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The JSB Glossary

Acetaldehyde a colourless, flammable, volatile water-soluble liquid aldehyde, listed as a carcinogen by WHO.

Acid any substance that dissociates in water to yield a sour, corrosive solution containing a high concentration of hydrogen ions and having a pH of less than 7.

Acidic anything containing a high concentration of hydrogen ions and pH lower than 7.

Acidogenic a substance that is acid forming.

Acidosis an excessively acid condition of the body fluids or tissues resulting from either the accumulation of acid or the depletion of alkaline reserves.

Adiposity referring to stored fat in the tissues and related to large fat globules stored in adipose cells.

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) substances that can be a factor in the development or worsening of many degenerative diseases. Formed inside and outside the body as a result of a glycation reaction involving the addition of a carbohydrate to a protein without the involvement of an enzyme.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) a common eye disease occurring usually after age 60, which can progressively destroy the macula, the central portion of the retina, and impair central vision.

Agroecology an ecological approach to agriculture that views agricultural areas as ecosystems. Agroecology is concerned with the safety and ecological impact of agricultural practices.

Albumin the main protein in human blood that is soluble in water and coagulable by heat, such as that found in egg white, milk, muscle and (in particular) blood serum.

Alkaline anything containing a low concentration of hydrogen ions and pH greater than 7.

Amino acid the building blocks of all biological proteins. A single amino acid contains both a carboxyl (-COOH) and an amino (-NH2) group.

Angiogenesis the development of new blood vessels.

Anthocyanins flavonoids found in plants that give a purple, red or blue colouration (depending on pH) and act as protective agents towards intense light and also as powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidant a substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen and peroxides to protect the living body from the harmful effects of free radicals.

Apoptosis the death of cells that occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development.

Aspartate aminotransferase an enzyme normally present in body serum and in certain body tissues that forms glutamic acid and oxaloacetic acid in response to tissue injury and thus may increase as a result of myocardial infarction and liver damage.

ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) a nucleotide that is the primary source of energy in all living cells.

Autointoxication poisoning by a toxin formed within the body itself.

Autophagy controlled digestion of damaged, unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components within a cell through the actions of lysosomes.

Avenin the prolamine protein found in oats.


Bioavailability the degree to which a drug or other substance becomes available to the target tissue after administration into the body.

Biophoton from the Greek meaning life and light. A photon of the non-thermal low-energy endogenous radiation produced by humans and other living organisms and detected as barely visible light.

BMI (Body Mass Index) a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by his or her height in metres (m) squared. BMI is used to assess the health mass of an individual compared to the average.


Calcification the accumulation of calcium salts in body tissue. It normally occurs in the formation of bone, but calcium can be deposited abnormally in soft tissue, causing it to harden.

Carcinogen any substance or agent capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

Cardiovascular relating to or involving the circulatory system, which comprises the heart and the blood vessels.

Carnitine a compound obtained from food or produced by humans in muscle or liver, involved in the transport and transfer of fatty acids across mitochondrial membranes.

Carotenoid any class of mainly yellow, orange or red fat-soluble pigments, including carotene, which give colour to plant parts such as ripe tomatoes and autumn leaves, and provide a source of vitamin A.

CCK (cholecystokinin) see Cholecystokinin.

Centenarian someone who lives to 100 years of age or beyond.

CGA Chlorogenic acid, a naturally occurring organic compound, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties shown to slow the release of glucose and reduce blood pressure.

Chelation the use of chelating agents to detoxify poisonous metal agents such as mercury, arsenic, and lead by converting them to a chemically inert form that can be excreted without further interaction with the body.

Chemopreventive the use of agents to reverse, suppress or prevent the development of cancer.

Chlorophyll a green pigment, present in all green leaves, plants, cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae, which is responsible for the absorption of light for energy production and photosynthesis.

Cholecystokinin (CCK) a hormone that is secreted by cells in the duodenum and stimulates gallbladder contraction, the release of bile into the intestine and the secretion of enzymes by the pancreas.

Chyme the pulpy acidic fluid that passes from the stomach to the small intestine. Chyme consists of gastric juices and partly digested food.

