Phytochemicals in Carrots

Carrots (Daucus carota) are a rich source of antioxidant phytochemicals and play an important nutritional role because so many of them are eaten. In terms of vegetables, carrots are one of the most commonly eaten root vegetables alongside potatoes, turnips and parsnips. Carrots contain a large number of phytochemicals including carotenoids, flavonoids, polyacetylenes and vitamins, and may also contain high levels of minerals if they are grown in mineral rich soils. The nutritional content of carrots has been shown to have a number of health effects including anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, cardioprotective and anti-cancer effects. The orange colour of carrots is due to the high concentration of alpha- and beta-carotene, but wild carrots do not have the same vibrant colour and tend to be smaller and more brown. Yellow carrots are high in lutein, which is also responsible for the yellow colour of egg yolks. Red carrots are coloured mainly by lycopene, the main carotenoid that is responsible for the red colour of tomatoes. 

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da Silva Dias, J.C. 2014. Nutritional and Health Benefits of Carrots and Their Seed Extracts. Food and Nutrition. 5: 2147-2156
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Anthocyanin Content of Foods

Anthocyanins belong to the flavonoid group of phytochemicals, which in turn belong to the polyphenol group. Anthocyanins are found in many commonly eaten fruits and vegetables, and are often responsible for the red, blue and purple colouration of plant foods. Berries are often considered to be the best source of anthocyanins as they contain demonstrably high concentrations of various anthocyanins. However, berries are not as commonly eaten as some other foods with lower amounts of anthocyanins, and so the amount of the food in the diet is an important consideration when assessing total intake. Other commonly eaten foods with reasonably high amounts of anthocyanins include red onions, beetroot, red cabbage, watermelon and red grapefruit. Consuming these foods in the diet may provide significant quantities of anthocyanins which may in the long term have beneficial effects on health, including a reduced risk of developing inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease. 

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Wu, X., Beecher, G.R., Holden, J.M., Haytowitz, D.B., Gebhardt, S.E. and Prior, R.L. 2006. Concentrations of anthocyanins in common foods in the United States and estimation of normal consumption. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 54(11): 4069-4075
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How Long Does It Take For Diet to be a Problem?

Eating a healthy diet can cause significant improvements in health and a huge volume of research supports this contention. However, the time period in which improvements can be seen are often slow and in some cases may take months or years to manifest. In a similar way, poor diet can also cause changes to health, but in this case the changes are detrimental. Another factor to consider is that poor diet is less likely to affect health in the young as the adaptability of the young to environmental conditions that are not optimal will always be greater than in the aged individual. This is the reason that weight gain tends to manifest itself as the age of the individual advances. Mineral and vitamin deficiencies can manifest in ill health for a short time period but suboptimal intakes cause hard to diagnose illnesses that take many decades of deterioration to become observable. Therefore whilst it is difficult to see the connection between diet and poor health, it is not possible to cheat the hangman, and inevitable consequences are ever present. 

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Curcumin and Inflammation

Plants provide a plethora of chemicals that have nutritional value in humans and animals when they are incorporated into the diet. One of the major effects seen from eating plant foods is that of a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Some phytochemicals can directly inhibit inflammation through changes to the inflammatory pathways of the body. Other phytochemicals can provide antioxidant effects which may indirectly reduce the effects of inflammation. Curcumin in turmeric is thought to be a significant anti-inflammatory agent and also to have significant antioxidant effects, which explains the observations that it can be used to treat chronic inflammation in humans and animals. Many diseases are characterised by chronic inflammation, and so consuming turmeric for its curcumin should provide significant disease protection. Using turmeric as a cooking spice may therefore confer significant health benefits to those who consume it regularly through its ability to regulate inflammation. 

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He, Y., Yue, Y., Zheng, X., Zhang, K., Chen, S. and Du, Z. 2015. Curcumin, Inflammation, and Chronic Diseases: How Are They Linked? Molecules, 20(5): 9183
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Curcumin and Athletic Performance

Curcumin is a component of turmeric that is characterised by its distinctive yellow appearance and astringent taste. Evidence from animal and cell culture studies suggests that curcumin may decrease free and total testosterone levels and this may occur through inhibition of steroidogenesis in the leydig cells of the testes. If curcumin was able to have a similar effect in humans it might be expected that consuming curcumin would have detrimental effects on athletic performance, and in particular on muscle strength. However, studies tend to support a positive effect for curcumin and turmeric on athletic performance with no negative effects reported. In particular, the athletes display reduced levels of inflammation and oxidation and reduced levels of post-exercise muscle damage when consuming curcumin. Improved gastrointestinal function has also been reported in subjects consuming curcumin. Therefore in humans, nutritionally relevant levels of curcumin may not elicit the same negative effects as seen in animal studies. 

