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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.

Parboiled riceDefinition - Parboiled rice (sometimes called converted rice) has been soaked, steamed and dried before milling. Relevance - This process allows the inner kernel to absorb some of the nutrients from the outer layers of the grain, so not as many nutrients are lost in the processing of white rice. It can also delay rancidity. When cooked, it has a firmer texture.

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.

Periodontal diseaseDefinition – Inflammation of the gums that, if severe, can lead to the loss of tissues that hold your teeth in place. It is caused by plaque. Relevance – To help prevent periodontal disease, remove plaque by brushing twice a day and flossing daily.

Peripheral neuropathyDefinition – Nerve damage causing numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet. Relevance – Damage may be permanent, especially if the condition is not detected and treated early. It can be caused by many different conditions, such as diabetes and vitamin B12 deficiency.

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.