Plant volatile compounds: sensory cues for health and nutritional value?

Science. 2006 Feb 10;311(5762):815-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1112614.


Plants produce many volatile metabolites. A small subset of these compounds is sensed by animals and humans, and the volatile profiles are defining elements of the distinct flavors of individual foods. Flavor volatiles are derived from an array of nutrients, including amino acids, fatty acids, and carotenoids. In tomato, almost all of the important flavor-related volatiles are derived from essential nutrients. The predominance of volatiles derived from essential nutrients and health-promoting compounds suggests that these volatiles provide important information about the nutritional makeup of foods. Evidence supporting a relation between volatile perception and nutrient or health value will be reviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Essential / analysis
  • Animals
  • Carotenoids / analysis
  • Cues
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Odorants*
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis*
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Smell*
  • Solanum lycopersicum / chemistry*
  • Solanum lycopersicum / metabolism
  • Taste*
  • Volatilization


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Fatty Acids
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Carotenoids