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Plant Family Tree

While many health benefits have been associated with consumption of diets having an increased content of vegetables and fruits (VF), relatively little effort has been expended to determine if the botanical families from which whole food based diets are formulated have any impact on the biological activities exerted by the bioactive compounds that are available from the diet [1].  This situation exists despite the intensive investigation of the biological effects of dietary bioactive compounds (DBC) associated with foods from specific botanical families.The botanical
USBG - Plant Family Tree
(Click on image to enlarge)
Courtesy of the United States Botanic Gardens
 families that have undergone detailed evaluation include: Brassicaceae (e.g., cabbage) , Liliaceae (e.g., garlic), Rutaceae (e.g., orange), and Solanacae (e.g., tomato). [2-5].   The classes of chemicals among the DBC that have received particular attention are carotenoids, flavonoids, and sulfur containing compounds in addition to vitamins C and E.    

The DBC in plant foods  are likely to modulate the activity of many biological systems in mammalian species [6].  However, there is little question that the most widely investigated effect is the role that phytochemical DBC play in protecting biological systems against cellular oxidation.  In an effort to extend studies of phytochemical antioxidants from their assessment in test tube assays, cell culture systems, and pre-clinical models to clinical interventions, the Cancer Prevention Lab (CPL) at Colorado State University has reported a series of investigations of the effects of carefully formulated diets, that varied in their VF content [7-9].   In those studies, it was observed that high (> 10 servings of VF/d) versus low (<3.5 servings of VF/d) intake was associated with a modest reduction in both the level of DNA oxidation in peripheral lymphocytes, and the concentration of a marker of lipid peroxidation excreted in urine.  We also observed that antioxidant effects were manifest primarily in individuals with elevated levels of oxidation biomarkers at the time they initiated participation in an experiment. These findings provided the foundation for our work on botanical diversity.  The  primary question we are asking is whether the botanical diversity of the plant food component of the diet alters the response in oxidative biomarkers to high VF consumption.

Our initial findings have recently been published.

Reference List

  1. Lampe,J.W. (1999) Health effects of vegetables and fruit: assessing mechanisms of action in human experimental studies. Am.J.Clin.Nutr., 70, 475S-490S.

  2. Talalay,P. and Fahey,J.W. (2001) Phytochemicals from cruciferous plants protect against cancer by modulating carcinogen metabolism. J Nutr, 131, 3027S-3033S.

  3. Wargovich,M.J., Uda,N., Woods,C., Velasco,M., and McKee,K. (1996) Allium vegetables: their role in the prevention of cancer. Biochem.Soc.Trans., 24, 811-814.

  4. Canene-Adams,K., Campbell,J.K., Zaripheh,S., Jeffery,E.H., and Erdman,J.W., Jr. (2005) The tomato as a functional food. J Nutr, 135, 1226-1230.

  5. Milner,J.A. (2001) Mechanisms by which garlic and allyl sulfur compounds suppress carcinogen bioactivation. Garlic and carcinogenesis. Adv.Exp.Med Biol, 492, 69-81.

  6. Lampe,J.W. (1999) Health effects of vegetables and fruit: assessing mechanisms of action in human experimental studies. Am.J.Clin.Nutr., 70, 475S-490S.

  7. Thompson,H.J., Heimendinger,J., Haegele,A., Sedlacek,S.M., Gillette,C., O'Neill,C., Wolfe,P., and Conry,C. (1999) Effect of increased vegetable and fruit consumption on markers of oxidative cellular damage. Carcinogenesis, 20, 2261-2266.

  8. Thompson,H.J., Heimendinger,J., Sedlacek,S., Haegele,A., Diker,A., O'Neill,C., Meinecke,B., Wolfe,P., Zhu,Z., and Jiang,W. (2005) 8-Isoprostane F2{alpha} excretion is reduced in women by increased vegetable and fruit intake. Am J Clin Nutr, 82, 768-776.

  9. Thompson,H.J., Heimendinger,J., Gillette,C., Sedlacek,S.M., Haegele,A., O'Neill,C., and Wolfe,P. (2005) In vivo investigation of changes in biomarkers of oxidative stress induced by plant food rich diets. J Agric.Food Chem., 53, 6126-6132.