Natural medicinal products have been used for millennia for the treatment of several ailments. Although many have been superseded by conventional pharmaceutical approaches, there is currently a resurgence in the interest in natural products by the general public and the use of complementary and alternative medicine is increasing rapidly in developed countries. Also, pharmaceutical industries are more and more interested in examining their potential as sources of novel medicinal compounds which may act as growth factor or show immunomodulatory or anti-microbial activity. The subgroup of natural bioactive compounds that bridge the gap between food products and drugs are termed nutraceuticals or functional foods. In contrast with most standard medicinal compounds, nutraceuticals are generally used to prevent rather than to treat disease. Many of the claims for such products are supported by very limited scientific evidence. However, there has recently been a great interest at evaluating the mechanism by which natural products exert their beneficial effects in the gastrointestinal tract. In particular, a major area of interest is for the use of biologically active chemical components of plants, i.e. phytochemicals, in a number of gastrointestinal disorders. While the major focus of phytochemical research has been on cancer prevention, several products of plant origin are being used and/or under study for a variety of other gastrointestinal problems. In this review we discuss the scientific evidence supporting the potential use of nutraceuticals as agents capable to prevent or accelerate healing of gastrointestinal mucosal damage, with a focus on polyphenol extracts obtained from apple.
Keywords: Apple polyphenols, gastric protection, intestinal protection, antioxidants, nutraceuticals, phytochemicals, millennia, pharmaceutical, gastrointestinal, mucosal
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