Nutritional hormesis

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Feb;61(2):147-59. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602507. Epub 2006 Aug 2.


Objective: Hormesis, the biological and toxicological concept that small quantities have opposite effects from large quantities, is reviewed with emphasis on its relevance to nutrition.

Results: Hormetic and other dose-response relationships are categorized, depicted, and discussed. Evidence for nutritional hormesis is presented for essential vitamin and mineral nutrients, dietary restriction, alcohol (ethanol), natural dietary and some synthetic pesticides, some herbicides, and acrylamide. Some of the different hormetic mechanisms that have been proposed are reviewed.

Conclusions: The credence and relevance of hormesis to nutrition are considered to be established. The roles of hormesis in nutritional research and in formulating nutritional guidelines are discussed.

Sponsorship: The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Minerals / adverse effects
  • Minerals / therapeutic use
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Pesticides
  • Toxicology*
  • Vitamins / adverse effects
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Minerals
  • Pesticides
  • Vitamins