This glossary contains the definition of the main terms used and highlighted in this website. They are displayed in alphabetical order for your convenience. In the English version of the website glossary terms are underlined by default but you can deselect this option by activating the MY EUFIC feature.


The movement of water and dissolved substances into a cell, tissue or organism.

Acceptable Daily Intake

Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is the estimated amount of a substance one can consume on a daily basis throughout a lifetime without it causing harm to their health.

Added sugars

Added sugars are sugar carbohydrates that are added to foods during industrial processing, they are chemically indistinguishable from natural occurring sugars. They have no nutritional value and their consumption is linked to excessive calorie intake and obesity.


A compulsive physical or physiological need for the use and abuse of a substance (e.g. alcohol) or a behaviour (e.g. gambling).


A substance added to food products that performs a technological function (e.g. improves colour, flavour, shelf life or nutritional value).

Adequate Intake

The average daily intake of a nutrient recommended for the general population to avoid deficiency.


The extent to which a patient follows medical advice.

Adipose tissue

The tissue found throughout the body in which fat is stored as an energy reserve.

Adjusted analysis

Taking into account differences in baseline characteristics (for instance whether a subject smokes before the experiment) when drawing conclusions from the results of an experiment.

Advanced heating

The use of electromagnetic energy to heat food e.g. a microwave oven.


is the science of soil management and crop production. It draws on fields such as biology, chemistry, economics, ecology, soil science, water science, pest management and genetics for improvement and management of the major global food crops.


The common name for the substance with the chemical names ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Produced during the fermentation of sugar by yeast, it is the main component of alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol dehydrogenase

An enzyme which is present in most tissues of the body, it catalyses the oxidation of alcohol to acetaldehyde. There are several genetically determined forms of the enzyme whose pattern differs among individuals.


A variant of the same gene. For example these variants are responsible for why some people have different blood types.


A substance which provokes an allergic response.


An exaggerated immune response to a particular substance.

Alzheimer’s disease

A degenerative brain disorder characterised by progressive memory loss, disorientation and changes in language, behaviour and personality.


Organic compounds usually derived from amino acids that contain nitrogen and hydrogen which play a prominent role in biochemical systems.


A type of antibiotic that is used for treating bacterial infections.


A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal. Men are diagnosed as anaemic if their haemoglobin levels are less than 13-14 g/dL, while women are diagnosed as anaemic if their haemoglobin levels drop below 12-13 g/dL.


An inflammatory immune reaction by an individual who is sensitive to a particular protein, it may be severe enough to be life-threatening.


Swelling of the skin or mucous membrane and underlying tissue


A negatively charged ion such as a chloride ion, C1-.


A lack or loss of appetite brought about by an unpleasant food, surroundings or emotional states such as anxiety, irritation, anger or fear. Anorexia is common among those undergoing chemotherapy because the medicine can alters taste perceptions.

Anorexia nervosa

An eating disorder marked by an intense fear of gaining weight with a refusal to maintain a healthy weight and a distorted body image. This is a serious mental illness where people keep their body weight low by dieting, vomiting, using laxatives or excessively exercising.


A medicine used to treat bacterial infections.


A protein molecule produced and secreted by B cells in response to an antigen, which is capable of binding to that specific antigen.


A foreign substance or protein to the body that when introduced is recognised by the immune system.


Any substance which can delay or prevent oxidation.


A process in which cells die as a defence mechanism of the body or to maintain cell numbers during development or aging.


A heart rhythm that is too slow, too fast or irregular.


A blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the tissues and organs of the body.


A statistical relationship between two or more different variables.


A breathing difficulty that is caused by the narrowing of the air passages, it is reversible.


A degenerative disease of the arteries where they thicken due to an accumulation of plaque beneath the inner lining, eventually restricting blood flow.


The smallest unit of an element which consists of protons, neurons and electrons.

Autoimmune disease

A condition in which the body recognises its own tissues as foreign and directs an immune response against them.

Average Requirement

Average Requirement (AR) is the level of nutrient intake that is adequate for half the people in a population.

B cells

B cells (B lymphocytes) are white blood cells derived from stem cells in bone marrow that produce antibodies.


Tiny living organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. Some bacteria are harmless and can even be good for us, others however can cause sickness.


A type of white blood cell that contributes to inflammatory reactions and the symptoms of an allergy.


Beta-carotene (β-carotene) is the most abundant of the carotenoids. Beta-carotene has strong provitamin A activity. Unlike vitamin A itself, beta-carotene is a strong antioxidant.


A carotenoid pigment found in a biological systems of the human body.


A type of systematic error that results in the over or underestimation of the associations between an exposure and an outcome.

Binge-eating disorder

An eating disorder involving frequently consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time, the person may also feel a loss of control and is not able to stop eating.


Any substance which interacts with living tissues.


The ability of a nutrient or another substance such as a drug to be taken up by the body.


Crops with increased nutritional value that have been developed using agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding techniques, or modern biotechnology.


Measurements of the human body or its products. Some biomarkers, such as the levels of certain vitamins in blood serum are used as indices of nutritional status and others are used as indices of the risk or progression of disease.


Any technological application that uses living organisms or their components to improve human health, animal health and food production.

Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in the production of the plastics that food products are commonly stored in.


A cooking technique often used for vegetables, where they are partially cooked in boiling water for a short time and then plunged into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. It is used to destroy enzymes that cause food spoilage. Blanched foods are often frozen to prolong shelf life.

Blind study

A study in which patients, investigators and anyone assessing the outcome is unaware of which patients have been assigned to the experimental or control groups.

Blood clot

A clump of solidified blood that forms when blood platelets, proteins and cells stick together. The body uses it to stop bleeding when there is an injury, but if it forms when it is not needed then it can cause a heart attack, stroke or other medical problems.

