Inhibition of carcinogen activation and


Foreign compounds (and a number of endogenous metabolites, including steroid hormones) undergo two stages of metabolism before excretion:

  • Phase I metabolism is metabolic activation, leading to the introduction of reactive groups. Many such reactions involve hydroxylation catalysed by cytochromes of the P450 family.
  • Phase II metabolism is conjugation of these reactive groups with glucuronic acid, amino acids or sulphate to increase water solubility and permit urinary excretion.

Although phase I metabolism is considered to be catabolic, and part of the inactivation of steroid hormones, it also results in the production of active carcinogens from a number of otherwise inactive compounds.

A number of compounds present in fruits and vegetables either inhibit phase I metabolism or activate phase II metabolism, or both.

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