Burk YD concluded in his study "Inhibition of Pancreatic Cancer Growth by the dietary isoprenoids farnesol and geraniol" (Lipids, February 1997) that geraniol, farnesol and perilll alcohol suppress pancreatic tumor growth.
Other animal studies have also demonstrated the anticancer effects of geraniol.
Facts about Geraniol
Geraniol is mainly used in perfumery and flavouring.
Lemonol, beta-Geraniol, trans-3,7-Dimethyl-2,6-octadien-1-ol
Hydroxytyrosol is believed to be the antioxidant with the highest free radical scavenging capacity: double that of quercetin and more than 3 times that of epicatechin. The wastewaters generated during olive processing contain a high levels hydroxytyrosol, most of which can be recovered to produce hidroxytyrosol extracts. Studies by Visioli et al (2000) showed that a low dose of hydroxytyrosol reduces the consequences of sidestream smoke-induced oxidative stress in rats.
Hydroxytyrosol is the main polyphenol found in olives.
Hydroxytyrosol has the same health promoting properties than other polyphenols: prevention of atherosclerosis, promotion of intestinal and respiratory health and prevention of cancer. Hydroxytyrosol also reduces the oxidative stress caused by smoking.
Benefits of Hydroxytyrosol
In Vivo Studies about Antioxidant Properties of Hydroxytyrosol
In Vitro Studies about Antioxidant Properties of Hydroxytyrosol
Cancer and Hydroxystyrosol
Influence of Hydroxystyrol on Heart Disease
Pure indole-3-Carbinol is an off-white solid belonging to the group of indoles. Indole-3-carbinol is only formed in these vegetable after crushing or during cooking.
The phytochemical indole-3-carbinol is found in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts. Indole-3-carbinol is made from indole-3-glucosinolate by the enzyme myrosinase. This enzyme is only activated after maceration of the vegetables.
Indole-3-carbinol and its main metabolite diindoylmethane modulates several nuclear transcription factors resulting in a variety of biological and biochemical effects. Indole-3-carbinol works as a strong antioxidant, thereby protecting the DNA and other cell structures.
Indole-3-carbinol has chemopreventive activity and stimulates the production of detoxifying enzymes. The phytochemical protects against carcinogenic effect of pesticides and other toxins.
The anticancer effects of indole-3-carbinol and its metabolite diindoylmethane are the result of specific activities: inducing enzymes that metabolize carcinogens, enhancing DNA repair, inducing G1 cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Indole-3-carbinol blocks estrogen receptor sites on the membranes of breast and other cells, thereby reducing the risk of cervical and breast cancer. Indole-3-carbinol increases the ratio of 2-hydroxyestrone to 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone and inhibits the 4-hydroxylation of estradiol. This is a favourable action of indole-3-carbinol because 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone and 4-hydroxyestrone have carcinogenic action. The estrogen metabolite 2-hydroxyestrone has protective against several types of cancer. Studies with animals have demonstrated that indole-3-carbinol reduced the carcinogenic affects of aflatoxins. The influence of indole-3-carbinol on the development of prostate cancer is less clear. Most studies report protective effects but a few studies indicate that indole-3-carbinol may promote prostate cancer formation. Treatment of skin cancer cells with ultraviolet-B results in the apoptosis of their apoptosis, a favorable effect that seems to be stimulated by indole-3-carbinol. Some studies also show a beneficial effect on the treatment of skin cancer.
A few studies demonstrate the beneficial effects of indole-3-carbinol on lipid synthesis and platelet aggregation, suggesting that this phytochemical could help to improve heart health.
I3C, 3-hydroxymethyl indole, 3-indole methanol
Pure limonene is a clear liquid. Limonene is a monoterpene, made up of two isoprene units. Limonene occurs in two optically active forms, l-limonene and d-limonen. Both isomers have different odours: l-limonene smells piney and turpentine like and d-limonene has a pleasing orange scent.
Limonene is found in the essential oils of citrus fruits and many other plant species. Industrial limonene is produced by by alkali extraction of citrus residues and steam distillation. This distillate contains more than 90% d-limonene.