Blood pressure

The pressure exerted by circulating blood on the walls of arteries, veins and heart chambers. When the heart contracts, the maximum pressure exerted is the systolic pressure; during relaxation, the minimum pressure is the diastolic.

Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a weight-for-height index used to screen a person to calculate their weight status. Normal weight, underweight, overweight or obese. BMI is determined by dividing bodyweight in kilograms by height in meters squared (kg/m2).


The process of raising the temperature of a liquid until it begins to bubble and turn into vapour.


Eating followed by self-induced vomiting.

Bulimia nervosa

An eating disorder characterised by consuming a large amount of food in a short time (binge-eating) followed by compensatory behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, excessive exercise and fasting. People with this disorder generally maintain a normal weight which makes this disorder easily hidden.


A unit of measurement for energy. It measures the amount of energy in food, “kilocalories” (equal to 1000 calories) is most commonly used and is labelled as "kcal".


A group of diseases characterised by uncontrolled cell growth.


A method of preserving food by heating it to a high temperature and then storing it in an air-tight container.


Components of food containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The term carbohydrate includes simple sugars, monosaccharides (e.g. glucose) and disaccharides (e.g. sucrose), oligosaccharides (containing several monosaccharide units) and polysaccharides. Starch and simple sugars are the bodies preferred source of carbohydrates. Indigestible polysaccharides are the main components of dietary fibre.


A substance capable of inducing cancer. Carcinogens work by causing genetic mutations to a cell's DNA.


The complex, multistep process of cancer causation.


The ability of a particular substance to cause cancer in humans.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes any one of the numerous abnormal conditions characterised by a dysfunction of the heart and blood vessels.

Cardiovascular system

The system that contains the heart and the blood vessels which are responsible for moving blood throughout the body.


A group of red, orange and yellow pigments that are found in plant food and in the tissues of organisms that consume plants. Carotenoids have high antioxidant activity. Some, but not all, can act as precursors of vitamin A; the main one of these is b-carotene, the most common of the carotenoids.

Case-control study

A study design in which persons with a disease (cases) are compared with those without the disease (controls) to see how their exposures to potential causative factors may have differed.


A catalyst is a substance which increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself being used up in the reaction.


A disorder in which the lens of the eye becomes partly or completely opaque as a result of the build-up of proteins.


A positively charged ion such as a sodium ion, Na+.


The basic unit of any living thing.


The method of separating particles based on their density through using centrifugal force. In a centrifuge the rotor spins around at high speed, forcing the enclosed objects outwards. The particles with the highest density end up at the bottom of a container, while the less dense particles are deposited on the top.

Challenge test

The reintroduction of a food previously eliminated from the diet on suspicion that it caused an adverse reaction.


A branch of natural sciences that studies the composition, structure and properties of matter.


An essential sterol/lipid molecule made by the body for use as a structural component in cells.


Where the DNA of a cell is stored, they are found in the nucleus.


Large particles that are composed mainly of triglycerides which are stabilised with a protein and phospholipid surface. They carry fats recently absorbed from a meal into the bloodstream.


A chronic degenerative disease of the liver. Fat infiltration occurs, the cells degenerate, the liver is destroyed, blood supply is reduced and liver function deteriorates.

Cis fatty acid

The form of most naturally occurring unsaturated fatty acids. The hydrogen bonds are on adjacent sides of double bonds, resulting in a bend in the hydrocarbon chain at that point.

Clinical trial

An experiment to compare the effects of two or more healthcare interventions.


The clumping together of very fine particles to form larger ones.


A chemical substance that enhances the action of a carcinogen but does not itself initiate cancer.

Coeliac disease

A disease caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten.


An organic compound which combines with an enzyme and plays an essential part in its catalytic reaction.

Cognitive ability

The ability to think and reason. It includes the ability to concentrate, remember the past, process information, learn, speak, and understand.

Cognitive behaviour therapy

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps patients change their behaviour by changing the way they think and feel about certain things. It is used to treat mental, emotional, personality, and behavioural disorders.

Cognitive disorder

Cognitive disorders are those involving the brains ability to remember and process information. The causes of these disorders may be physical e.g. a head injury or the degeneration of the brain with aging - but they may also be related to substance abuse and other causes.

Cohort or follow-up study

A study in which data on exposures to possible risk factors for disease are collected from a group of people (cohort) who do not have the disease under investigation. The subjects are then followed for a period of time to see whether the later development of disease is related to the factors that were measured initially.


Blood proteins that amplify the action of antibodies.

Confidence interval

The range of values within which a variable is likely to lie.

Confounding factors

Factors that distort an association because they are associated with an exposure as well as a disease or other outcome.


A condition characterised by difficult or infrequent bowel movements.


A substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that might cause harmful effects to humans and the environment.

Control group

A group that does not receive the experimental intervention that is being investigated. Usually the control group receives either usual care practice or a placebo drug.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a condition in which the main arteries supplying the heart are blocked and no longer able to supply sufficient blood to the heart, which causes its death. The main cause of this reduced blood flow is the accumulation of plaque, a disease known as atherosclerosis.


A statistical measure that indicates the degree of relationship between two different variables.

Crossover study

A study design in which all patients are switched to the alternate intervention after a specified period of time.

Cross-sectional study

A study where a specific population is observed or measured at one specific point in time.


A method of preserving meat and fish by treating them with salt. The salt dehydrates the food which helps to prevent food spoilage.


A substance that is toxic to cells.


A condition in which the body does not have enough water to optimally carry out normal functions.


A progressive condition characterised by the loss of cognitive and intellectual functions but without the impairment of perception or consciousness.

