What are Salvestrols?
Salvestrols are plant derived compounds (phytonutrients) essential for wellbeing that cannot be made in the
body and must therefore be supplied through our diet. As a group, they are chemically unrelated substances
except for the similar manner in which they confer their benefits, that is, as a result of their action with
a particular enzyme. This enzyme is present only in malfunctioning cells and when it encounters a salvestrol
it converts it into a form which is toxic to the sick cell. Because the enzyme is not present in healthy cells
the Salvestrols exert no ill effects on them.
The Discovery of Salvestrols.
The scientists in the UK who discovered Salvestrols — led by Gerry Potter (Professor of Medicinal Chemistry)
and Dan Burke (Emeritus Professor of Pharmaceutical Metabolism and former head of the School of Pharmacy) —
were developing synthetic pharmaceutical products that use this method to combat disease when they realised that
similarly structured compounds were naturally present at low concentrations in many foods. But on further investigation
they were surprised to learn that foods which should have been rich in these essential compounds actually showed low
concentrations or were in fact devoid of them. The researchers soon realised that this wasn't because the plants
couldn't produce these compounds but that modern food selection and production methods were removing them from the diet.
The Effect of Food Processing.
One reason for the disappearance of salvestrols in the diet is that that they all have a bitter taste. As a
result of the modern trend toward sweet flavours, plant sources that would normally be rich in salvestrols are
shunned as sweeter tasting varieties are bred or selected to suit modern tastes. Furthermore, the trend towards
producing foods without adding sugars or sweeteners is also causing salvestrols to be removed by manufacturing
processes that filter out bitter substances so that the finished product will taste sweeter.
The Effect of Food Production.
But the most exciting discovery was the fact which led the scientists to unravel the true mysteries of salvestrols.
The team has now shown that these important substances are produced by plants to protect themselves from pests and
disease, in a similar way that mammals have evolved to use them. However, the use of many modern fungicides and crop
protection chemicals means that plants which are not organically grown will not express high concentrations of
salvestrols because they are never exposed to the attacks which cause the plant to produce them at such levels!
About 100 years ago it is estimated that we would have consumed about 10 times the amount of salvestrols in our diet
as we do now.