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Suhett, L.G., de Miranda Monteiro Santos, R., Silveira, B.K.S., Leal, A.C.G., de Brito, A.D.M., de Novaes, J.F. and Lucia, C.M.D. 2021. Effects of curcumin supplementation on sport and physical exercise: a systematic review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 61(6): 946-958
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Curcumin: Testosterone

Circumin is a component of the spice turmeric that is derived from the Curcuma longa plant. Curcumin has been researched for its various healthy effects that may stem from the ability of the compound to act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. However, a number of other physiological effects are known for curcumin. For example, in animals, curcumin is able to decrease serum testosterone levels in male animals and studies show that long-term administration can reduce the size of the testis. The mechanism for this has been investigated and studies suggest that curcumin may downregulate steroidogenesis in the leydig cells of animals. The relevance of this is not fully understood as many of the experiments have been performed in animals or in isolated cell cultures. There may, for example, be other explanations for the lowering of testosterone in animals fed curcumin, and steroidogenesis inhibition might not be physiologically relevant. 

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Lin, Y.C., Chiu, C.H., Liu, H.C. and Wang, J.Y. 2018. Curcumin downregulates 8-br-cAMP-induced steroidogenesis in mouse Leydig cells by suppressing the expression of Cyp11a1 and StAR independently of the PKA-CREB pathway. Endocrine Journal. 65(8): 833-840
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Magnesium and Testosterone

Magnesium is an important macromineral that is required in gram amounts. Magnesium is essential because it is an important cation in the body and is required as a cofactor by a number of enzymes. Some evidence supports a role for magnesium in testosterone metabolism and supplements of magnesium may improve hormonal profiles. In one study, researchers assessed the effects of magnesium supplementation on healthy sedentary and athletic individuals. The amount of magnesium administered was 10 mg per kg body weight, which equates to about 750 mg for a typical 75 kg male. The results of the study showed that four weeks of magnesium supplements cause significant increases in free and total testosterone levels and that this effect may be larger in athletes compared to sedentary individuals. Good sources of magnesium in the diet include nuts and seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. The magnesium form taken in the study was magnesium sulphate. 

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Cinar, V., Polat, Y., Baltaci, A.K. and Mogulkoc, R. 2011. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biological Trace Element Research. 140(1): pp.18-23
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Magnesium for Pain Relief

Magnesium is an essential cation that is needed in the human diet in gram amounts. The typical Western diet is deficient in magnesium and this creates an imbalance between the calcium intake and the magnesium intake of people choosing this diet. The low level of magnesium in the typical Western diet is thought to create a number of physiologically disadvantageous consequences that can increase the risk of a number of diseases. In addition, magnesium is required for physiological pain moderation, and in particular magnesium ions may interact with the NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) receptors that are involved in the regulation of pain. Studies investigating the effects of magnesium of pain consistently show that magnesium administration decreases the pain experienced by individuals under many different conditions and that magnesium supplements are an effective pain relief strategy. Eating a diet high in magnesium may therefore have significant advantages for those with chronic pain. 

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Urits, I., Jung, J.W., Amgalan, A., Fortier, L., Anya, A., Wesp, B., Orhurhu, V., Cornett, E.M., Kaye, A.D., Imani, F. and Varrassi, G. 2021. Utilization of magnesium for the treatment of chronic pain. Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. 11(1)
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Berries, Jam and Health

A large body of research suggests that fruit berries have significant positive health effects. In particular, the antioxidants and fibre in berries may play a role in preventing disease. Some evidence also supports the health effects of berry sugars, particularly if they are bonded to other chemicals, such as antioxidants. One common way to consume berries is via jam preserves, and current evidence supports the contention that the health properties of berries are transferred through the jam despite the high sugar content. Further. Although jams are highly processed, studies show that they maintain high levels of their nutritive health factors including total phenolics, total antioxidant capacity, total flavonoids and total anthocyanins. Therefore the high sugar content of jams may be offset by the high levels of antioxidant nutrients that confer significant protection against diseases on the consumer when eaten in moderation. However, care should be taken not to consume jams with unhealthy foods such as highly processed grains. 

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Diaconeasa, Z., Iuhas, C.I., Ayvaz, H., Rugină, D., Stanilă, A., Dulf, F., Bunea, A., Socaci, S.A., Socaciu, C. and Pintea, A. 2019. Phytochemical Characterization of Commercial Processed Blueberry, Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Cranberry, and Raspberry and Their Antioxidant Activity. Antioxidants. 8(11)
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Antioxidants in Red Cabbage: Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are flavonoid phytochemicals that belong to the large group called polyphenols. Anthocyanins have been extensively researched for their health effects in humans and animals. One of the main chemical properties of anthocyanins is their ability to quench free radical chain reactions through their antioxidant ability and this may explain their health effects. Red cabbage is a rich source of anthocyanins, and it is the high concentration of anthocyanins in the tissues of red cabbage that give the plant its distinctive red colour. The anthocyanin concentration in Red cabbage (Brassica oleracea) has been estimated to be between 1111 and 1780 mg per 100 grams as anthocyanin 3-glucoside, one of the main forms of anthocyanins in cabbage. This suggests that a typical healthy diet that contains reasonable amounts of red cabbage can supply nutritionally relevant amounts of anthocyanins and red cabbage can therefore be seen as a food that contributes significantly to total antioxidant defences in humans. 

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Ahmadiani, N., Robbins, R.J., Collins, T.M. and Giusti, M.M. 2014. Anthocyanins contents, profiles, and color characteristics of red cabbage extracts from different cultivars and maturity stages. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 62(30): 7524-7531
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