Dental caries

A disease affecting the hard tissues of the teeth resulting in progressive decay. Bacteria that accumulate in a dense mass known as plaque on the surface of the teeth ferment dietary carbohydrates (see fermentation) to form acids that de-mineralise the hard tissues underneath. Hence, cariogenicity refers to the capacity of a food or drink to lead to caries in those who consume it. Periodontal disease is a related bacterial infection that affects the softer supporting tissues of the teeth.


Inflammation of the skin.


DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) is an imaging test that measures bone density (the amount of bone mineral contained in a certain volume of bone) by passing x-rays with two different energy levels through the bone.


A metabolic disorder characterised by high blood sugar levels due to the body’s inability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin normally. The condition is frequently associated with obesity and hyperlipidaemia.

Diet history

A method of dietary assessment in which subjects are asked open-ended questions about their usual dietary intakes.

Dietary recall

A method of dietary assessment in which subjects are asked to recall their food consumption over a specific period of time.

Dietary Reference Values

Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) are the complete set of nutrient recommendations and reference values for nutrient intakes. They include population reference intakes, the average requirements, adequate intake levels, and the lower threshold intakes.

Dietary supplement

A concentrated source of nutrients (or other substances) that provide a nutritional or physiological effect with the intended purpose to supplement a normal diet.


A group of poisonous organic chemicals which are formed as by-products of chemical processes (e.g. burning plastic).

Dizygotic twins

Twins derived from two separately fertilized eggs. Also called non-identical twins.


Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) is the chemical name for the molecule that carries genetic instructions in all living things.

Dose-response assessment

The determination of the relationship between the size of an exposure to a biological, chemical or physical agent and the severity and frequency of associated adverse health effects.

Double-blind food challenge

Food challenge test where neither the patient nor the clinical investigator knows the identity of the substance being used.

Double-blind study

A study in which neither the participants, nor the researchers know which participant is in the control or test groups.

Doubly-labelled water

Water in which both the hydrogen and the oxygen has been partly or completely replaced by less common isotopes of these elements. It is used to assess energy expenditure in free-living organisms.


A method of removing water normally present in foodstuffs by applying heat. Removing water helps to improve the shelf-life of foods as microorganisms need it to grow.

Ecological study

A study that compares the rates of exposure and disease in different populations using data on exposure and disease rather than individual data.


An itching red rash, often on the face, hands or skins folds, which oozes and crusts if scratched.


A machine that displays a line graph showing changes in the electrical activity of the heart over time when sensors are attached to the patient’s body.


Positively or negatively charged minerals which help keep an optimal fluid balance in our body’s cells.


A substance used to prevent the separation of oil and water in a mixture.


Originating from within the body.


A hormone produced in the brain that can relieve pain and give a feeling of well-being.

Energy Density

Energy content per gram of food.

Energy expenditure

Utilisation by the body of chemical energy from food components or body stores during the process of metabolism which is eventually dissipated as heat plus the heat generated by muscular activity, either in shivering or in physical activity.

Energy intake

The chemical energy contained in foods and drinks that can be metabolised to produce energy available to the body.


Cells which line the small intestines. They have three major functions: secretion, digestion and absorption.


All chemicals approved for safe use as food additives are assigned a code which begins with the letter 'E'. For example, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is assigned the E number E300 when used as a food additive.

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is a technique used to accurately measure the amount of a substance in a sample, for example in sports drug testing, the presence of certain drugs in a blood sample.


Proteins which start the reactions of the metabolism, speeding them up without themselves being used up. Each enzyme is specific for a given reaction.


A scientist who studies the patterns, causes, and controls of disease in populations.


The study of associations between patterns of disease in populations and environmental, lifestyle or genetic factors.


Changes in the expression of a gene caused by external or environmental factors without a change in the DNA.


The surface layer of the skin, the lining layer of the intestinal mucosa or the air passages of the lungs.

Essential amino acid

An amino acid that cannot be produced by the body and therefore has to be obtained from the diet.


Evaporation is the conversion of a liquid to a gas, normally by the application of heat. Water evaporates from temperatures of zero degrees upwards. The rate of evaporation increases with increased level of heat.


The available body of facts and information indicating whether a belief is valid.

Experimental design

Nutrition science advances by observation and by experiment, e.g. subjects are given specifically formulated diets and certain effects are noted.

Exposure assessment

The qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the likely intake of biological, chemical and physical agents via food as well as exposures from other sources.

External validity

How general are a study’s findings to other populations than the subjects in the study.


Inside the body but not within cells; hence, the extracellular compartment refers to the space comprised mainly of water, outside the cells.


Removing a material or substance from another.


Triglycerides (triacylglycerol) that are either solid (e.g. in margarine, shortening, lard, etc.) or liquid (e.g. vegetable or fish oil) at room temperature (see also oil).

Fat mimetics

Compounds that carry out only some of the functions of fat in foods.

Fat substitutes

Compounds that can replace conventional fat in foods and carry out all of the same functions.

Fat-soluble vitamins

Organic substances that cannot be produced in the body but are essential for cellular functions and must be obtained from the diet. They are stored in fat and include Vitamins A, D, E and K are the fat-soluble vitamins.

Fatty acids

Long chains of lipids that are found in fats, oils and human cell membranes.

Fatty liver

An abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver associated, in extreme cases, with abdominal discomfort. It often precedes other liver diseases such as cirrhosis.

Fatty streaks

Slightly raised fatty deposits in arteries that do not cause obstruction; possibly but not definitely precursors of atherosclerotic plaque.


Metabolism to extract energy from substrates. In the context of dietary fibre, fermentation involved anaerobic (without oxygen) degradation of indigestible carbohydrates by the microflora (mainly bacteria) of the large intestine. Fermentation may also involve the degradation of sugars or starches (following enzymatic digestion by saliva) in the mouth by cariogenic bacteria.

Fermented foods

Foods that have been subjected to processing that involves the actions of yeasts or bacteria.


Any substance added to soil or water to increase its productivity.