Studies have shown that limonene have anti- cancer effects. Limonen increase the levels of liver enzymes involved in detoxifying carcinogens. The Glutathione S-transferase (GST) is a system which eliminates carcinogens. Limonene seems to promote the GST system in the liver and small bowel, thereby decreasing the damaging effects of carcinogens. Animal studies demonstrated that dietary limonene reduced mammary tumor growth.
Facts about Limonene
Limonene is also used as a solvent and cleaner. It can replace white spirit and other solvents.
Methyl-4-isopropenyl cyclohexene, Cajaputene, Carvene, Cinene, Dipentene, Efchole
Lutein is an antioxidant, which belongs to the carotenoid family. Lutein is a yellow coloured pigment. Although lutein is not categorized as a vitamin, dietary lutein is believed to be an essential nutrient for normal vision. Because lutein is fat soluble, a deficiency may occur if fat digestion is impaired.
Lutein is found in egg yolk and many plants and vegetables, including red peppers, mustard, broccoli, zucchini, corn, garden peas, spinach, leek, collard greens and kale. Lutein is responsible for the colouring of many fruits and vegetables.
Lutein is an antioxidant which is believed to be an essential nutrient for normal vision. The protective role of lutein against eye damage is well document. Studies have also indicated that lutein improves heart health, protects our skin against UV damage, reduces diabetes induced oxidative stress, and possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
The central part of the retina, called the macula, contains macular pigments in which lutein is concentrated. The yellow coloured pigments protect the retina from damage of the photo-oxidative affect of high-energy light. Lutein offers eye protection by lowering the risk of age related vision loss, which causes gradual loss of central vision. Age related vision loss or age related macular degeneration is caused by steady damage of the retina.
Lutein can also reduce the risk for artery diseases. Studies have shown that persons with the highest lutein intake showed the lowest artery wall thickening. Lutein also reduces the oxidation of LDL cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of artery clogging.
Lutein can also reduce the risk of skin cancer and sunburn. Under influence of sunlight, free radicals are formed inside the skin. These free radicals can damage the DNA of cells. Lutein can protect against the damaging effects of UV-B radiation.
Lycopene belongs to the family of carotenoids. It has a structure that consists of a long chain of conjugated double bonds, with two open end rings. The structure lycopene is the longest of all carotenoids
Lycopene is the red pigement of ripe tomatoes. Tomatoes contribute over 85% of the lycopene intake by women (Chug-Ahuja, 1993). Lycopene is also found in guava, pink grapefruit, red oranges and watermelon
Lycopene is a very efficient antioxidant, which can neutralize oxygen derived free radicals. The oxidative damage caused by these free radicals has been linked to many degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, premature aging, cancer and cataracts. In many countries it is legally allowed to advertise foods containing tomato lycopene as "containing antioxidants for the maintenance and support of healthy cells". Lycopene is generally known for its protective action against prostate cancer.
In vitro-studies have shown the anti-cancer properties of lycopene against many cancer cells, including cancer cells of prostate, stomach, lung, colon and skin. There are numerous studies about the effect of lycopene on cancer and prostate cancer in particular. Using Pubmed as a retrieval base, more than 80 scientific studies have the names lycopene and prostate in their title. Most of the in-vitro experiments using cultured prostate cancer cells demonstrate a protective effect. However, most literature review studies or clinical studies are less conclusive and often contradictory. Lycopene also shows anti-mutagenic action against chemically induced DNA damage.
Antibacterial and antifungal
Lycopene possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lycopene can help to reduce inflammation of the gums and can help to fight infections of Candida albicans.
Diabetes patients may suffer from complications as vascular disease, diabetic neuropathies or infections. Lycopene helps to protect diabetes patients against cardiovascular disease and may improve the immune response.
However, the consumption of lycopene seems not to reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus type 2.
Lycopene has a structure similar to that of the well-known antioxidant beta-carotene, but its antioxidant activity is much stronger. Treatment of cells will lycopene protects cells against DNA damage and lipid peroxidation.
Lycopene inhibits platelet aggregation and reduces the production of foam cells which play an important role in the development of arteriosclerosis. Lycopene helps to prevent arteriosclerosis by reducing inflammatory agents in rats increased risk of venous thrombosis.
In laboratory conditions, lycopene shows antitoxic properties against many toxins such as aflatoxin, cyclosporine and cadmium.
