Dietary PUFA and Flavonoids as Deterrents for Environmental Pollutants

J Nutr Biochem. 2007 Mar;18(3):196-205. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2006.12.002.


Various nutrients and plant-derived phytochemicals are associated with a reduced risk of many diet-related chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis. A common theme that links many chronic diseases is uncontrolled inflammation. The long-chain (LC) omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and flavonoids are known to possess anti-inflammatory actions in cell cultures, animal models and humans. Minimizing the condition of persistent inflammation has been a primary aim for drug development, but understanding how food components attenuate this process is at the nexus for improving the human condition. The prevalence of environmental toxins such as heavy metals and organics that contribute to diminished levels of antioxidants likely aggravates inflammatory states when intakes of omega-3 PUFA and flavonoids are marginal. Scientists at Purdue University have formed a collaboration to better understand the metabolism and physiology of flavonoids. This new effort is focused on determining how candidate flavonoids and their metabolites affect gene targets of inflammation in cell culture and animal models. The challenge of this research is to understand how LC omega-3 PUFA and flavonoids affect the biology of inflammation. The goal is to determine how nutrients and phytochemicals attenuate chronic inflammation associated with a number of diet-related diseases that occur throughout the life cycle. The experimental approach involves molecular, biochemical and physiological endpoints of aging, cancer, obesity and musculoskeletal diseases. Examples include investigations on the combined effects of PUFA and cyanidins on inflammatory markers in cultures of human cancer cells. The actions of catechins and PUFA on muscle loss and osteopenia are being studied in a rodent model of disuse atrophy to explain how muscle and bone communicate to prevent tissue loss associated with injury, disease and aging. The purpose of this review is to introduce the concept for studying food components that influence inflammation and how LC omega-3 PUFA and flavonoids could be used therapeutically against inflammation that is mediated by environmental pollutants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Coronary Disease / etiology
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / pharmacology*
  • Environmental Pollutants / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Flavonoids
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls