Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in Foods
Contribution to Book
Advances in Food and Nutrition Research
Elsevier Science Ltd.
In addition to the many well-known major nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate and fiber) and minor nutrients (vitamins, minerals and nonessential compounds), foods contain thousands of naturally present toxic plant compounds. Some are carcinogenic in animals, and thus may be potentially carcinogenic in people. Many of these compounds are commonly termed "nature's pesticides" because they are often toxic to predators. such as insects and animals, thereby conferring a competitive advantage to the plant that produces them. Although these chemicals are in every meal we eat, they have received little attention compared to that given to the relatively minor residues of synthetic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides. Our food contains greater than 10 ODD-fold more natural toxins than the synthetic kind, and in terms of metabolic reactions, our bodies are not able to distinguish between the two. Despite the popular notion equating "natural" and "healthy," it is clear that natural toxins pose a far greater health risk than that posed by synthetic chemicals in our foods.
Coulombe, R.A. (2003) Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in foods. Advances in Food and Nutrition Research (S.L. Taylor, Ed.). Elsevier Science Ltd., Oxford, U.K. Volume 45, pp. 61-99.