In plants phytic acid is the principal store of phosphate. Phytic acid is a natural plant antioxidant
Phytic acid can be found in most grains, seeds and beans. Rich sources of phytic acid are wheat bran and flaxseed (3 % phytic acid).
Phytic acid has been considered as an anti-nutritional component in cereals, seeds and beans. Research has traditionally focused on its structure that gives it the ability to bind minerals, proteins and starch, and the resulting lower absorption of these elements. However, resent research have shown that phytic acid has many health benefits. Phytic acid has antioxidant, anticancer, hypocholesterolemic and hypolipidemic effects.
Anticancer effect of phytic acid
In animal studies phytic acid showed a protective action in carcinogenesis. This action could be explained by its mineral chelating potential. Some studies suggest that phytic acid acts as anti-cancer agent by reversing the proliferative effects of carcinogens.
Benificial for diabetic patients
Phytic acid may have health benefits for diabetes patients. It lowers blood glucose response by reducing the rate of starch digestion and slowing the gastric emptying.
Phytic acid releases inositol that during digestion. Although inositol is not an essential nutrient it might reduce depressions. Studies also show that phytic acid may reduce inflammation.
Quercetin is the most abundant of the flavonoids. Quercetin belongs to the flavonoids family and consist of 3 rings and 5 hydroxyl groups. Querctin is also a building block for other flavonoids. Quercetin occurs in food as a aglycone (attached to a sugar molecule). Only a small percentage of the ingested quercetin will get absorbed in the blood.
Quercetin is found in many common foods including apple, tea, onion, nuts, berries, cauliflower and cabbage.
Quercetin has many health promoting effects, including improvement of cardiovascular health, reducing risk for cancer. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects. All these activities are caused by the strong antioxidant action of quercetin. It will help to combat free radicals molecules, which can damage cells.
As many other flavonoids, quercetin prevents the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
The anti-inflammatory action of quercetin is caused by the inhibition of enzymes, such as lipoxygenase, and the inhibition of inflammatory mediators. Quercetin also inhibits the release of histamine, which causes congestion, by basophils and mast cells.
Studies have shown that quercetin reduces the cancer risk of prostate, ovary, breast, gastric and colon cells.
Quercetin also seems to reduce the production of uric acid, by inhibiting the xanthine oxidase, thereby easing gout symptoms.
Studies have shown an improved lung function and lower risk of certain respiratory diseases (asthma and bronchitis) for people with high apple (rich in quercetin) intake.
Dietary Intakes of Flavonols, Flavones and Isoflavones by Japanese Women and the Inverse Correlation between Quercetin Intake and Plasma LDL Cholesterol
Tissue Distribution of Quercetin in Rats and Pigs
The Effect of Quercetin on SW480 Human Colon Carcinoma Cells: a Proteomic StudyQuercetin inhibits eNOS, microtubule polymerization, and mitotic progression in bovine aortic endothelial cells.
Rat Gastrointestinal Tissues Metabolize Quercetin
Resveratrol is a flavonol belonging to the group of flavonoids. It is produced by the plant as a defence against diseases.
Resveratrol is present in many plants and fruits, including red grapes, eucalyptus, spruce, blueberries, mulberries, peanuts, giant knotweed. Also red wine contains a lot of it. The longer the grape juice is fermented with the grape skins the higher the resveratrol content will be.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant but its antioxidant properties are weaker that those of quercetin and epicatechin. It has anticancer properties and inhibits lipid peroxidation of low-density lipoprotein and prevents the cytotoxicity of oxidized LDL. Resveratrol also increases the activity of some antiretroviral drugs in vitro.
In vitro studies have shown that resveratrol inhibits the oxidative damage caused by the heavy metal cadmium. The antioxidant activity of resveratrol reduces damage to endothelial cells exposed to nitrite radicals and protects skin cells against damage caused by UV radiation.
The antioxidant action of resveratrol helps to prevent damage to DNA but it also influences the transcriptions of genes responsible for redox metabolism and inhibits proliferartion of cancer cells. Resveratrol appears to decrease tumor promotion activity by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase-1, which converts arachidonic acid to substances that promote tumor growth.
