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Phytochemical Screening

Phytochemical Screening

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Published by: sunil on Jul 13, 2009
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Introduction
A phytochemical is a natural bioactive compound found in plantfoods that works with nutrients and dietary fiber to protect againstdisease. Research suggests that phytochemicals, working together with nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and nuts, may help slow theaging process and reduce the risk of many diseases, includingcancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts,osteoporosis, and urinary tract infections.Pronounced "fight-o-chemicals," phytochemicals fight toprotect your health. They can have complementary and overlappingmechanisms of action in the body, including antioxidant effects,modulation of detoxification enzymes, stimulation of the immunesystem, modulation of hormone metabolism, and antibacterial andantiviral effect."Phyto" is a Greek word that means plant andphytochemicals are usually related to plant pigments. So, fruits andvegetables that are bright colors — yellow, orange, red, green, blue,and purple — generally contain the most phytochemicals and themost nutrients. You can benefit from all of the phytochemicals andnutrients found in plant foods by eating 5-9 servings of fruits andvegetables a day and eating more whole grains, soy and nuts. Morethan 900 different phytochemicals have been found in plant foodsand more will be discovered. These protective plant compounds arean emerging area of nutrition and health, with new researchreported everyday. Remember, to get your Phytos eat 5-9 servingsof colorful fruits and vegetables every day!The following charts provide a description of the mostwell researched phytochemicals and some of the fruits andvegetables they are found in. Complete phytochemical analysis hasnot been done on most fruits and vegetables. USDA will conductphytochemical analysis on approximately 100 of the most frequentlyeaten fruits and vegetables during 2000-2001. Our charts will beupdated as more phytochemical research becomes available.Current research suggests that most fruits and vegetables containphytochemicals and that many fruits and vegetables contain a widevariety of Phytochemicals.
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History of phytochemical
Only a few years ago, the term "phytochemical" was barely known.But doctors, nutritionists, and other health care practitioners havelong advocated a low-fat diet that includes a variety of fruits,vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Historically, cultures thatconsume such a diet have lower rates of certain cancers and heartdisease.Since the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and EducationAct (DSHEA) in the United States in 1994, a large number of phytochemicals are being sold as dietary supplements
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Evidence of phytochemical
It has become a widely accepted notion that a diet rich in fruits,vegetables, legumes, and grains reduces the risk of cancer, heartdisease, and other illnesses. But only recently have researchersbegun to try to learn the effects of specific phytochemicals containthose foods.Much of the evidence so far has come from observations of cultures whose diets consist mainly of plant sources, and whichseem to have lower rates of certain types of cancer and heartdisease. For instance, the relatively low rates of breast andendometrial cancers in some Asian cultures are credited at least inpart to dietary habits. These cancers are much more common inthe United States, possibly because the typical American diet ishigher in fat and lower in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.Because of the number of phytochemicals and the complexity of the chemical processes they are involved in, researchers face achallenging task in trying to determine which phytochemicals infoods may fight cancer and other diseases, which may have noeffect, and which may even be harmful.Many studies have looked at the relationship between cancer riskand eating fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Mostof the evidence indicates that eating large proportions of thesefoods seems to lower the risk of some cancers and other illnesses.
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Some of the links between individual phytochemicals and cancer risk found in studies in the lab are very compelling and make avery strong case for the need for further research. So far, however,none of the findings is conclusive. It is still uncertain which of themany phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables actively helps thebody fight disease.Researchers have also shown much interest in phytochemicalsupplements. Some lab studies in cell cultures and animals haveshown that certain phytochemicals have some activity againstcancer cells or tumors. But at this time there have been no strongstudies in humans showing that any phytochemical supplementcan prevent or treat cancer.Until conclusive research findings emerge, health careprofessionals advise a balanced diet with an emphasis on fruits,vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. The interaction betweencertain phytochemicals and the other compounds in foods is notwell understood, but it is unlikely that any single compound offersthe best protection against cancer. A balanced diet that includes 5or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables along with foodsfrom a variety of other plant sources such as nuts, seeds, wholegrain cereals, and beans is likely to be more effective in reducingcancer risk than eating one particular phytochemical in largeamounts.Carotenoids are the pigments responsible for the colors of manyred, green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Carotenoidsare a large family of phytochemicals which include alpha-carotene,beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, cryptoxanthin, canthaxanthin,zeaxanthin, and others.Carotenoids protect the body by decreasing risk of heart disease,stroke, blindness, and certain types of cancer. They may also helpto slow the aging process, reduce complications associated withdiabetes, and improve lung function. Fruits and vegetables that aredark green, yellow, orange or red contain carotenoids.The followinginformation describe four of the carotenoids.
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