A condition in which there is a proliferation of fibrous or connective tissue. It is often associated with the formation of scar tissue following an injury or infection.


The separation of particles from fluid through a porous material which allows the passage of fluid but stops the unwanted particles from passing.


A class of compounds found in many plants and plant-based foods.

Foetal alcohol syndrome

Defects in the growth and development of a foetus resulting from excessive consumption of alcohol by the mother and possibly even the father during conception.

Food frequency questionnaire

A method of dietary assessment in which subjects are asked to recall how frequently certain foods were consumed during a specified period of time.

Food record

A method of dietary assessment in which subjects record the types and amounts of foods that they consume.

Food safety objective

A government-defined target considered necessary to protect the health of consumers (this may apply to raw materials, a process or finished products).

Food safety requirement

A company-defined target considered necessary to comply with a food safety objective.

Foodborne illness

Foodborne illnesses are defined as diseases, usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food.


Fortification is the process of adding nutrients to a food. Sometimes this has to be done by law, for example, in the case of margarine, and sometimes nutrients are added, e.g. to breakfast cereals, to help the population meet their nutrient needs.

Fortified food

A food that has had extra nutrients added to it.


A condition associated with aging that may lead to vulnerability and a greater risk of adverse health outcomes.

Free radical

A highly reactive chemical species that normally exists for a relatively short time. Some free radicals are formed in the body during processes of oxidation and may be useful for example in killing infectious organisms. Free radicals are also capable of doing extensive damage to tissues unless kept in check by antioxidants.

Free sugars

Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose or fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.


The process of reducing the temperature of a food below its freezing point. Many microorganisms and enzymes are unable to operate at such low temperatures meaning food spoilage takes longer to occur.

Functional food

A food that is consumed as part of a normal food pattern which has beneficial effects on body functions that go beyond its nutritional effects. These effects are relevant to an improved state of health and well-being.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

A non-invasive tool used to examine internal organs such as the brain.


A plant like type of microorganism that does not produce chlorophyll e.g. yeast and moulds.

Gastrointestinal tract

The organ along which food travels from the mouth until the anus where the undigested remnants are excreted. Mixing and some digestion occur in the stomach where the environment is acidic; most digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs in the small intestine; the large intestine, principally the colon, contains very large numbers of micro-organisms capable of fermenting food components that have escaped digestion in the small intestine.


A complex solid and liquid food system, interconnected to give a network of intermingled particles.


The process of heating starch granules, which causes them to swell and absorb water. The resulting mixture is a thick, gel-like compound which is used as an ingredient in various food products.


The smallest sequence of a DNA molecule capable of directing protein synthesis or performing a regulatory function.


A faulty gene inherited through the family tree.

Genetic library

A collection of cloned DNA which is stored inside a vector.

Genetic Modification

The addition, deletion, substitution, rearrangement or recombination of heritable genetic material using techniques defined in Directive 90\220\EEC.

Genetic stability

An inherited increase in risk for developing a specific disease or disorder.

Genetic susceptibility

Increased likelihood or chance of developing a particular disease due to the presence of one or more gene mutations and/or a family history that indicates an increased risk of the disease.

Genetically modified organisms

An organism in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally through fertilisation and/or natural recombination. GMOs may be plants, animals or micro-organisms, such as bacteria, parasites and fungi.


An organism's complete collection of genetic information.


Genomics refers to the study of the entire genome (the complete collection of genetic information) of an organism; whereas genetics refers to the study of a particular gene.


A substance capable of causing damage to DNA.


An individual's collection of genes.


A microorganism which can cause an infection or disease.


A hormone secreted by cells in the stomach which stimulates our appetite.


The formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, such as protein or fat.


A carbohydrate with a simple structure, which is an important energy source in living organisms.

Glucose tolerance test

A test of the body's ability to metabolise carbohydrate by administering a standard dose of glucose under controlled conditions and measuring the blood and urine for sugar at regular intervals thereafter. The glucose tolerance test is usually used to assist in the diagnosis of diabetes or other disorders that affect carbohydrate metabolism.


A antioxidant molecule produced naturally in the human body and present in some foods.


The name for the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley.

Gluthathione peroxidases

A family of antioxidant molecule produced naturally in the human body and present in some foods.

Glycaemic index

A method for assessing the comparative effects of different carbohydrates on the pattern of changes in the concentration of glucose in the blood following a meal.


The animal equivalent of starch, that is, a storage polysaccharide composed of glucose molecules linked in a branched-chain structure. It is stored in the liver but is also present in muscle, and is readily broken down to be used as an energy source in metabolic pathways.


An enlarged thyroid gland due to a range of possible factors that commonly include iodine deficiency, graves’ disease and hashimotos.

Gold standard

A standard of superior quality, which serves as a point of reference against to which a new screening or diagnostic test can be compared.

Greenhouse gas

Gasses which contribute to the warming of the earth by preventing heat from escaping the atmosphere.


Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point is a process control system that identifies where hazards might occur in the food production process and puts into place actions to prevent the hazards from occurring.


The protein found in red blood cells that is responsible for the transport of oxygen throughout the body and the red colour of blood.


An enlarged or swollen blood vessel, usually located near the anus or the rectum.


The process of collecting crops from the fields.


A biological, chemical or physical agent in a food, or condition of a food, with the potential to cause an adverse health effect.

Hazard characterisation

The qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation of the nature of the adverse health effects associated with biological, chemical and physical agents which may be present in food.

Hazard identification

The identification of biological, chemical and physical agents capable of causing adverse health effects which may be present in a particular food or group of foods.

Health claim

Any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health.


Generally involving the psychological range of feelings from pleasant to unpleasant.


Inflammation of the liver, generally accompanied by abdominal discomfort. There may be many causes, including bacterial or viral infections and various drugs, including alcohol.

