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OncoDrugs 2013, Vol.

1 (1):1e-2e

Nutritional therapy

Nutritional therapy: multitarget agents to prevent multifactorial diseases

Editorial AUTHORS: Marcello Iriti1* and Elena Maria Varoni2
AFFILIATIONS: 1Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientali, Universit degli Studi di Milano. 2Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Chirurgiche e Odontoiatriche, Universit degli Studi di Milano.

* CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: via G. Celoria 2, 20133 Milan, Italy; marcello.iriti@unimi.it

DIETARY HABITS may play a pivotal role in promoting human health. Diet is not only a source of nutrients and energy, but may also provide health benefits beyond basic nutritional properties. In particular, plant foods are rich in bioactive phytochemicals, which may exert a health-promoting potential if con-

sumed as part of a balanced diet. Therefore, nutritional therapy may be considered as a strategy using functional foods and nutraceuticals to prevent chronic, degenerative diseases, as cancer, a complex disorder caused by many factors: genes, lifestyles and environmental conditions (Zhao et al. 2007).


Quercetin (a flavonoid)

Oxidative stress and Inflammation

Neoangiogenesis and Metastasis

Transcription factors (NFB) Cell cycle and Proliferation Apoptosis

Steroid hormone signalling


Figure 1. Some mechanisms involved in the cancer chemopreventive potential of dietary flavonoids.


Among dietary therapeutics, flavonoids have shown promising in vitro/in vivo anticancer activities, as well as epidemiological studies have correlated diet rich in fruit and vegetables with a low risk of certain cancers. However, to date, preclinical and epidemiological evidences have not been supported by clinical trials (Iriti and Varoni, 2013). Unquestionably, clinical studies, for instance randomized controlled double blind trials, at the top of the evidence-based pyramid, are crucial for assessing the level of scientific evidence, confirming or denying preclinical results. In any case, in vitro/in vivo studies have demonstrated that flavonoids are able to interact with many molecular and biochemical targets involved in carcinogenesis, a complex mechanism proceeding through a multistage process, from initiation to promotion and progression up to invasion and metastasis (Armitage and Doll, 1954). In these terms, many different molecular pathways can be targeted by anticancer food components responsible for cancer chemoprevention, which consists of the use of chemicals for reversal, suppression or prevention of the transformation of premalignant cells to a malignant geno/phenotype (Fig. 1). As powerful antioxidant and antiinflammatory agents, they may counteract oxidative stress and inflammation (Fu et al. 2013). They may also act on transcription factors (i.e. NFB), cell cycle and proliferation, apoptosis,

steroid hormone signalling, neoangiogenesis and metastasis (Collin-Burow et al. 2012; Chen et al. 2013; Xiang et al. 2013; Zhou et al. 2013). Many thousands of flavonoids have been discovered in the plant kingdom, and they are considered ubiquitous in plant foods and beverages (Iwashina, 2000). In conclusion, the health-promoting effects ascribed to a dietary style are due to the assortment of foods and beverages constituting that diet, consumed with regularity and, in some cases, with moderation. Similarly, the health benefits attributed to a (plant) food or beverage do not depend on a single compound present in it, but combination of phytochemicals, also different from flavonoids, has shown to enhance their bioactivities, by additive synergistic effects.

Conflict of Interests The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Received: 11/21/2013 Accepted: 11/28/2013 Published: 12/04/2013

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