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Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:511-38.

Bioactive compounds in nutrition and health-research methodologies for establishing biological function: the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of flavonoids on atherosclerosis.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.


Identifying bioactive compounds and establishing their health effects are active areas of scientific inquiry. There are exciting prospects that select bioactive compounds will reduce the risk of many diseases, including chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Recent findings have established that cardiovascular disease is a disease of inflammation, and consequently is amenable to intervention via molecules that have anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, research demonstrating adverse effects of oxidants on atherogenesis raises the possibility that antioxidants can confer cardioprotective effects. This review provides an overview of research approaches that can be used to unravel the biology and health effects of bioactive compounds. Because of the number of bioactive compounds and the diversity of likely biological effects, numerous and diverse experimental approaches must be taken to increase our understanding of the biology of bioactive compounds. Recognizing the complexity of this biology, sophisticated experimental designs and analytical methodologies must be employed to advance the field. The discovery of novel health effects of bioactive compounds will provide the scientific basis for future efforts to use biotechnology to modify/fortify foods and food components as a means to improve public health.

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