Hidden sugars

Hidden sugars are free sugars that are found in processed foods which are not normally associated with having a high sugar content e.g. sauces, drinks. Despite been called “hidden” they are included in the ingredient list.

High Density Lipoproteins

(HDL) Plasma lipoproteins containing relatively low concentrations of cholesterol and other lipids; thought to be beneficial because they cycle cholesterol out of tissues.

High Pressure Processing

The application of high pressure to foods while at cold temperatures (4-10 ˚C). HPP kills many of the microorganisms involved in food spoilage and improves shelf life.


An amine found in all tissues of the body. Large amounts are released by mast cells when the body encounters a substance to which it is sensitive, thereby triggering symptoms of inflammation.


A relative constancy in the internal environment of the body, naturally maintained by adaptive responses that promote healthy survival.


A messenger molecule that helps our body carry out tasks (e.g. insulin is a hormone which helps the body take up glucose).


The process of forming a double-stranded DNA or RNA molecule from two complementary single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules.


A method used by the food industry to increase the firmness and spreadability of oils. Vegetable oils are normally unsaturated fats which are liquid at room temperature, when hydrogen atoms are added to these oils they become semi-solid. Partial hydrogenation is where the fat molecule is only partially saturated with hydrogen and this produces trans fats.


To split a chemical compound into its constituents by the addition of water. Hydrolysis may be purely chemical or catalysed by enzymes.


Concentrations of cholesterol in the blood higher than normal values, include dietary and genetic.


A greater than normal concentration of glucose in the blood, most frequently associated with diabetes mellitus.


A condition arising from an increased concentration in the blood of cholesterol, triglycerides or both. These lipids are in the form of lipoproteins.


A disorder characterised by elevated blood pressure persistently exceeding systolic\diastolic pressures of 140\90 mm Hg. There may be no visible signs, but the condition poses an increased risk for several diseases such as stroke and coronary heart disease.


Concentrations of tryglycerides in the blood higher than normal values.


An abnormally low concentration of glucose in the blood.


A temporary, proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.


The ability to resist an infection or toxin as a result of a sensitised immune system to a particular disease.


A state in which the immune system is weakened or absent.


Large proteins from which anti-bodies are formed, and which are then capable of combining with foreign substances (antigens).

In Vitro

From the Latin meaning "in glass". The term is applied to biological processes studied experimentally in a laboratory in isolation from the organism.

In Vivo

A reaction or study carried out in the living organism.


The protective reaction of the body to injury or infection, characterised by swelling, redness, pain and warmth of the affected area.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A broad term describing a number of conditions associated with reoccurring inflammation of the digestive tract.

Inserted Genes

Genes introduced into the DNA of a organism which are not present at the same position in the DNA of the organism before genetic modification.


A hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to consumption of food. It circulates in the blood and assists in the transport of glucose into cells.


Molecules which relay signals between cells of the immune system.

Internal validity

The accuracy of a study's findings with regard to the study subjects.


In a scientific study, intervention refers to the procedures undertaken to manipulate the test subject's environment for the purposes of the experiment.

Intervention trial

A study in which exposure to the factor under investigation is modified by the investigator; an experimental study.

Intervention trials

Trials in which one or more factors that may affect health are altered, with the aim of demonstrating beneficial effects compared with a control group not receiving the intervention.


Within cells; the intracellular compartment refers to the space inside cells, usually filled with water.


Food irradiation involves exposing food to energy from sources such as gamma rays, X-rays or electron beams. These rays or beams have the ability to kill microorganisms, which cause food spoilage. During food irradiation, the food is not heated, as in the case of microwaving and none of the radiation is retained by the food. Irradiation does not make foods radioactive.


Applying water to farmland to aid crop growth conditions.


Reduced or inadequate blood, and thus oxygen, supply to a part of the body.


Organic compounds with the same molecular formula but different structures and therefore different properties.


Atoms of the same element that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons.


The place where two or more bones are connected to each other.

Ketogenic diet

A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates that causes the body to break down fat into molecules called ketones.


An organic compound which is produced as a result of ketosis.


The process in which the body, in the absence of carbohydrates, converts stored fat into available energy for the body.


A sugar present in milk that is made up of glucose and galactose.


A hormone produced by fat cells which suppresses appetite and regulates body weight.


Chemical mediators of the inflammatory response, released by various white blood cells and by mast cells.

Life expectancy

Expected further number of years of life measured at any age.


General name for fatty materials insoluble in water (nonpolar), including fats, oils, phospholipids and cholesterol.

Lipid peroxidation

A process in which unsaturated fat-soluble substances (lipids) are oxidised to form radicals and therefore capable of causing extensive tissue damage. The polyunsaturated fatty acid components of lipids are particularly prone to oxidation in this way. The process can occur in foods before they are eaten or can take place in the body.


Particles composed of specialised proteins and lipids (triglycerides, phospholipids and cholesterol) which enable lipids (which are water insoluble) to be carried in blood plasma.


An illness which occurs after the ingestion of a pathological strain of the bacteria Listeria.

Longitudinal study

A study that follows one set of participants over a long period of time.

Low Density Lipoproteins

(LDL) Plasma lipoproteins containing high concentrations of lipids (which are low in density compared to that of water), including cholesterol. Increased concentrations are a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Lower Threshold Intake

The intake level of a nutrient below which most people will become deficient in that nutrient.


The channel within a tubular organ; for example, the lumen of the intestine.


A carotenoid found primarily in green leafy vegetables. Lutein has no provitamin A activity.


A carotenoid found primarily in tomatoes. Lycopene has antioxidant activity but does not act as a precursor of vitamin A.


White blood cells involved in the immune response.


Nutrients needed by our bodies in large amounts. They are fats, carbohydrate, protein and water.


