Alkenylbenzenes in Foods: Aspects Impeding the Evaluation of Adverse Health Effects

Foods. 2021 Sep 10;10(9):2139. doi: 10.3390/foods10092139.


Alkenylbenzenes are naturally occurring secondary plant metabolites, primarily present in different herbs and spices, such as basil or fennel seeds. Thus, alkenylbenzenes, such as safrole, methyleugenol, and estragole, can be found in different foods, whenever these herbs and spices (or extracts thereof) are used for food production. In particular, essential oils or other food products derived from the aforementioned herbs and spices, such as basil-containing pesto or plant food supplements, are often characterized by a high content of alkenylbenzenes. While safrole or methyleugenol are known to be genotoxic and carcinogenic, the toxicological relevance of other alkenylbenzenes (e.g., apiol) regarding human health remains widely unclear. In this review, we will briefly summarize and discuss the current knowledge and the uncertainties impeding a conclusive evaluation of adverse effects to human health possibly resulting from consumption of foods containing alkenylbenzenes, especially focusing on the genotoxic compounds, safrole, methyleugenol, and estragole.

Keywords: alkenylbenzenes; consumption; food; mixtures; regulation.

Publication types

  • Review