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, these substances are chemically unrelated but
nevertheless confer their benefits in a similar manner by reacting with a particular enzyme. This enzyme converts
salvestrols into a form that is toxic to malfunctioning cells but because it is only present in sick cells salvestrols
do not harm healthy cells.
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 in many foods. 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
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:
these substances are produced by plants to protect themselves from pests and disease. However, the use of many modern
fungicides and crop protection chemicals means that plants which are not organically grown do not express high
concentrations of salvestrols because they are not exposed to the attacks that cause them to be produced at such levels!
About 100 years ago, before the advent of such crop enhancing methods, we would have consumed a lot more salvestrols, naturally.