The state of poor nutritional status. It refers to both undernutrition and over nutrition, as well as diseases or conditions arising as a result of these dietary imbalances.

Mast cell

A type of white blood cell that releases chemicals in response to injury or allergic reactions.


An infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges) caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi.


A technique used for combining the results from multiple studies on a common topic into one pooled result.

Metabolic syndrome

A cluster of symptoms which indicate a high risk of heart disease (obesity, high blood triglyceride level, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and insulin resistance).


The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.


The process of adding a methyl group to a molecule.


A set of DNA sequences representing the entire set of genes of an organism, arranged in a grid pattern for use in genetic testing.


The study of microorganisms, tiny living organisms that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.


The collection of all the microorganisms that live in a given environment.


are substances that are required in small amounts that are essential to our health, development, and growth (e.g. vitamins and minerals).


Any living organism that is too small to be seen by the naked eye (e.g. bacteria, viruses, fungi).


The process of grinding or crushing a crop (e.g. wheat) in a mill, usually with the end goal of making flour.


Organic compounds, consumed in the diet which are needed for the bodies normal functions.

Modified atmosphere packaging

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a method of extending the shelf life of food. The natural, atmospheric air inside a sealed container is replaced with a protective gas containing less or no oxygen, inhibiting microorganisms and enzymes that cause food spoilage. Typically, the oxygen is replaced by nitrogen or carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide is used when packaging meat products.

Monozygotic twins

Twins derived from a single fertilized egg. Also called identical twins.


Illness or harm.



Multiple sclerosis

A progressive disorder of the central nervous system, symptoms range from numbness and tingling to paralysis and incontinence.


A process where a gene has its structure altered.

Nano technology

Nanotechnology is a branch of science and technology that focuses on studying and manipulating matter on the nanoscale, about 1 - 100 nanometres. It includes making products that use parts that are this small.


The fear of anything new.


A substance that is poisonous to nerve tissue.

Night blindness

Inability to see well in the dark or in a darkened room. An early sign of vitamin A deficiency.

No Observed Adverse Effect Level

The highest tested dose of a substance that has been reported to have no harmful (adverse) health effects on people or animals.

Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

A condition where a person has excess fat in their liver and the condition has not been caused by alcohol consumption.

Non-coding linker sequences

Short pieces of DNA between genes which do not direct protein synthesis or perform a regulatory function.


Elements which contribute to the growth and maintenance of living organisms.

Nutrient density

Nutrient content of a food expressed in relation to energy content (e.g. Mg per 1000 kcal).


The study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression.


Nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs.

Nutrition label

The part of the food label that gives the serving size, servings per container, calories per serving and information on some nutrients.

Nutritional status

The condition of an individual’s health as influenced by his/her nutrient intake.


A specialist in the study of nutrition.


An excessive accumulation of body fat, often defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. BMI is the ratio of body weight in kilograms to height in metres squared.

Observational study

A scientific study in which the scientists do not intervene with the participants, only observe the course of events.


One of a group of hormonal steroid compounds that promote the development of female secondary sex characteristics; sometimes used in the prevention of osteoporosis.


Triglycerides (fats) that are liquid at room temperature.


A class of drugs that relieve pain and induce sleep. Opioids can either be derived from the opium poppy plant, or produced synthetically (e.g. codeine, heroin, and methadone).


In agriculture, "organic" refers to a production system that excludes or limits the use of synthetic chemicals.

Osmotic pressure

The pressure exerted when ions flow across a membrane from one cellular compartment to another to equalise the ionic concentration.


A bone disease in adults characterised by softening of the bones, often caused by a vitamin D deficiency. When this condition occurs in childhood, it is called rickets.


A disorder characterised by an abnormally low density of bone minerals. The condition predisposes to fracture of certain vulnerable bones and occurs most frequently in women after menopause.


A chemical reaction that involves the loss of electrons; it usually but not always involves direct participation of oxygen and is an important process by which food components are utilised by the body's metabolism.

Oxidative stress

A condition in which the production of oxidants and free radicals exceeds the body's ability to inactivate them.


Minute elevations of the upper surface of the tongue in which nerves end.


An organism which lives on or in another organism (the host) and benefits by obtaining nutrients at the host's expense.


A method of increasing food shelf-life. Mild heat treatment of the food for a short time destroys many of the microorganisms and enzymes that are responsible for food spoilage. Most often used to treat milk.


Any biological agent that can cause disease or illness (e.g. bacteria, virus, parasite).

Peak bone mass

The highest amount of bone mass a person has in their life time. Bone mass usually starts to decline from about age 30 onwards.


A condition which affects the skin, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system, caused by niacin deficiency.


Degree of leakiness of membranes.


Any chemical used to kill or control harmful organisms.


A measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. A pH of 7 is neutral, lower pH levels indicate increasing acidity, while pH levels higher than 7 indicate increasingly alkalinity.


Pertains to drug-like actions of chemical substances.

Phasic activity

An activity which is demonstrated in various phases.


The observable characteristics or traits of a cell or organism (e.g. hair colour, height, disease).


A rare genetic condition in which the body is unable to break down an amino acid called phenylalanine.


A lipid that contains phosphorus, most commonly a compound of glycerol with two fatty acids and one phosphate group. Normally the phosphate is also linked to a small molecule such as choline, serine, ethanolamine or inositol.

Physical activity

Bodily movement that requires energy expenditure.


The science and study of matter and energy and their interactions. It includes the fields of mechanics, acoustics, optics, heat, electricity, magnetism, radiation, atomic structure, and nuclear phenomena.


Physiology is the study of the function of body parts and processes.


Any chemical or nutrient derived from a plant source.


A harmless and pharmacologically inactive substance, usually disguised and administered to compare its effect with that of an active material.

Plaque (atherosclerotic)

Term used for the area on the inside of an artery affected by atherosclerosis is not uniform but occurs in small patches, or plaques.


