December 21, 2022


The Plant Terms Helpful to Understand Bioactives

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Brightseed’s Forager® is an AI-powered platform that utilizes its proprietary database of plant compounds, proprietary index of commercial plants, and proprietary model of human health to map nature’s bioactives and connect them to their human health benefits.

But what are bioactives and how do they differ from other terms that define similar compounds in plants?

Bioactives are compounds found in plants that support human health. At Brightseed, we look to find the undiscovered bioactives in the plant kingdom. These bioactives are plant compounds that have biological activity in the body, usually eliciting a specific effect, such as caffeine, making someone feel energized and focused.

There are other terms used in the context of plant compounds: 

  1. Phytochemicals are plant compounds whose biological impact is not fully known or that do not have biological effects on the human body.
  2. Secondary metabolites are compounds produced in a plant’s secondary metabolism that help protect a plant from its surrounding environment, but may or may not have biological effects on humans. 
  3. Phytonutrients (another term sometimes used interchangeably with bioactives) are plant compounds that are generally known to support human health. 

Brightseed uses the term bioactives when the biological effects of these compounds are predicted and then confirmed through biological validation. Bioactive translates to “affects biology” so when these compounds bind to target receptors in the body they trigger a biological response, like a key opening its corresponding lock.

Each of these compounds is created through two tracks of a plant’s metabolism: primary and secondary metabolism. A plant’s primary metabolism produces the compounds necessary for the plant’s normal development and reproduction that are generally supported through photosynthesis.

A plant’s secondary metabolism produces compounds (also known as secondary metabolites) that are less crucial but still very important to plants. In plants, these compounds ward off predators and attract pollinators with fragrances, colors, and tastes. They guard against UV radiation and help a plant adapt amid high heat or insufficient moisture. Secondary metabolites can vary: two identical plants grown in different environments may express different compounds to reflect the variability of their surroundings. These secondary metabolites, such as polyphenols, alkaloids, and terpenes, can but are not always valuable to humans. 

For humans, the bioactive secondary metabolites can potentially support benefits like good circulation, restful sleep, and reduced stress, which may not be critical to survival but certainly important to our overall health and wellness. 

It’s important to distinguish bioactives from essential nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that humans need for survival. While essential nutrients support human growth and performance, bioactives support optimal bodily processes. This difference can best be understood as the difference between eating enough calories for survival versus eating the best calories for optimal health. 

By ingesting plants, you’re not only ingesting the millions of compounds they produce, but also the health-promoting bioactives that can support proactive health and optimal bodily function.


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