Bioactive Dietary Chemicals

Bioactive chemicals can be found naturally in foods or introduced during food processing. These chemicals can have both beneficial and undesirable effects on human health. For example, certain fungal compounds found in corn, ground nuts, and tree nuts can damage DNA and promote cancer. Conversely, omega-3 fatty acids produced by plants and algae and concentrated in certain fish species can promote cardiac health. In recent years, the herbal products and food supplement industry, valued at an estimated $20 billion per year in the U.S., has taken off. Effective products could reduce medical costs and provide farmers with new specialty crop opportunities; however, inadequate quality control and understanding of potential toxicity could allow harmful substances to enter the food supply. Therefore, understanding the complex relationship between bioactive dietary chemicals and human health is a paramount concern to consumers, agricultural producers, food processors, health professionals, and policymakers charged with maintaining a safe and nutritious food supply.

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