Food phytochemicals matter for cardiometabolic health

FOODPHYT aims at raising awareness and understanding of the enormous potential of food phytochemicals to support the global fight against obesity and associated cardiometabolic diseases. 

Phytochemicals are small molecules synthetized by plants for their protection against aggressions. Over 1200 phytochemicals have been identified in commonly consumed foods, and every plant food contains a unique combination of several hundreds of phytochemicals. An explosion of research is demonstrating the health benefits of plant-based diets, specific plant foods and particular phytochemicals. For example, caffeine acutely improves cognitive function, cocoa flavanols protect vascular function and many food phytochemicals contribute to the prevention of diseases associated with aging and unbalanced diet, such as diabetes, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and some cancers.

The diverse food phytochemicals display varied effects on molecular targets. Their bioactivity often depends on everyone's capacity to metabolize them: phytochemicals are transformed in our tissues and by our gut microbes into derivatives called metabolites, which may have different bioactivity compared to the native compounds. The individuals' metabolic capacity is controlled by genetic and lifestyle factors. Data on bioactivities of food phytochemical metabolites are scattered in the scientific literature and challenging to evaluate. Some misleading information is also circulating due to an incorrect interpretation of scientific results or excessive marketing messages.

The first objective of FOODPHYT is to make available consolidated knowledge on metabolism and cardiometabolic health effects of food phytochemicals in an open-access database, compiling scientific data critically analyzed by an international consortium of experts. This database will fit the needs of many types of end-users, including the general public and health professionals.

Another crucial lever for a better consideration of phytochemicals is to improve our assessment of individuals' exposure to these compounds. The second FOODPHYT objective is to develop a reference analytical method, based on metabolomics, that allows covering a comprehensive range of food phytochemical metabolites in biofluids. FOODPHYT will also validate a panel of biomarkers of intake reflecting the consumption of all major plant foods. We will investigate associations observed between plant food intake biomarkers or specific food phytochemical metabolites present in biofluids with body weight and cardiometabolic outcomes in intervention and observational studies made available for FOODPHYT.

In the context of the expected transformation of the global food system towards an unprecedented increase of plant food consumption, there is a considerable potential for improving the nutritional quality of raw and processed foods as well as dietary advices, building on a better knowledge of exposure and health effects of food phytochemicals.


Partner Organization Partner Country
IDIBAPS, Hospital Clínic, University of Barcelona Spain
University of Parma Italy
Chalmers University of Technology Sweden
Max Rubner-Institut Germany
University of Alberta Canada
King’s College London UK



  • The consortium addressed one of the core activities of the project: mapping the metabolite profile of most of the families of phytochemicals. In detail, information on the plasma pharmacokinetics and urinary excretion of hundreds of metabolites has been collected and are being implemented in the database PhytoHub ( The first publication presenting a systematic review on the bioavailability in humans of a major class of dietary polyphenols, the flavan-3-ols, has been published in Molecular Aspects of Medicine (
  • We also made substantial progress for the validation of biomarkers of intake for 30 priority foods, and we are developping a quantification method for a large panel of biomarkers, that will be inter-lab validated.
  • The database PhytoHub ( has been enriched with new contents and functionalities. PhytoHub is the most comprenhensive online database for dietary phytochemicals and their human metabolites. A special effort was made on the nomenclature, identifiers, classification, pharmacokinetics and analytical data of the phytochemical metabolites. A blog was created to disseminate knowledge about food phytochemicals to a non-scientific audience.
  • A major achievement of the project was the constitution of an Early Carrier Scientist group with >40 young scientists who meet (virtually) monthly for networking and for driving some transversal tasks for the project. The Early Carrier Scientist organized 7 scientific webinars in 2022, as well as a round table and a pitch session in satelite to the Food Bioactive and Health Conference (Parma, June 2022) where 11 ECS from FoodPhyt and other projects presented their work on dietary phytochemicals (58 attendees). They also organized a training course on "Nutrimetabolomics and data analysis" at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona in October 2022. This event was a great success with 40 participants from 14 institutions, and it was highlighted on the JPI HDHL website in November 2022.


Title: Recommendations for standardizing nomenclature for dietary (poly)phenol catabolites
Author: Colin D Kay, Michael N Clifford, Pedro Mena*, Gordon J McDougall, Cristina Andres-Lacueva, Aedin Cassidy, Daniele Del Rio*, Nikolai Kuhnert, Claudine Manach*, Gema Pereira-Caro, Ana Rodriguez-Mateos*, Augustin Scalbert, Francisco Tomás-Barberán*, Gary Williamson, David S Wishart*, Alan Crozier
Title: Revisiting the bioavailability of flavan-3-ols in humans: A systematic review and comprehensive data analysis
Author: Giuseppe Di Pede*, Pedro Mena*, Letizia Bresciani*, Mariem Achour*, Rosa M. Lamuela-Raventós*, Ramon Estruch*, Rikard Landberg*, Sabine E. Kulling*, David Wishart*, Ana Rodriguez-Mateos*, Alan Crozier, Claudine Manach*, Daniele Del Rio*

Communication & Dissemination Activities

Target groupAuthorsMeans of communication
ScientistsDaniele Del Rio* (UNIPR), Human metabolism of polyphenols and polyphenol effects on human metabolism: the story so far, 72nd SIF National Congress (The Italian Society of Physiology), Bari, 2022Presentation
ScientistsDaniele Del Rio* (UNIPR), Polifenoli della dieta e prevenzione delle complicanze cardio-metaboliche: notizie dal fronte della ricerca, Stili di vita, nutrizione e longevità: le nuove sfide. Dalla prevenzione alla cura dell’obesità e delle complicanze cardio-metaboliche, Castelbuono (Palermo), 2022Presentation
ScientistsPedro Mena* (UNIPR), Personalized nutrition with dietary (poly)phenols: the importance of proper metabotyping strategies. 1st International Food Data Science Workshop. 30/11-2/12/2022. Valencia, Spain.Presentation
ScientistsPedro Mena* (UNIPR), Metabolism of polyphenols (by mammalian cells and gut microbiota): significance in the production of physiological relevant metabolites. Redox Biology Congress 2022. 24-26/08/2022. Ghent, BelgiumPresentation
ScientistsClaudine Manach* (INRAE)- New Developments for The Database Phytohub 2.0 On Plant Food Bioactives: Health Effects and Analytics for Metabolomics, 3rd International Conference on Food Bioactives and Health (FBHC), Parma 21st-24th, June 2022Presentation
Metabolomics platforms, scientistsClaudine Manach* (INRAE)- "Marqueurs métabolomiques de l’alimentation", Journée France-Québec Métabolomique et Nutrition. Online - 13 dec 2022Presentation


Project number:
Duration: 100%
Duration: 100 %
Related funding round:
Project lead and secretary:
Claudine Manach
Responsible organisation:
INRAE, France