Mass Spectrometry in Phytonutrient Research
Phytonutrients are often non-essential food components that are found in vegetables, fruits, spices and traditional ingredients. Whether as food, spices, traditional ingredients or medicinal plants, a large number of phytonutrients are consumed by individuals in their normal, everyday lives. Phytonutrient rich foods have the potential to provide consumers with health beneficial effects and during the last 15 years, research on the effects of dietary phytonutrients on human health has developed considerably providing significant evidences supporting a role in the prevention of degenerative diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases and cancers. The structural complexity of phytonutrients is extremely vast from simple phenols and phenolic acids to complex high-molecular-weight compounds, such as the tannins and proanthocyanidins It is therefore difficult to provide mass spectrometric rules common to all types of phytonutrients since they have all specific physicochemical properties. Based on the main type of natural products for which health beneficial claims exist we will present a summary of the main mass spectrometric techniques used for their detection, quantification and identification in both their original matrices and in biological fluids. We will also review few food products and their efficacy on disease-risk reduction due to their content in phytonutrients, mainly polyphenols as this class of chemical is by far the most documented through clinical evidences.