The fluid component of blood that carries the blood cells.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

A procedure that produces millions of copies of a short segment of DNA.

Polymorphism (genetic)

The existence of two or more variants of a particular gene sequence.


Compounds with antioxidant potential. They are present in a number of foods such as fruit, vegetables, dark chocolate and wine. Also responsible for colour.


A carbohydrate polymer formed by the linking of many monosaccharides.


A group or number of people who share a common characteristic.

Post transcriptional changes

The changes to a protein that occur after DNA has been copied to form messenger RNA and this has been translated to produce protein - for example, to facilitate excretion of the protein from the cell.


After a meal.

Power (statistical)

The capability of a test to detect a significant effect. This is influenced by several factors, including sample size (e.g. number of people studied) – if the sample size is too small, the study will have insufficient power to detect differences between groups, even if differences exist.


Food ingredients (mostly carbohydrates) that cannot be digested by the human body that improve health by stimulating the growth and/or activity of “good” bacteria in the colon.


A complication of pregnancy, characterised by high blood pressure, swelling and kidney abnormalities.


Food additives that hinder spoilage by reducing the growth of microorganisms. Examples include nitrates, nitrites, benzoates and sulfites.


To push down, or apply pressure to a food product or ingredient with the aim of extracting the inside of the food. E.g. pressing grapes to produce wine.


The number of existing cases of a disease in a defined population at a specified time.


Live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the host.

Processed food

Any food which has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration or milling.


The process of manufacturing a product from raw materials.


Any substance or action taken to prevent disease or its dissemination.

Prospective (cohort) study

A study in which the study population is characterised at the start of the study and followed into the future. A population of people who do not have the disease under investigation is identified, and information is collected on the subjects' exposure to risk factors including nutritional factors. The frequency of the disease among subjects exposed to a particular risk factor during the follow up period is compared with the frequency among those who were not exposed.


Fatty acids synthesised by various white blood cells, that can cause either contraction or relaxation of smooth muscles in the airways and in certain blood vessels.


Enzyme that breaks down proteins.


A type of macronutrient. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.


The entire set of proteins found in an organism over its entire life cycle, or in a particular cell type at a particular time under defined environmental conditions.


The study of proteomes.


A detailed plan or set of steps to be followed in a scientific experiment, medical procedure, treatment or test.


Concerning the relationships between measurable stimuli and the corresponding responses.

Public health

Public health refers to all organised measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole.


The act of removing unwanted compounds. For example, stevia glycosides are purified from the stevia plant, to produce the sweetener.


The characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.

Quality assurance

All the planned and systematic activities implemented within the quality system that provide a reasonable confidence of success.

Quality control

The operational techniques and activities used to fulfil requirements for quality.

Quality management

All activities of the overall management function that determine the quality policy, objectives and responsibilities and that implement them by means such as quality planning, quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement within the quality system.

Quality of life

The general wellbeing of people, communities, and society.

Quality system

The organisational structure, procedures, processes and resources needed to implement quality management.


A disease of the nervous system caused by the rabies virus. The disease is characterised by excessive saliva production, partial paralysis, agitation and death.


The process of assigning participants to treatment or control groups by chance.

Ratio scaling

Method for quantification of effects through magnitude estimation of how many times the effect of a sample is compared to a standard.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS)

Forms of oxygen that have enhanced chemical reactivity compared with the normal oxygen molecule; many are free radicals.

Ready-to-eat food

Food that is ordinarily consumed in the same state in which it is sold. It does not include shelled nuts, raw fruits and vegetables that are intended for hulling, peeling or washing by the consumer.


DNA, proteins, cells, or organisms that are made by combining genetic material from two different sources.

Recombinant organism

An organism in which the DNA has been made by joining together segments of DNA using the techniques of genetic modification described in Directive 90\220\EEC.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

The average daily dietary intake of nutrients that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (approximately 98%) healthy individuals in a given population. For calories, the recommended daily allowance is based on the mean for a given population.

Reference Intake ranges for macronutrients (RI)

Guidelines for the daily intake of the macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are expressed as % of daily energy intake.


A factory where substances in their natural state are purified into products such as sugar, oil, etc.


The process of removing unwanted colours, odours and any other undesirable compound from products.

Relative risk

The ratio of the outcome rate among persons exposed to a certain factor divided by the outcome rate among persons not exposed.


The reoxygenation of tissue that has been deprived of adequate oxygen (ischaemia) as a result of either surgical procedures or physiological dysfunction. Vital organs can tolerate only a brief period of oxygen deprivation before cell injury and death occur. Subsequent reperfusion, however, can also cause tissue damage. Ischaemia reperfusion damage can be prevented or decreased in the presence of antioxidants.

Rheumatoid arthritis

An inflammatory disease characterised by pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, and may cause severe joint damage, loss of function, and disability.


Inflammation of the cells lining the nose.


A bone disease in children characterised by softening of the bones, caused by a vitamin D deficiency. When this condition occurs in adulthood, it is called osteomalacia.


The probability that an event will occur.

Risk analysis

A process consisting of three components: risk assessment, risk management and risk communication.

Risk assessment

A scientifically based process consisting of the following steps: (I) hazard identification, (II) hazard characterisation, (III) exposure assessment and (IV) risk of characterisation.

Risk characterisation

The qualitative and\or quantitative estimation, including attendant uncertainties, of the probability of occurrence and severity of known or potential adverse health effects in a given population based on hazard characterisation and exposure assessment.

Risk communication

The interactive exchange of information and opinions concerning risk among risk assessors, risk managers, consumers and other interested parties.

Risk factor

Physical condition or lifestyle that in epidemiological studies appears to increase susceptibility to a particular disease.

