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Nutrition 101 - Glossary - P

Pantothenic acidDefinition -Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in meat, vegetables, grains, dairy, eggs, and legumes. Relevance - Pantothenic acid is found in the body as a component of coenzyme, which is involved in key life-supporting reactions; it is commonly used to treat numerous conditions, although there is not enough scientific evidence to determine if it is effective for anything other than pantothenic acid deficiency.

PectinDefinition -Pectin is a fibrous material found in the peel and pulp of plants. Relevance - Pectin is used as a treatment for high cholesterol and reducing cancer risk, as well as diarrhea; in the food industry, it is sometimes used to gelatinize foods and is naturally found in apples and citrus fruits.

PhenolicsDefinition -Phenolics are compounds found in all plants that are secondary metabolites, meaning that they are produced but not necessary for growth and development. Relevance - Phenolics have been shown to confer health benefits via antioxidant activity and may be protective against cancer and other chronic diseases.

PhosphorusDefinition -Phosphorus is an essential mineral that comprises 1% of body weight and is found in all body cells, but mostly the bone and teeth. Relevance - Phosphorus is critical to formation of bones and teeth, protein synthesis, and the body's use of fats and carbohydrates for energy; meat and dairy are the major dietary sources of phosphorus because although it is present in grains, they contain a storage form that is not bioavailable.

Phytic acidDefinition - Phytic acid is a storage unit for the phosphorus present in most grains and seeds. Relevance - Phytic acid is thought to be a natural phytooxidant and has been studied for lowering cholesterol and decreasing the risk of cetain colon cancers; it is used as a preservative in foods.

PhytochemicalDefinition - lPhytochemicals are plant chemicals that may affect health, found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains. Relevance - Plant-based foods are complex and replete with vitamins, minerals, and other active compounds, so studying the effect of individual phytochemicals on health is difficult.

PhytonutrientsDefinition - Phytonutrients are plant components that are believed to have beneficial effects on human health. Relevance - Sources of phytonutrients include fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, tea and nuts and include classes such as carotenoids, flavonoids, lignans, phenols, terpenes, and more.

PolyolsDefinition -Polyols are low calorie carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index and low digestibility. Relevance - Polyols are often used as a sugar-free alternative in some sugar-free and low-sugar foods, such as chewing gum.

PolyphenolsDefinition -Polyphenols are antioxidant phytochemicals that are abundant in the diet and associated with decreased risk of certain degenerative diseases. Relevance -  The most abundant antioxidant in the diet, polyphenols have been associated with a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancers, and osteoporosis; common sources include fruits and beverages derived from plants, such as tea, coffee, red wine, and fruit juice.

Polyunsaturated fatDefinition -Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) are fats that contain more than one double bonded (unsaturated) carbon in their chemical backbone and are usually liquid at room temperature. Relevance -In moderation, PUFAs can help reduce blood cholesterol and decrease risk of heart disease, especially when they replace saturated fats and trans fats in the diet, and they also include essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats.

PotassiumDefinition - Potassium is a mineral that is essential in the body for regulating homeostasis and is found in meat, fish, soy, and some vegetables. Revelance - In the body, potassium is an electrolyte critical for building muscle and proteins, regulating the electrical activity of the heart, carbohydrate breakdown and controlling pH.

Potassium chlorideDefinition -Potassium chloride is a mineral supplement that is used to treat low blood potassium levels and sometimes used as a salt substitute in food. Relevance - Potassium chloride is toxic at high levels and is one of the three substances in the combination used for lethal injection; since it is not palatable, it is often mixed with table salt when it is used as a salt substitute in foods.

PrebioticDefinition - Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that are fermented by the bacteria in the gut, benefitting the host and the gut microflora. Relevance - Prebiotics are fermented by the 'good' bacteria in the gut to improve digestive health by promoting growth of the gut microflora; they are found in whole grains, artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic and bananas.

ProbioticDefinition -Probiotics are live bacteria or microorganisms that are similar to those found naturally in the gut that confer health benefits, thus often called 'good' bacteria. Relevance - Probiotics can be found in foods fermented by bacteria, like yogurt or kefir, and may treat gastrointestinal problems and boost immunity.

ProstaglandinsDefinition -Prostaglandins are created in the body from fatty acids and act as local messenger molecules, similar to hormones. Relevance - Prostaglandins regulate the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle cells, regulate calcium and hormone regulation, and control other homeostatic functions; prostaglandins also may have a role in inflammation.

ProteoglycansDefinition - Proteoglycans are present in the matrix surrounding connective tissues, like cartilage. Relevance - Proteoglycans act as a buffer for connective tissue, allowing it to endure compression and physical stress.

Protocatechuic acid Definition - Protocatechuic acid (PCA) is a phenolic compound found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Relevance -PCA is an antioxidant that may have a role is cancer treatment and decreasing carcinogens.

Proton-pump inhibitor Definition -Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a strong class of drugs that are used to treat stomach acid problems by reducing the amount of stomach acid produced. Relevance - PPIs are used to treat peptic or stomach ulcers, acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and lower esophagus damage caused by acid reflux.

PurinesDefinition -Purines are chemicals found in organ meats, anchovies, and some fish. Relevance - In the body, purines break down into uric acid, high levels of which can cause gout; dairy intake decreases the risk of gout while high-purine food increase the risk.