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Nutrition 101 - Glossary - A

ACE inhibitors - Definition - Angiotensin-converting enzyme ACE inhibitors are drugs used to treat heart disease and problems with blood vessels or kidneys by decreasing blood pressure. Relevance - ACE inhibitors are also used to treat patients who have experienced heart failure and are also used to treat hypertension, stroke and diabetes.

Acesulfame KDefinition - Acesulfame K is an artificial sweetener that is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar and approved for use by the FDA in 1988. Relevance - Acesulfame K is heat stable and therefore readily usable in cooking and baking.

AcetylcholineDefinition - Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter found in the synapse between nerve and muscle cells. Relevance - Decreased acetylcholine is linked to Alzheimer's disease and neuromuscular autoimmune diseases; it is highly involved in cognition, learning and memory.

AcetylcholinesteraseDefinition - Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme present in the nervous system, that cleaves the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the synapse between nerve cells and muscle cells. Relevance - When a signal is passed through the synapse between a nerve cell and a muscle cell, acetylcholine is broken down into acetic acid and choline, which stops the signal and allows the neurotransmitter to rebuild in preparation for another signal.

AdiponectinDefinition – A hormone produced by fat cells that improves the body’s responsiveness to insulin, helping reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. Relevance – Obesity is associated with decreased secretion of adiponectin, which is the opposite of what you want. Higher levels of adiponectin are protective.

ALADefinition - Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a short-chain omega-3 fatty acid in the diet and is present in walnuts, canola oil, and some other plant oils. Relevance - ALA is found in plants, unlike the other main omega-3 fats in the diet, EPA and DHA; and is believed to be equally beneficial to health, although evidence is not conclusive.

Allium VegetablesDefinition - Allium vegetables are those belonging to the genus Allium, comprised of more than 500 species and historically used to treat cardiovascular disease. Relevance - Allium vegetables include garlic, leeks, onions, chives and scallions and possess antimicrobial properties; recent research has focused on their potentially anticancerous effects.

AnthocyaninsDefinition - Anthocyanins are pigments belonging to the flavonoid group of phytochemicals that give blue, purple, and red colors to some fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Relevance - Anthocyanins are found in berries and wine, recognizable for their vivid red to blue coloring, and have been shown to have positive effects on visual acuity, cancer, heart disease, and age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

AntibodiesDefinition - Antibodies are proteins produced by the body's immune system in response to the presence of potentially dangerous antigens, like bacteria, viruses and parasites; antibodies are unique and each is specified to protect the body from one particular antigen.  Relevance - Sometimes the body produces antibodies if healthy tissue is erroneously flagged as harmful by the immune system; this results in an autoimmune disorder.

AntioxidantDefinition - Antioxidants are substances found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains that may protect cells against damage from free radicals. Examples include carotenoids, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and selenium. Relevance - Antioxidants may be protective against damage from free radicals like tobacco smoke, radiation, and food breakdown byproducts, which may play a role in cancer and heart disease risk.

Ascorbic AcidDefinition - Ascorbic acid is another name for vitamin C which was historically used to treat scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency.

AspartameDefinition - Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 220 times sweeter than sugar and approved for use by the FDA.  Relevance - Although there are claims that aspartame is carcinogenic and causes many other adverse health effects, it is well studied and no major side effects have been found.