Approaches to Evaluating Bioactive Food Components

As new technologies, such as metabolomics, develop that allow better understanding of cell metabolism and interaction among nutrients within cell systems, food constituents that have previously gone unnoticed are gaining recognition for their potential roles in maintaining health and decreasing risk of chronic disease. Some food components appear to work in concert with other nutrients and chemicals and are highly active at nanogram concentration levels in cellular systems involved in decreasing inflammatory responses or cell death. These bioactive substances may be difficult to analyze in food stuffs when they rapidly convert or oxidize into other less active compounds, making traditional methods of determining potential roles in health very difficult to apply. However, such new technologies offer the opportunity to study not pathways but, integrated circuits of multiple systems and bioactive food components simultaneously, modeling from multiple perspectives rather than the typical linear relationships diagrammed in the metabolic pathways identified by the mid-twentieth century. Using these tools, the integrated nature and role of known and unknown chemical constituents of foods will form the basis for evaluating human nutritional requirements in the future.

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