Benefits for diabetes
Resveratrol may be benificial for diabetes. Administration of resveratrol may protect against oxidative damage caused by high glucose levels. It also reduces diabetic neuropathic pain.
Resveratrol protects our heart and blood vessels by directly scavenging oxidants, which could cause oxidation of lipids, and by preventing apoptosis of endothelial cells. It may also help to prevent heart damage after a cardiac arrest. Reduced platelet aggregation has been attributes to resveratrol, thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
Increase of lifespan
Tests with animals have shown that that high food intake reduces lifespan. One study showed that resveratrol was able to able to increase the life span of mice on a high calorie diet.
Many studies on animals have shown antitoxic effects of resveratrol. Resveratrol was able to reverse damages caused by the administration of the chemotherapeutic drug bleomycin. Resveratrol also helped to reduce brain damage and oxidative damage of the liver during ethanol intoxication. It also reduced kidney damage of rats treated with the antibiotic gentamicin.
Facts about Resveratrol
Resveratrol explains partly the French Paradox: the low incidence of heart disease among French people, who eat relatively a lot of unhealthy fat but drink resveratrol containing red wine.
Resveratrol Promotes Clearance of Alzheimer's Disease
Resveratrol Inhibits TNF-alpha?Induced Proliferation and Matrix Metalloproteinase Expression in Human Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells
Rutin is a bioflavonoid. Pure rutin is yellow or yellow-green colored needle-shaped crystal. Rutin is a flavonol glycoside comprised of the quercetin and the disaccharide rutinose (rhamnose and glucose).
Rutin is found in many plants, fruits and vegetables. The richest source is buckwheat. Rutin is also found in citrus fruits, noni, black tea, apple peel. During digestion much of the rutin is metabolized to its aglycone, quercetin.
Rutin has strong antioxidant properties. Rutin has also the property to chelate metal ions, such as iron, thereby reducing the Fenton reaction (production damaging oxygen radicals). Rutin also seems to stabilize vitamin C. If rutin is taken together with vitamin C, the activity of ascorbic will be intensified.
Rutin is important because it strengthens capillaries and can help people who bruise or bleed easily. Studies have demonstrated that rutin can help to stop venous edema, that is an early sign of chronic venous disease of the leg.
Rutin has anti-inflammatory effects. Animal studies have shown that rutin has preventive and healing effects.
There are indications that rutin can inhibit some cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
Rutin may help to prevent atherogenesis and reduce the cytotoxicity of oxidized LDL-cholesterol.
Rutoside, quercetin-3-rutinoside and sophorin
Silymarin is a polyphenolic flavonoid derived from milk thistle. Silymarin consists of three phytochemicals: silybin, silidianin and silicristin. Silybin is the most active phytochemicals and is largely responsible for the claimed benefits of silymarin.
Simylarin is found in milk thistle.
Silmarin is a antioxidant or free radical scavenger. Skin care products often contain silymarin because it antioxidant activity may reduce the risk for skin cancer risk. Silymarin provides protection against different stages of UVB-induced carcinogenesis. Silymarin protects the liver by promoting the growth of new liver cells. By inhibiting lipid peroxidation silymarin helps to reduce or prevent liver damage caused by alcohol, poisonous mushrooms, drugs and other toxins. Silymarin also helps with the digestion of fats.
Silymarin is also used against HIV but there?s no evidence that silymarin is effective.
Studies indicate that silymarin decreasing endogenous insulin overproduction and the need for exogenous insulin administration. Silymarin has also anti-atherosclerotic activity, by inhibiting the expression of adhesion molecules.
Pharmacological studies show that silymarin is not toxic.
Health Benefits of Silymarin
Theobromine is an alkaloid belonging to the methylxanthines. The structure of theobromine is similar to that of caffeine.
Theobromine is mainly found in cocoa beans (about 25 g/kg), and consequently in chocolate. Theobromine levels are highest in dark chocolates (about 10 g/kg). Milk chocolates contains about 2 to 5 g theobromine per kg. (1-5 g/kg). Theobromine is also present in tea and cola nuts.
Theobromine has a similar effect than caffeine, but about 10 times weaker. Theobromine has diuretic, stimulant and relaxing effects. Theobromine can lower the blood pressure because it can to dilate blood vessels.
