Many times in nutrition individuals solely focus on energy nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Although this is very good, the food we eat is so much more complex and exciting. There is a wealth of information that we still have to learn about regarding our food to complete the picture of what we really eat. Nutrients are essential for us because they help in the prevention of diseases. There are however, many components in food that do not directly prevent the occurrence of a disease, but rather their presence in the diet significantly reduces the chances of an individual contracting a disease. This area of nutrition is vital for new research being that our goal is to live healthy lives with the absence of disease and illness. There are many groups of compounds which make up this exciting field but we will focus on one group and they are Polyphenols. Specifically we will mention two: grape seed polyphenols and olive hydroxytyrosol.
Grape Seed Polyphenols (Resveratrol)– Found most often in red wine and dark chocolate, they have been shown to assist in reducing hypertension by causing vasodilation, helping to reduce the chances of a cardiac incident. There is also research supporting their effect on a group of proteins known as sirtuins. These proteins have been linked to cancer prevention because they perform roles in the cell life cycle and in cell repair. Due to these finds there has been a recent stream of new supplements and fortified products on the market. These discoveries also support claims that a Mediterranean style diet lowers incidence of CVD. So you drink red wine to your health, but only in moderation.
Olive Hydroxytyrosol– One of the most commonly associated foods with the Mediterranean diet is the olive; it permeates many staple dishes. It is believed to be the source of heart and health benefits associated with this diet. Recently conducted research shows that olives help in nitric oxide production (vasodilation in arteries) and in the reduction of the production of pro-inflammatory chemokines e.g. IL-2, (sustained high levels of inflammatory signals have been shown to increase the risk of chronic disease). These results have linked olives to improved heart, joint, brain, skin and immune function. Research into olives is continuing to contribute to further increasing our understanding of their role in effecting our bodies and long term health. When deciding what to cook with and what will add that extra flavor, give olives a chance, your body will thank you.
These two compounds are just a glimpse into what the future of healthcare holds.We will progress from looking at foods from the view of only single nutrients to a more complete view of them as complex structures that work together to help us achieve the best health possible. Our quest for knowledge is unending, we don’t want to stop now! There is so much that future research holds to improve our understanding and the level of insight and care that we can give to others. I hope this taste inspires you to look into these fascinating compounds and expand your knowledge of the vital roles they play in all of our lives.
Written by Andrew Grover. Andrew Grover is a Foods and Nutrition: Dietetics student: He loves to learn more about the how the human body functions and its interactions with food and the possible therapeutic value in many foods. He graduates this June and hopes to work as a clinical dietitian and then move into management or corporate wellness.
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