Circadian rhythm the rhythm generated by an internal clock that is synchronised to light-dark cycles and other cues in an organism’s environment.

Co-factor a substance that is essential for the activity of an enzyme or other substance to influence and contribute towards certain effects.


Defrag to reduce the amount of fragmentation in a certain area.

Detoxification the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, mainly carried out by the liver.

Dextrose a simple monosaccharide found in plants. It is absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) an omega-3 fatty acid.

Diaita the Greek origin of the term diet, literally meaning ‘way of life’ and combining diet and lifestyle.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) the hereditary material in living organisms that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms.

Dopamine a hormone and neurotransmitter produced in the brain and acting as a chemical messenger to assist with a number of integral processors in the body, particularly enhancing mind and mood.


EFA see Essential fatty acid

Endorphin endogenous opioid inhibitory neuropeptides produced by the central nervous system and pituitary gland with the role of activating the body’s opiate receptors causing an analgesic effect.

Endothelium the thin layer of simple squamous cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, forming an interface between circulating blood or lymph in the lumen and the rest of the vessel wall.

Enteropathy any disease of the intestine.

EPA (Eicosapentaeoic acid) an omega-3 fatty acid critical to health.

Epidemiology the science of the study of patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.

Epigenetics the study of cellular and physiological traits that are heritable by daughter cells and not caused by changes in the DNA sequence, which describes the study of stable, long-term alterations in the transcriptional potential of a cell.

Essential fatty acid (EFA) fatty acids that are unable to be synthesised by humans and other animals and therefore must be ingested as they are required for overall health.

Excitotoxin a class of chemicals that overstimulates neuron receptors in the brain. Neuron receptors allow brain cells to communicate with each other, but when they’re exposed to excitotoxins they fire impulses at such a rapid rate that they become exhausted.


Fermentation the natural conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using a combination of yeasts, bacteria or other microorganisms under anaerobic conditions.

Flavonoid polyphenolic compounds found in nature that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular protecting and chemopreventive actions. Flavonoids are categorised according to chemical structure into different classes such as flavonols, flavones, flavanones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins and chalcones.

Free radical an uncharged atom or group of atoms that is highly chemically reactive because it has at least one unpaired valency electron. Free radicals can attack cells and cause damage in the body. They form in heated fats and oils and as a result of exposure to influences such as radiation and environmental pollutants.

Freebasing refers to the non-salt form of a drug. Drugs are usually converted to a water-soluble salt so that they can be orally or intra-nasally consumed, but freebased drugs need to be smoked in order to be consumed.


Gastrointestinal relating to the stomach and the intestines of the digestive system in the body.

Genetic expression the interpretation of the genetic code that gives rise to the expression of specific characteristics in the individual organism and can be influenced by external factors such as diet and lifestyle.

Genome an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes and genetic information.

Genotyping the process of determining differences in the genetic make-up (genotype) of an individual by examining the individual’s DNA sequence and comparing it to another’s sequence or a reference sequence. It reveals the gene forms inherited from their parents.

GLA Gamma-linolenic acid is a fatty acid found primarily in vegetable oils and also in varying amounts in other specific plant foods.

Gliadin a glycoprotein within gluten that is present in certain grains in the Triticum grass genus such as wheat, rye, barley, millet and oats.

Gliadorphin (also known as gluteomorphin) an opioid peptide that is formed during digestion of the gliadin component of the gluten protein.

Globulin a family of globular proteins within the blood produced in the liver or made by the immune system. Their role is to transport ions, hormones and lipids assisting in immune, hormone and cardiovascular functions.

Glutamate an important excitatory neurotransmitter that plays a key role in neural activation.

Gluten an irritating protein found in high amounts in modern strains of wheat, rye and barley.

Glutenin the major glutelin protein within wheat flour, responsible for the strength and elasticity of dough.

Glycation the process by which simple sugar molecules attach themselves to lipid fats or proteins without the involvement of an enzyme. This results in the formation of rogue molecules known as AGEs (advanced glycation end-products).


HDL (high-density lipoproteins) lipoproteins that transport cholesterol from the tissues of the body to the liver, so the cholesterol can be eliminated in the bile.

