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Title: Phytochemical  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Nutrition, Phytochemical, Acylsugar, Polyphenol, Phenols
Collection: Antioxidants, Nutrients, Nutrition, Phytochemicals
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia



Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants (phyto means "plant" in Greek). Some are responsible for color and other carotenoids or flavonoids, but are not established as essential nutrients.[1][2][3]There may be as many as 4,000 different phytochemicals.[2]


  • Phytochemicals as candidate nutrients 1
    • Clinical trials and health claim status 1.1
  • Food processing and phytochemicals 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Phytochemicals as candidate nutrients

Without specific knowledge of their cellular actions or mechanisms, phytochemicals have been considered possible drugs for millennia. For example, Hippocrates may have prescribed willow tree leaves to abate fever. Salicin, having anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, was originally extracted from the bark of the white willow tree and later synthetically produced to become the staple, over-the-counter drug aspirin.[4][5]

Specific phytochemicals, such as fermentable dietary fibers, are allowed limited health claims by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).[1]

Some phytochemicals with selenium, which is abundant in many fruits and vegetables, is a dietary mineral involved with major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism and immune function.[6] Particularly, it is an essential nutrient and cofactor for the enzymatic synthesis of glutathione, an endogenous antioxidant.[7]

Clinical trials and health claim status

Phytochemical-based dietary supplements can also be purchased.[8] According to the American Cancer Society, "Available scientific evidence does not support claims that taking phytochemical supplements is as good for long-term health as consuming the fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains from which they are taken."[8]

Food processing and phytochemicals

Phytochemicals in freshly harvested plant foods may be degraded by processing techniques, including cooking.[9][10][11][12][13] The main cause of phytochemical loss from cooking is thermal decomposition.[11]

A converse exists in the case of carotenoids, such as lycopene present in tomatoes, which may remain stable or increase in content from cooking due to liberation from cellular membranes in the cooked food.[14][15] Food processing techniques like mechanical processing can also free carotenoids and other phytochemicals from the food matrix, increasing dietary intake.[16][11]

See also


  1. ^ a b US FDA, Guidance for Industry: Evidence-Based Review System for the Scientific Evaluation of Health Claims
  2. ^ a b "Fruits and Veggies, More Matters. What are phytochemicals?". Produce for Better Health Foundation. 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  3. ^ "Micronutrient Information Center: Phytochemicals". Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Sneader, W. (2000). "The discovery of aspirin: A reappraisal". BMJ (Clinical research ed.) 321 (7276): 1591–1594.  
  5. ^ Landau E (22 Dec 2010). "From a tree, a 'miracle' called aspirin". CNN. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Brown, KM; Arthur, JR (2001). "Selenium, selenoproteins and human health: a review". Public health nutrition 4 (2B): 593–9.  
  7. ^ Papp, LV; Lu, J; Holmgren, A; Khanna, KK (2007). "From selenium to selenoproteins: synthesis, identity, and their role in human health". Antioxidants & redox signaling 9 (7): 775–806.  
  8. ^ a b "Phytochemical".  
  9. ^ Bongoni, R; Steenbekkers, L.P.A; Verkerk, R; van Boekel, M.A.J.S; Dekker, M (2013). "Studying consumer behaviour related to the quality of food: A case on vegetable preparation affecting sensory and health attributes". Trends in Food Science & Technology 33 (2): 139–145.  
  10. ^ Bongoni, R; Verkerk, R; Steenbekkers, B; Dekker, M; Stieger. "Evaluation of Different Cooking Conditions on Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) to Improve the Nutritional Value and Consumer Acceptance.". Plant foods for human nutrition.  
  11. ^ a b c Palermo, M; Pellegrini, N; Fogliano, V (2014). "The effect of cooking on the phytochemical content of vegetables". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 94 (6): 1057–70.  
  12. ^ Liu, RH (2004). "Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: mechanism of action". Journal of Nutrition 134 (12 Suppl): 3479S–3485S.  
  13. ^ Rao, AV; Rao, LG (2007). "Carotenoids and human health". Pharmacological research 55 (3): 207–16.  
  14. ^ Agarwal, A; Shen, H; Agarwal, S; Rao, AV (2001). "Lycopene Content of Tomato Products: Its Stability, Bioavailability and in Vivo Antioxidant Properties". Journal of medicinal food 4 (1): 9–15.  
  15. ^ Dewanto, V; Wu, X; Adom, KK; Liu, RH (2002). "Thermal processing enhances the nutritional value of tomatoes by increasing total antioxidant activity". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50 (10): 3010–4.  
  16. ^ Hotz, C; Gibson, R. S. (2007). "Traditional food-processing and preparation practices to enhance the bioavailability of micronutrients in plant-based diets". The Journal of nutrition 137 (4): 1097–100.  

Further reading

  • Higdon, J. An Evidence – Based Approach to Dietary Phytochemicals. 2007. Thieme. ISBN 978-1-58890-408-9
  • Rosa, L.A. de la / Alvarez-Parrilla, E. / González-Aguilar, G.A. (eds.) Fruit and Vegetable Phytochemicals: Chemistry, Nutritional Value and Stability. 2010. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-8138-0320-3
  • Bongoni R, Steenbekkers LPA, Verkerk R, van Boekel MAJS, Dekker M. Studying consumer behaviour related to the quality of food: A case on vegetable preparation affecting sensory and health attributes. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2013;33(2):139-45.
  • Rao AV, Rao LG. Carotenoids and human health. Pharmacological Research. 2007;55(3):207-16.
  • Liu RH. Potential Synergy of Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention: Mechanism of Action. J Nutr. 2004;134(12):3479S-85.

External links

  • Phytochemical Database - United States Department of Agriculture
  • Phytochemicals at LPI - Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University
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