Alkaloids in Diet

Living reference work entry


Food is one of the three basic requirements of mankind, supplying six kinds of nutrients including water, carbohydrate, protein, lipid, vitamins, and minerals. Alkaloid-containing foods are an intrinsic part of the human diet, such as tea, coffee, and tomato. These food-oriented alkaloid constituents possess diverse effects on the human body, either wanted or unwanted. A large variety of food-produced alkaloids exhibit potent bioactivities, such as caffeine, atropine, and cocaine, whereas, lots of other alkaloids are toxic to human, such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids. This chapter focuses on the alkaloids in human diet and their mode of action and possible toxic effects. To organize this chapter, the alkaloids were categorized into nine groups based on their structures: pyrrolizidine alkaloids, tropane alkaloids, quinolizidine alkaloids, isoquinoline alkaloids, quinoline alkaloids, glycoalkaloids, purine alkaloids, pyridine alkaloids, and amide alkaloids. The structures of food-derived alkaloids are described, and their pharmacological activities, bioavailability, metabolism, and toxicological effects are discussed. Moreover, the application of alkaloids in medicines and food supplement, patents, as well as a conclusion about their current impact on food safety are reviewed. The main purpose of this chapter is to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date state of knowledge from phytochemical, pharmacological, and toxicological studies performed on alkaloids in human food.


Alkaloids Bioactive constituents Toxicity Bioavailability Safety 



Financial support by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81872754) and the Research Fund of University of Macau (MYRG2017-00109-ICMS and MYRG2018-00037-ICMS) are gratefully acknowledged.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, Institute of Chinese Medical SciencesUniversity of MacauMacauChina

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