Homeostasis the regulation of temperature and the balance between acidity and alkalinity (pH). A process that maintains the stability of the internal environment in response to changes in external conditions and influences.

Hyper-palatable when a food or substance ingested is very enjoyable.

Idiopathic steatorrhoea the medical term for coeliac disease; an intestinal disorder caused by sensitivity to the protein gliadin contained in gluten.


Immunosuppressive involves an act that reduces the activation or efficacy of the immune system. Something that is immunosuppressive depresses the efficacy of the immune system.

Isothiocyanate a chemical group formed by substituting the oxygen in the isocyanate group with a sulphur compound. Many natural isothiocyanates from plants are produced by enzymatic conversion of metabolites called glucosinolates.


Lactic acid a chemical compound that plays a role in various biochemical processes and is produced in the muscle tissues during strenuous exercise.

Lactobacillus bacteria that are capable of transforming lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid through fermentation. Naturally present in the colon and often referred to as ‘friendly’ bacteria because they aid digestion and diminish the numbers of disease-causing microorganisms. The two most common forms of lactobacilli are L. acidophilus and L. bifidus.

Lacto-fermentation the Lactobacillus fermentation process of certain food sources that involves oxygen, warmth and time.

LDL cholesterol a low-density lipoprotein that transports cholesterol in the bloodstream towards the tissue cells of the body. High levels are often associated with the risk of heart disease due to the effects it has on the arteries, causing atherosclerosis.

Leptin a hormone that plays a critical role in appetite and weight control.

Leucocytosis a white blood cell count above the normal range in the blood.

Lignans a group of chemical compounds found in plant foods such as seeds, legumes, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables.


Menarche the first menstrual cycle, or first menstrual bleeding, in female humans. From both social and medical perspectives it is often considered the central event of female puberty, as it signals the possibility of fertility.

Meta-analysis statistical approach that combines the results from multiple studies in an effort to increase power (over individual studies), improve estimates of the size of the effect and/or resolve uncertainty when reports disagree.

Microbiome the genomes that make up the microbiota that resides on the surface and in deep layers of skin, including the mammary glands and in the saliva and oral mucosa, the conjunctiva and the gastrointestinal tracts.

Microflora the colony of micro-organisms that are found on or in a special location of a host organism or environment.

Mutagenic an agent, such as a chemical, ultraviolet light or a radioactive element, that can induce or increase the frequency of mutation in an organism.


Neurotransmitters the neurochemicals that are involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. Major neurotransmitters include acetylcholine, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

Neurobehavioural behavioural impairments seen in association with brain disease, for example, stroke, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and neuro-oncological conditions, transient as well as permanent brain impairments, for example, metabolic and toxic encephalopathies, and/or injury, for example, trauma, hypoxia and/or ischemia.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis liver inflammation caused by a build-up of fat (in the liver) and often referred to as ‘silent liver disease’ or ‘fatty liver disease’.

Non-communicable disease (NCD) a medical condition or disease that cannot be transmitted from one organism or environment to another. It is non-infectious and non-transmissible from person to person.

Non-tropical sprue a disease of the small intestine causing malabsorption of food and flattening of the villi in the digestive lining, commonly referred to as coeliac disease.

Noradrenaline a hormone that is produced naturally by the body and often referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ chemical, responsible for the body’s reaction to stressful situations.


Obesogenic an environment, lifestyle or situation tending to cause obesity.

Oncogenesis the formation and development of tumours.

Opioid any chemical that resembles morphine or opiates in its pharmacological effects.

Orbital frontal cortex the prefrontal cortex region of the brain, situated in the frontal lobes, involved in the cognitive processing of decision-making.

Oxidative stress a disturbance in the balance between the production of reactive free radicals and the body’s ability readily to detoxify the reactive intermediates, or to repair the resulting damage.


Particulate microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Pathogenic an infectious agent capable of causing disease or illness.

pH a measure of acidity or alkalinity. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline.

Phenolics chemicals produced both naturally and synthetically. Some common phenolics are caffeine, citric acid, acetylaldehyde, hormones, amino acids and neurochemicals. They have a higher acidity than other chemical compounds becausee the hydroxyl group is not bonded to a saturated carbon atom.

