Healthy and adverse effects of plant-derived functional metabolites: the need of revealing their content and bioactivity in a complex food matrix

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(2):198-213. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2010.520829.


In recent years, both food quality and its effect on human health have become a fundamental issue all over the world. As a consequence of this new and increased awareness, American, European, and Asian policymakers have strongly encouraged the research programs on food quality and safety thematic. Attempts to improve human health and to satisfy people's desire for healthcare without intake of pharmaceuticals, has led the food industry to focus attention on functional or nutraceutical food. For a long time, compounds with nutraceutical activity have been produced chemically, but the new demands for a sustainable life have gradually led the food industry to move towards natural compounds, mainly those derived from plants. Many phytochemicals are known to promote good health, but, sometimes, undesirable effects are also reported. Furthermore, several products present on the market show few benefits and sometimes even the reverse - unhealthy effects; the evidence of efficacy is often unconvincing and epidemiological studies are necessary to prove the truth of their claims. Therefore, there is a need for reliable analytical control systems to measure the bioactivity, content, and quality of these additives in the complex food matrix. This review describes the most widespread nutraceutics and an analytical control of the same using recently developed biosensors which are promising candidates for routine control of functional foods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsaicin / adverse effects
  • Carotenoids / adverse effects
  • Cysteine / adverse effects
  • Cysteine / analogs & derivatives
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / adverse effects
  • Functional Food / analysis
  • Glucosinolates / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Phenols / adverse effects
  • Phytoestrogens / adverse effects
  • Plants, Edible / chemistry*
  • Polyphenols / administration & dosage
  • Polyphenols / adverse effects
  • Sulfinic Acids / adverse effects


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Glucosinolates
  • Phenols
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Polyphenols
  • Sulfinic Acids
  • Carotenoids
  • allicin
  • alliin
  • Cysteine
  • Capsaicin