Theobromine has stimulant properties, similar to caffeine. Unlike caffeine theobromine does not affect the central nervous system.
Theobromine can also relax bronchi muscles in the lungs. Theobromine can be used as cough medicine. Studies indicate that theobromine acts on the vagus nerve, which runs from the lungs to the brain.
Facts about Theobromine
Although theobromine does not cause harmful effects with humans, it is highly toxic to some domestic animals, including dogs and horses. With the animals, theobromine can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and seizures.
Theobromine has a bitter flavour, which gives dark chocolate its typical bitter taste.
Ursolic acid is a is a pentacyclic triterpenoid.
Ursolic acid is present in many plants, including apples, bilberries, cranberries, elder flower, peppermint, lavender, oregano, thyme, hawthorn, prunes.
Ursolic acid has medicinally action, both topically and internally. Ursolic acid is used in many cosmetic preparations for its anti-inflammatory, antitumor and antimicrobial properties.
Ursolic acid has antibacterial and antifungal activity. Tests have shown that Ursolic acid inhibits the growth of Candida albicans and Microsporium lenosum.
Ursolic acid has anti-inflammatory properties and is used in ointments to treat burns.
Topical application of ursolic acid inhibited TPA-induced initiation and promotion of tumor growth.
Malol, micromerol, urson, prunol, (3b)-3-hydroxyurs-12-en-28-oic acid
Hesperidin is a flavanone glycoside consisting of the flavone hesperitin bound to the disaccharide rutinose. The sugar cause hesperidin to be more soluble than hesperitin.
The phytochemical hesperidin is mainly found in citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges. The highest concentration of hesperidin can be found in the white parts and pulps of the citrus peels. Hesperidin can also be found in green vegetables.
Hesperidin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic, vasoprotective and anticarcinogenic and cholesterol lowering actions. Hesperdin can inhibit following enzymes: phospholipase A2, lipoxygenase, HMG-CoA reductase and cyclo-oxygenase.
Hesperidin improves the health of capillaries by reducing the capillary permeability.
Hesperidin is used to reduce hay fever and other allergic conditions by inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells. The possible anti-cancer activity of hesperidin could be explained by the inhibition of polyamine synthesis.
A study 'Hesperidin, a citrus flavonoids, inhibits bone loss and decreases serum and hepatic lipids in ovariectomized mice' by Hiroshige Chiba et al (J. Nutrition, June 2003) showed that hesperidin added to the died not only lowered serum and hepatic cholesterol, but also inhibited bone loss by decreasing osteoclast number in ovariectomized mice. The molecular mechanism of the inhibitory effect of hesperidin on bone resorption is not clear.
Hesperetin 7-rhamnoglucoside, hesperetin-7-rutinoside
Isorhamnetin is a flavonoid, which occurs naturally in plants, but is also a metabolite of quercetin (isorhamnetin is methylated quercetin).
Red turnip, goldenrod, mustard leaf, ginkgo biloba.
Isorhamnetin is not that much studied than quercetin. However, the few that exist indicate that isorhamnetin has similar health benefits: it may reduce the risk of cancer, improve heart health and ease diabetes complications.
The anti-cancer effect of isorhamnetin has been demonstrated in in-vivo and in-vitro tests. In-vitro tests with lung cancer cells, liver cancer cells and esophageal cancer cells showed that isorhamnetin induces apoptosis of these cells. An in-vivo experiment with mice that were injected with isorhamnetin showed a reduced tumor weight.
Both quercetin and isorhamnetin help to improve heart health. They improve the endothelial function through their antioxidant action and reduce the oxidation of HDL, resulting in a decreased risk of arteriosclerosis. Isorhamnetin is a potential candidate to explain the reduction of blood pressure and vascular protective effects observed in animal models of hypertension.
Some studies have focused on the ability of isorhamnetin to attenuate diabetes complications, such as diabetic cataract, lipid peroxidation and high blood glucose levels.
Myricetin is flavonol, consisting of 3-hydroxyflavone backbone and 6 hydroxyl groups. Pure myricetin is a yellow-beige powder crystalline powder. Myricetin mainly occurs in nature in the form of glycosides.
Myricetin is found in several foods such as walnuts, onions, berries, herbs and red grapes.
