Proposal for a dietary « phytochemical index ».
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Med Hypotheses. 2004;63(5):813-7. Related Articles, Links
There is ample reason to believe that diets rich in phytochemicals provide protection from vascular diseases and many cancers; direct antioxidant activity as well as modulation of enzyme expression or hormone activity contribute to this effect. Phytochemicals derived from diverse foods presumably can interact additively and (possibly) synergistically; thus, the total dietary load of phytochemicals may have important implications for health. As a means of very roughly quantifying this load, a « phytochemical index » (PI) is proposed, defined as the percent of dietary calories derived from foods rich in phytochemicals. Calories derived from fruits, vegetables (excluding potatoes), legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit/vegetable juices, soy products, wine, beer, and cider – and foods compounded therefrom – would be counted in this index. Partial credit could be given for antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil. Other added oils, refined sugars, refined grains, potato products, hard liquors, and animal products – regrettably, the chief sources of calories in typical Western diets – would be excluded. Although the PI would provide only a very rough approximation of the quantity or quality of phytochemical nutrition, it nonetheless could aid epidemiologists in exploring the health consequences of diets high in phytochemical-rich plant foods, and could also help clinical nutritionists in their efforts to improve the phytochemical nutrition of their clients.