It is now considered that changes in dietary practices could make a major contribution towards the prevention of the cancer problem. Evidence indicates that dietary factors could play a significant role in the initiation, promotion and progression of cancers. Several bioactive phytochemicals such as isothiocyanate, indoles, flavones, phenols, protease inhibitor etc., have been found to protect the body against several steps in carcinogens through biochemical mechanisms such as detoxification, inhibition, dilution, binding of carcinogens and antioxidant effects some phytoestrogens are found to be beneficial in hormonal related cancers.
Despite numerous intervention programs and health promotion campaigns, cardio vascular diseases (CVD) and related disorders remain responsible for 51% of the human deaths in the world. Recent biochemical and epidemiological evidence suggest that a low antioxidant status arising from inadequate intake of antioxidant nutrients is a major CVD risk factor. A number of antioxidant nutrients such as Vitamin E, b-carotene, flavonoids have been recognized to play a protective role in CVD. These nutrients protect Low-Density Lipoprotein from oxidative modification to an atherogenic form. Thus, inclusion of foods rich in these nutrients in required amount in our daily diet could significantly reduce the risk of CVD. Such an approach has recently been adapted by the German society of nutrition (DGE), which recommends a daily consumption of at least 700g of vegetables, 75g of salad and 200-250g of fruits.
Diabetes and Nutrition
Considerable amount of evidence is available to show that certain unconvential nutrients like dietary fiber improves glucose tolerance and is beneficial in the treatment of both Type I and Type II diabetes. Soluble fiber has been shown to slow down the digestion of starch in the small intestine and in turn decrease the rate of post-prandial glucose uptake. Soluble fiber has also been shown to enhance the insulin receptor binding and improve glycemic responses. In general, beneficial effects of increased dietary fiber consumption were shown for both Type I and Type II diabetes and included improved glucose tolerance, reduced insulin requirements and increased peripheral tissue insulin sensitivity.
Besides these major disorders and diseases, foods are known to play a crucial role in various other modern maladies like, obesities, immune deficiency, stress, aging, arthritis, and anti malarial etc. Thus, today the concept of health filled foods has gained a un precedented momentum. Health foods such as designer foods (processed foods that are supplemented with food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains), functional foods (any modified food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains) and nutraceuticals (specific chemical compounds in foods including vitamins and additives that may aid in preventing disease) and phytochemicals today occupy an integral place in modern health care. Health foods have become a fastest growing segment in the food industry today and according to an estimate the world market for health foods is estimated at a whopping US $80 billion.
The researches are soon to evolve vaccines that can be delivered to our bodies through foods like bananas, potatoes and tomatoes. The advantage is that is can eliminate the discomforts in administration and the need for refrigeration in storage.
Moreover, this makes the availability of vaccines easy and safe even in remote areas without refrigeration facilities. Vaccines currently being worked in to bananas include those for hepatitis B and Norwalk virus etc., stage is not for where nutraceuticals will be out preferred prescriptions of tomorrow.
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Bawa, A.S. and Khanum, F (2003). Nutraceuticals: Mechanism of action. Indian Food Industry, 22 (6), 44-51.
Picture source: http://blog.bioethics.net/nutraceuticals