Myricetin exerts a wide variety of biological effects, including antioxidant and free radical-scavenging activities. Reports indicate that myricetin has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties and may improve bone-health.
Myricetin has strong anticancer and antimutagenic properties, but it has been shown to promote mutagenesis with the use of the Ames Test. Although the anticancer property of myricetin has been attributed mainly to its antioxidant action, it has additional protective mechanisms.
Myricetin has been shown to inhibit the expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a cytokine that promotes the inflammatory response and is involved in inflammatory diseases. Myricetin glucuronide is an inhibitor of lipoxygenase 5-LOX and cyclooxygenases COX-1 and Cox-2.
Myricetin and other flavonoids may improve heart health by prevening LDL oxidation and reducing the uptake of oxidized LDL by macrophages.
Studies showed that myricetin inhibits the uptake of methylglucose by adipocytes, reduces oxidative injury in diabetes related bone diseases and reduces glucose plasma level in diabetic rats.
Myricetin may offer benefits to person with brain diseases such as Parkinson and Alzheimer's. Myricetin inhibits ROS production caused by glutamate and reduces glutamate-induced activation of caspase-3. Myricetin restored dopamine level in laboratory animals with induced Parkinsonism. Myricetin may also inhibit beta-amyloid fibril formation in Alzheimer patients.
3,3',4',5,5',7-hexahydroxyflavone, Cannabiscetin, Myricetol, Myricitin
Naringin belongs to the group of flavonoids. Pure naringin is a yellowish powder. Naringin is a conjugate of a sugar molecule with naringenin. The structure of naringin is very similar to that of hesperidin.
Naringin is mainly found in grapefruits. It is the compound that gives grapefruit its typical bitter flavour.
Naringin has antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and cholesterol lowering activity.
Studies have shown that naringin has a cholesterol-lowering effect, reduces LDL oxiation and can help to prevent hypercholesterolemia. Gorinstein S et al of the The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, studied the changes in plasma lipid and antioxidant activity in rats as a result of naringin and red grapefruit supplementation. They found that diets supplemented with red grapefruit juice and to a lesser degree with naringin improved the plasma lipid levels mainly in rats fed cholesterol and increased the plasma antioxidant activity. They concluded that naringin has plasma lipid lowering and plasma antioxidant activity increasing activity.
Naringin is an aldose reductase inhibitor which means that it can help to fight retinal disease linked to diabetics.
Naringin (and grapefruit) can interfere with certain drugs including calcium channel blockers, sedatives, cholesterol lowering drugs, caffeine and estrogen. Naringin stimulates the effect of caffeine and could therefore increase its fat burning action.
4,5,7-Trihydroxyflavanone 7-rhamnoglucoside, Naringenin-7-neohesperidoside
Nobiletin is a citrus flavonoids with a structure similar to that of tangeretin. It has the typical flavonoid structure and contains 6 methoxyl groups, one more than tangeretin. This high level of methoxylation increases the hydrophobic character of tangeretin. Pure nobiletin has the appearance of colorless needles and has a bitter taste.
Peels of citrus fruits.
Nobiletin seems to be a very noble phytochemical with many potential health benefits. The most studied properties of nobiletin are its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities. Nobiletin also helps to lower cholesterol levels and some studies indicate that it may improve impaired memory loss and treat acne.
Numerous in-vivo and in-vitro studies have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory activity of nobiletin and its metabolites. Nobiletin acts directly as an antioxidant but also interferes with biological inflammatory processes. It inhibits the expression of genes involved in inflammation by blocking the binding of NF-kappaB with DNA. One study showed that nobiletin reduced airway inflammation of asthmatic rats. Treatment of skin cells with nobiletin also reduced inflammation caused by ultraviolet-B radiation.
The anti-cancer properties of nobiletin are supported by many scientific studies. Nobiletin act by its antiproliferation effect without being toxic to normal cells. Favourable results have been obtained on cancer cell lines of the liver, stomach, prostate and colon.
A study with cultured macrophages demonstrated the cholesterol lowering and atherosclerosis inhibiting properties of nobiletin. Nobiletin also inhibits the formation of macrophage foam cells, macrophages loaded wit lipids, which build up on artery walls.
