Compelling evidence from epidemiological studies suggest beneficial roles of dietary phytochemicals in protecting against chronic disorders such as cancer, and inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases.
Emerging findings suggest that several dietary phytochemicals also benefit the nervous system and, when consumed regularly, may reduce the risk of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The evidence supporting health benefits of vegetables and fruits provide a rationale for identification of the specific phytochemicals responsible, and for investigation of their molecular and cellular mechanisms of action.
One general mechanism of action of phytochemicals that is emerging from recent studies is that they activate adaptive cellular stress response pathways. From an evolutionary perspective, the noxious properties of such phytochemicals play an important role in dissuading insects and other pests from eating the plants.