Research into human biotransformation and elimination systems continues to evolve. Various clinical and in vivo studies have been undertaken to evaluate the effects of foods and food-derived components on the activity of detoxification pathways, including phase I cytochrome P450 enzymes, phase II conjugation enzymes, Nrf2 signaling, and metallothionein.
This review summarizes the research in this area to date, highlighting the potential for foods and nutrients to support and/or modulate detoxification functions. Clinical applications to alter detoxification pathway activity and improve patient outcomes are considered, drawing on the growing understanding of the relationship between detoxification functions and different disease states, genetic polymorphisms, and drug-nutrient interactions. Some caution is recommended, however, due to the limitations of current research as well as indications that many nutrients exert biphasic, dose-dependent effects and that genetic polymorphisms may alter outcomes. A whole-foods approach may, therefore, be prudent.