One study on a mice model showed that nobiletin my help to improve memory loss. The brains of the mice were chirurgically altered to obtain models of Alzheimer disease. It is not known if nobiletin improves the condition of human Alzheimer patients.
We found one study showing that nobiletin inhibited sebum production on hamsters and inhibited the proliferation of sebocytes, the cells that form the sebaceous gland. This observation led the researchers to conclude that nobiletin could be used as a drug for acne treatment.
Proanthocyanidins are oligomeric flavonoids, mainly found in grapes. They are dimers (see picture) or oligomers of catechin and epicatechin and their gallic acid esters.
Proanthocyanidins are mainly found in the skin and seeds of grapes. They are also present in red wine. During the production of red wine, the juice is left to ferment with the seeds and skins during a few days. During this fermentation process, the formed alcohol will extract the proanthocyanidins from the seeds and skins. Other rich sources are cocoa, apples, peanuts, almonds, cranberries, blueberries and bark of the maritime pine.
Consumption of red wine, red grape juice, grape skin and grape seeds has been linked to many health benefits. There are mainly two grape phytochemicals responsible for these benefits: proanthocyanidins and resveratrol. Proanthocyanidins are in the first place very strong antioxidants. Studies have shown that proanthocyanidins act as anti-cancer and anti-allergic agents, and that they improve heart health.
Proanthocyanidins protect against oxidative damage and could reduce the damage caused by tobacco smoking, pollution and free radical form in our body during normal metabolism.
Many studies have shown that proanthocyanidins help to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and improve fat metabolism. The inhibitory action against LDL cholesterol appears to increase with the degree of polymerization of the proanthocyanidin molecules. Proanthocyanidins may prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing the risk associated with high blood cholesterol. Tests with rabbits showed that an extract of grape seed proanthocyanidins significantly reduced the development of aortic atherosclerosis. Grape seed proanthocyanidins have a cardioprotective effect and protect the heart against myocardial injuries induced by isoproterenol, a drug used as an inhaled aerosol to treat asthma.
Studies have shown that proanthocyanidins have anti-cancer and anti-tumour activity. The study by entitled Grape Seed Proanthocyanidins Induce Apoptosis and Inhibit Metastasis of Highly Metastatic Breast Carcinoma Cells (Carcinogenesis. 2006 August) concluded that grape seed proanthocyanidins may possess chemotherapeutic activity against breast cancer.
Anti-Allergic Proanthocyanidins inhibit enzymes that produce histamine and help to ease of allergies.
Facts about Proanthocyanidins
Many plants produce proanthocyanidins in their fruits, bark, leaves and seeds to protect them from predation. Proanthocyanidins give the typical astringency to foods such as wine and teas.
Protective Effect of Grape Seed Polyphenols against High Glucose-Induced Oxidative Stress.
Proanthocyanidins as Antioxidant
Anticancer Activity of Proanthocyanidins
Effect of Procyanidins on Anticancer Drug Doxorubicin
Pycnogenol, OPC, Oligomeric Procyanidins
Tangeretin is a citrus flavonoids. It has the typical flavonoid structure and contains 5 methoxyl groups. This high level of methoxylation increases the hydrophobic character of tangeretin. It has a very bitter taste.
Tangeretin can be found in the peel (albedo) of most citrus fruits. The whole orange fruit can contain up to 30 ppm tangeretin, but also orange juice contains some quantity. Commercial tangeretin is extracted from citrus peels.
Only recently have scientists studied the biological activity of tangeretin. They found that tangeretin is readily absorbed in tissues and that it has many beneficial properties such lowering of cholesterol, anti-tumor activity and neuroprotective action.
Animal studies have indicated that tangeretin has cholesterol lowering properties. One such found that rats fed with a diet containing tangeretin showed a significantly reduced (up to 40%) serum levels of LDL cholesterol.
In-vitro test have shown that tangeretin acts as an antitumor agent. It induced apoptosis in leukemia cells without being toxic to normal cells. Tangeretin stops the growth of cancer cell in the G1 phase. On the other hand, tangeretin seems to counteract the anticancer drug tamoxifen and to suppress the activity of natural killer cells.
A study with a rat model of Parkinson's disease showed that tangeretin increased the levels of dopamine and has potential neuroprotective activity.
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