The co-evolutionary perspective of the food-medicine continuum and wild gathered and cultivated vegetables

Abstract

Accumulated evidence suggests that our genes are still adapted to a pre-agriculturalist diet, which was devoid of refined sugars and dairy products and that our modern dietary behaviour is in great part responsible for several modern life style diseases. Especially the consumption of fruits, spices and vegetables, cultivated or gathered from the wild, are perceived as being healthy or endowed with a prophylactic effect and therefore many of these dietary items are regarded as both at the same time: food and medicine. I argue that green leafy vegetables began to contribute substantially to the human diet only with the beginning of agriculture, when the ecological niche of weeds began to prosper. Wild gathered vegetables added to the agriculturalists’ dietary need in form of a back-up resource in times of shortage and in form of micronutrients and allelochemicals promoting the development of the modern pharmacopoeias. Similarly to wild gathered foods are cultivated staples recently getting more attention by phytochemists and pharmacologists. Especially local cultivars and agro-ecotypes may present interesting opportunities for phytochemical and pharmacological analysis in the attempt of identifying bioactive dietary allelochemicals. Chemical and biological characterization of local crop cultivars serves for the selection of varieties with specific nutraceutical properties. Germplasm can be obtained from several local organizations, which arrange easy access to seeds and products of rare crop cultivars, foster their commercialization and secure catering through the conservation of agro-biodiversity.

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Leonti, M. The co-evolutionary perspective of the food-medicine continuum and wild gathered and cultivated vegetables. Genet Resour Crop Evol 59, 1295–1302 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-012-9894-7

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Keywords

  • Agro-biodiversity
  • Beta-caryophyllen
  • Cannabinoid receptor
  • Falcarinol
  • Glucosinolates
  • Neolithic diet
  • Nutraceuticals