Phytochemical chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants determining the natural appearance, colour, nutrient profile and properties of the plant.

Phytonutrient a naturally occurring plant-derived nutrient.

Plantioxidant antioxidants unique to plants.

Polypeptide chains of amino acids linked covalently by peptide bonds.

Polyphenols protective micronutrients abundant in the human diet, acting to protect us from degenerative diseases depending on the amount consumed, from which sources, and their bioavailability.

Prebiotics indigestible, high-fibre, carbohydrate compounds that pass through the gastrointestinal tract and stimulate the growth and activity of advantageous bacteria that colonise the large bowel by acting as a food source or substrate for them.

Primary malabsorption a state arising from abnormality in absorption of food nutrients across the gastrointestinal tract.

Probiotics live bacteria and yeast that encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Often referred to as ‘good bacteria’ or ‘healthy bacteria’.


Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep one of the five stages of sleep characterised by rapid eye movements, more dreaming and bodily movement, and faster pulse and breathing.

Resorption the process or action by which something is reabsorbed into the circulation of cells, tissue or bloodstream.

Resveratrol a type of polyphenol compound produced naturally by certain plants in response to injury or when the plant is under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi; has antioxidant properties and has been investigated for possible anticarcinogenic effects.


Second-hand smoke environmental tobacco smoke that is inhaled involuntarily or passively by someone who is not smoking.

Serotonin a compound present in blood platelets and serum, which constricts the blood vessels and acts as a neurotransmitter that is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. Integral to mood regulation, pain perception and gastrointestinal function including perception of hunger and satiety and other physical functions.

Stilbene an unsaturated hydrocarbon that is the nucleus of stilbestrol and other synthetic estrogenic compounds.

Sulforaphane an anticarcinogenic isothiocyanate found in cruciferous vegetables that is thought to function by stimulating the production of enzymes in the body that detoxify cancer-causing substances.


Teratogens any agent, drug or substance that can disturb the development of, or cause malformations in, an embryo or foetus.

Third-hand smoke generally considered to be residual nicotine and other chemicals left on a variety of surfaces, carpets, sofas, clothing, skin and hair by tobacco smoke. This residue can react with common pollutants to create a toxic mix.

TMAO see Trimethylamine-N-oxide

Trace elements a chemical element required only in minute amounts by living organisms or environments to maintain proper physical functioning.

Trans-fat an unhealthy substance, also known as trans-fatty acid, made through oil hydrogenation, a chemical heating process of oils. Believed to be detrimental to health.

Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) a compound produced by bacteria in the stomach that appears to correlate with the risk of heart disease.

Valsalva manoeuvre forceful exhalation against a closed airway, usually performed by closing one’s mouth and pinching one’s nose shut while pressing out, as if inflating a balloon.

Vasodilation the relaxation and widening of blood vessels.


Villi (singular villus) small finger-like projections that protrude from the epithelial lining of the intestinal wall.


AIM            Archives of Internal Medicine

AFP             Agence France-Presse

AASLD        American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases

AICR            American Institute for Cancer Research

AP               Associated Press

ARIC            Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities

BMC            BioMed Central (BMC)

BMI             body mass index

BMJ             British Medical Journal

BWH           Brigham and Women’s Hospital

CNIO           Spanish National Cancer Research Centre

DHA            Dubai Health Authority

ECDC           European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control

EPIC            European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition

GBD            Global Burden of Disease Study

GDA            Growth, Development and Aging

HSPH          Harvard School of Public Health

IARC            International Agency for Research on Cancer

IHME           The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

ILC-UK        International Longevity Centre

JACC           The Journal of the American College of Cardiology

JAMA          The Journal of the American Medical Association

MESA          Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

MUSC         Medical University of South Carolina

NCDs           non-communicable diseases

NHANES     National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys

NHS             National Health Service

NIH              National Institute of Health

OECD          Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

OCS             Okinawa Centenarian Study

PHP             Practitioner Health Program

TIFR             Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

UICC            Union for International Cancer Control

UKIOM       UK Institute of Medicine

USA             United States of America

USDA HNRCA                USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging

WCRF         World Cancer Research Fund

WHO          World Health Organisation

YHA             Yemeni Heart Association

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