Risk management

The process of weighing policy alternatives in light of the results of risk assessment and, if required, selecting and implementing appropriate control options, including regulatory measures.

Safety policy

The overall intentions and direction of an organisation with regard to safety as formally expressed by top management.


The term for the physiologic processes that bring eating a meal to an end and control meal size.


How long it takes after a meal before you start to feel hungry again.

Saturated fatty acid

Fatty acid whose hydrocarbon chain contains no double bonds.


A condition caused by a vitamin C deficiency, characterised by swollen and bleeding gums.

Sequence characterisation

Determination of the order in which the nucleic acids making up a DNA molecule, or the amino acids making up a protein molecule, are linked together.

Shelf life

The length of time a food can be kept under stated storage conditions while maintaining its optimum safety and quality.

Short-chain fatty acids

Fatty acids with chain lengths of two to six carbon atoms.


Unlikely to have arisen by chance, according to a statistical test.

Sous vide

A method used to increase the shelf life of a food. The food is packed in a sealed and air tight package and cooked at low temperatures for up to 3 days.

Specificity of gene expression

A measure of the extent to which the ability of an organism to produce a particular gene product is determined by factors affecting the cell, for example, its function, phase of growth or environmental pressures.


A complex carbohydrate that most plants use to store glucose.

Stem cell

Precursor cell in various systems which is capable of producing the various functional cells of that system by cell division and differentiation, e.g., stem cells which differentiate into lymphocytes.


The process of removing all live microorganisms from a food or other object, sterilisation techniques often include the application of heat, chemical sterilisation, radiation sterilisation and sterile filtering.


A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.


Interference with blood circulation in the brain, starving one or more parts of the brain of oxygen.


The substance on which a specific enzyme exerts its effects.


A disaccharide of glucose and fructose.


Preservatives commonly used in, for example, wine.


Consumption of nutrients which are missing or not consumed in an individual’s normal diet in the form of bars, gels, capsules and powders.


An investigation into the characteristics of a given population by interviewing or giving a questionnaire to a group of people.


The practise of meeting the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


Substance used to replace sugar with a much stronger sweetening power - they have few or no calories.

Systematic review

A systematic review is an assessment and evaluation of all the research studies that address a particular health issue.

Systemic lupus

A chronic, inflammatory condition characterised by chronic swelling of an individual's connective tissue, which in turn causes damage to the skin, joints, kidneys, nervous system and mucous membranes.

Tendon tough

A cord-like tissue that connects muscle to another structure, usually bone.


The formation or presence of a thrombus (blood clot) inside a blood vessel.


A blood clot which forms on the wall of a blood vessel or organ. Blood clots are beneficial to stop bleeding when we get a cut to stop the bleeding, however excessive blood clotting inside blood vessels can cause strokes or heart attacks.


Forms of vitamin E.

Tolerable Daily Intake

A TDI is an estimate of the amount of a substance in air, food or drinking water that can be taken in daily over a lifetime without an appreciable health risk. TDIs are used for substances that do not have a reason to be found in food such as additives, pesticide residues or veterinary drugs.

Tolerable Upper Intake Level

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum level of total chronic daily intake of a nutrient from all sources judged to be unlikely to pose a risk of adverse health effects to humans.

Total quality management

An organisation's management approach centred on quality, based on the participation of all its members and aimed at long-term success through customer satisfaction and benefits to the members of the organisation and to society.


The study of the harmful effects of substances on living organisms (e.g. on humans).


Poisonous substance.

Trace element

Various chemical elements (e.g. zinc, iron, calcium, etc.) that occur in very small amounts in living organisms and are essential for carrying out normal bodily functions.

Trans fatty acid

A form of unsaturated fatty acid that is straight (rather than bent, i.e cis) at the double bond; not abundant in natural edible oils but occurring in ruminant fats and formed during some manufacturing processes.

Transgenic mice

Mice that have DNA from another source put into their DNA.


Compounds of glycerol and three fatty acids. Synonymous with triacylglycerols (the official chemical name). See oil.


A disease caused by a specific type of bacteria that spreads from one person to another through the air. Tuberculosis can affect many parts of the body, but most often affects the lungs.


An antioxidant produced by normal metabolism that is believed to play an important role in defending the immune system.


A procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to look at tissues and organs inside the body.


An insufficient intake and/or inadequate absorption of energy, protein or micronutrients that in turn leads to nutritional deficiency.

Univariate analysis

A simple method of analysing data which summarises findings and uncovers patterns.

Unsaturated fatty acid

Fatty acid whose hydrocarbon chain contains at least one double bond. Monounsaturated fatty acids contain one double bond; polyunsaturated fatty acids contain two or more.


A raised, itching rash, often in certain areas of the body.


A substance usually injected that induces immunity therefore protecting the body from the disease.


Validity refers to how well a study measures what it is purported to measure, or how well the study reflects the reality it claims to represent.


The agent, such as a plasmid or virus, used to carry new DNA into a cell during genetic modification.


A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish or any by-products of slaughter. There are different degrees of vegetarianism and the four most common are: Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: eats both eggs and dairy products, the most common type of vegetarianism. Lacto-vegetarian: eats dairy products but not eggs. Ovo-vegetarian: eats eggs but not dairy products. Vegan: does not eat dairy, eggs or any other animal product.


Organic substances that cannot be produced in the body but are essential for cellular functions and must be obtained from the diet.

Whole grain

Whole grain refers to foods made with grain without removal of the grain's components such as endosperm, bran and germ.

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations. They are responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assessing health trends.


A type of electromagnetic radiation that is able to pass through materials to reveal the internal structure. Well known for its use in hospitals to investigate broken bones, it is also used extensively in the food industry for detecting any physical contaminants of products and quality control procedures.


Yeasts are microorganisms that are members of the fungus species. They are used extensively in the production of alcohol and bread.