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Phytochemicals: The Nutrition Facts Missing From the Label

There are thousands of flavonoid phytonutrients in fruits, vegetables, and other whole plant foods missing from the nutrition labels that may play a role in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

November 25, 2011 |
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Nutritional data and images courtesy of www.NutritionData.com. Images thanks to EasyBuy4u

Transcript

It’s one thing to show Alzheimer's benefits in a petri dish, it’s quite another to show benefit in a human population. That came two years later. About 1800 people were followed for about 8 years. At the beginning of the study they asked how often everybody drank any kind of juice and then sat back and watched to see who would get Alzheimers. By the end of the study, it appeared that those who drank fruit and vegetable juices had a 76% lower risk of developing Alzheimers. They conclude that “fruit and vegetable juices may play an important role in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

What could it be? Here’s the nutrition facts label for purple grape juice on the left. According to the labels, there’s basically nothing in it. Not even any vitamin C. And indeed that’s what the study found, even after controlling for antioxidant vitamin intake—vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, still, a quarter the risk of Alzheimers. Based on the nutrition label you’d think it was just sugar water, practically indistinguishable from coca cola—in fact it’s got even more sugar—9 spoonfuls per cup compared to 7 in coke, but it just looks like sugar water because the labels don’t list phytonutrients. If they did, the coke label would remain the same, but the grape juice label would spill down, and roll along the floor like Santa’s list. And this would be like the first page of the list. There are thousands of phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables, missing in junk foods and animals foods, yet never listed on the labels.

The leading candidate class of compounds responsible for the protection against Alzheimers are the phenolics, like flavones, and flavonones, and flavonols, which in many cases can rapidly cross the blood-brain barrier. There are more than 5,000 different types of flavonoids in the plants we eat. Research suggests that within minutes of biting into an apple, for example, these phytonutrients are already starting to light up our brain.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And be sure to check out all the videos on phytonutrients, and yesterday's video Amyloid and apple juice.

Also, check out my associated blog posts for some more context: Alzheimer's Disease: Up to half of cases potentially preventable, Fighting Inflammation with Food Synergy, Is Caffeinated Tea Really Dehydrating?Antioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and Spices, and  Eating Green to Prevent Cancer

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And be sure to check out all the videos on phytonutrients, and yesterday’s video Amyloid and apple juice.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/TanTruong/ Tan Truong

    Wow, never even thought of this, and I guess neither do most people. Thanks!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/nicolas/ Nicolas

    I wonder how well all of these phytochemicals do with various forms of cooking processes, seeing as studies have only been done for a few of them, such as lycopene? Does anyone have any information on this?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lesleyvictoria/ Lesleyvictoria

    Hi Dr. Greger, I was just wondering if the juice was standard bottled/tetra pack juice or was it fresh pressed. I assume that fresh pressed would be best but I’m hoping packaged juices hold some benefit because they are obviously much more accessible!

    I love your videos!!! I’m hungry for health information!!

    Lesley

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jmboss/ jmboss

    Wow!!!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Alzheimer’s Disease: Up to half of cases potentially preventable!

  • Tracy

    Hi Dr. Greger – I am just wondering how the phytonutrients compare in organic and non organic foods – thank you :) 

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also check out my associated blog post Fighting Inflammation with Food Synergy

  • Michael Bowers

    I am a bit confused about the benefits of fruit or vegetable juice. I have seen some posts that insist that they ARE basically little more than sugary water and that the only real way to get benefits from fruits and vegetables is to eat them in their natural state, not as juices that have much of the nutrients (fiber, pulp, etc.) removed. So should I consider something like orange juice, tomato juice and apple juice “healthful” or not? Thanks …

  • N_

    This site says that only 3% of the beta carotene is converted to the Vitamin A the body needs. Which means you would have to eat a lot, really a lot, of vegetables to meet the Vitamin A requirements.

    http://healthybabycode.com/why-you-cant-get-vitamin-a-from-eating-vegetables