Bioactives America

Mohamed M. Rafi, PhD
From the Department of Food Science, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick,
New Jersey, USA

Nutraceuticals are naturally derived, bioactive compounds that have health-promoting, disease-preventing, or medicinal properties and have an impact on human genes that control cellular metabolisms. Fruits, vegetables, common beverages, grains, marine products, medicinal plants, and herbs possess diversified pharmacologic properties and contain nutraceuticals with the potential to protect against heart diseases and stroke and to prevent human cancers. Herbs and medicinal plants have been used throughout the world for centuries to treat many diseases, and 80% of the world population relies on botanical preparations as medicines for their health needs. The biological activity of a natural product is very often believed to be the result of the combined action of several of its constituents. However, in most cases, the active ingredient of the natural product has not been completely characterized. An estimated 25% of all modern pharmaceutical drugs are derived from herbs, including aspirin (from white willow bark), the heart medication digitalis (foxglove), and the cancer treatment drug, Taxol (pacific yew tree). Approximately 15 million Americans take herbs at the same time as prescription medications. Epidemiologic studies have shown that the environmental factors, especially food components, have a major impact on hormone-related cancer prevention, and a low intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with high mortality in cardiovascular disease. One class of substances suggested to be responsible for these cancer protective effects is the isoflavones, which are abundant in soy products. Many of the herbs, foods, and spices contain flavonoids, phytoestrogens, and unidentified phytochemicals with estrogenic activity in prostate patients. Although flavonoids and phytoestrogens are generally considered to be non-nutritive agents, interest in these nutraceuticals has arisen because of their potential role in the prevention of human cancer. Chemoprevention through the consumption of nutraceuticals, e.g., resveratrol from grapes, lycopene from tomato, and genistein from soy, may reduce morbidity and mortality in cancer. The foods and herbs that possess anticancer activity include garlic, soybeans, cabbage, ginger, licorice, onions, flax, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, brown rice, wheat, and the umbelliferous vegetables such as carrot, celery, cilantro, parsley, and parsnips. Natural products and their isolated constituents have been shown to possess strong chemopreventive activity in animal models. The effect of nutraceuticals on apoptotic pathways, signaling pathways, or different targets in cancer would be helpful in the design and development of novel cancer-preventive agents.

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Review on Nutraceuticals.pdf

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