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Health benefits of bioactive ingredients

At least 25 % of cancers in the Western world can be related to food habits. Enrichment of constituents in the food that exhibit protective activities may lead to improvement of diet and save lives.


Cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are the major causes of morbidity and mortality in the general population. The goal of the EU-funded FUNCFOOD project was the addition of bioactive ingredients to enhance our diets and improve our health. Age related diseases take decades to develop, thus potentially positive impact of putative protective agents was monitored by molecular and cytogenetic "biomarkers". Initially, studies were conducted in cultured cells and in rodent models. They addressed induction of DNA lesions, tumours, and biomarkers for the development of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy and atherosclerosis. Final testing of the protective efficacy of agents selected in the experimental systems will be carried out in intervention studies in humans. Researchers carried out experiments with cell systems using various dietary supplements. Out of these, carnosine and coenzyme Q (CoQ) improved the pathological metabolic responses operating in the presence of high glucose and hypoxia. Using diabetic animal model systems, researchers found that carnosinase activity was greatly increased in the kidneys, changing several basic functions. Carnosine treatment largely prevented the pathological modifications. In diabetes, wound healing is poor but upon treatment with carnosine the wound healing process in the mouse model was significantly improved. Prolonged treatment of mice with CoQ improved neuronal dysfunctions, indicating a real possibility for treatment of this serious complication in diabetic patients. A large number of parameters were analysed in patients with type1 and type2 diabetes that received CoQ supplement. Analysis of blood detected a normalisation of several markers of the illness. Researchers observed NK-cell activation and a decreased production of cytotoxic cytokines. It is known that oxidative stress is a major factor during development of diabetes and diabetic complications. After 12-weeks treatment with CoQ, glutaredoxin activity was greatly decreased demonstrating improvement of the antioxidative defence. These results suggest that longer treatment of diabetic patients with CoQ might be necessary for a significant improvement. Project activities have already resulted in 18 publications. FUNCFOOD outcomes show the promise of bioactive substances in protecting against diabetes and associated cardiovascular diseases in humans.


Bioactive, diet, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, carnosine, coenzyme Q, oxidative stress

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