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J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:790987. doi: 10.1155/2012/790987. Epub 2012 Sep 20.

On enzyme-based anticancer molecular dietary manipulations.

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  • 1Molecular Toxicology Unit, Department of Pharmacology, Alma-Mater Studiorum, Università di Bologna, Via Irnerio 48, 40126 Bologna, Italy.


Evidence from both epidemiological and experimental observations has fuelled the belief that the high consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in nutrients and phytochemicals may help prevent cancer and heart disease in humans. This concept has been drastically simplified from the dietary approaches to the use of single bioactive components both as a single supplement or in functional foods to manipulate xenobiotic metabolism. These procedures, which aim to induce mutagen/carcinogen detoxification or inhibit their bioactivation, fail to take into account the multiple and paradoxical biological outcomes of enzyme modulators that make their effects unpredictable. Here, we show that the idea that the physiological roles of specific catalysts may be easily manipulated by regular long-term administration of isolated nutrients and other chemicals derived from food plants is not viable. In contrast, we claim that the consumption of healthy diets is most likely to reduce mutagenesis and cancer risk, and that both research endeavours and dietary recommendations should be redirected away from single molecules to dietary patterns as a main strategy for public health policy.

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