The team suggest that by bringing together different areas of knowledge to study the phytochemicals and their derivatives (referred to as the phytochemome) it may be possibly to establish cause and effect relationships for the intake of individual phytochemicals or groups of phytochemicals found in herbal extracts and specific health benefits.
Writing in Food Research International, the team of Spanish researchers explain that phytochemomics is "a comprehensive concept aimed to increase the knowledge on phytochemicals´ bioactivity and their impact in health, aging and diseases, which is of growing importance in food, medicine and cosmetic sciences."
Led by María Dolores del Castillo from the Spanish Institute of Food Science Research, the team suggest that an approach using phytochemomics - in combination with other omics technologies - is 'essential' for permitting health claims.
"The authorities have identified a number of claims submitted for evaluation, referring to effects of plant or herbal substances, commonly known as ‘botanical’ substances or phytochemicals, for which they have not yet to complete a scientific evaluation," said the authors. "Phytochemomics will greatly contribute to complete the job."
"The provision of phytochemical information of a range of foods is vital to support the future work in assessing the protective status of people from chronic degenerative disorders."
A healthy future?
The team noted that while the current list of permitted health claims from EFSA includes several phytochemicals, the category could soon dominate the list of permitted health claims made on foods - with the number of commercially available products using such ingredients phytochemicals set to grow in the future.
"Plant sterols, for instance, as ingredients to functional foods are recommended for lowering LDL cholesterol" said del Castillo and her team. "However, there is an ongoing discussion whether the use of plant sterols is safe that can be concluded by using phytochemomics."
"The collection of enough scientific data for certificating health claims made on foods is time consuming. The approval of health claims made on phytosterols took decades of scientific work," the team added. "Time for completing scientific data on health claims made on phytochemicals will be dramatically shortened by phytochemics application and other related omics."
Source: Food Research International
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2013.05.014
"Phytochemomics and other omics for permitting health claims made on foods"
Authors: María Dolores del Castillo, Nuria Martinez-Saez, Miryam Amigo-Benavent, Jose Manuel Silvan