Understanding the science


Glossary of terms used on this site

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Adipokines are cytokines (cell-to-cell signalling proteins) secreted by adipose tissue

Alcohol Metabolism

We talk about alcohol metabolism when alcohol is absorbed into the blood from the gastrointestinal tract by passive diffusion. On consumption, a small amount of alcohol is absorbed in the mouth and stomach but most of the absorption takes place in the small intestine. Usually 30–45 minutes after consumption the absorption of alcohol is at its maximum. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reached depends on several factors: the amount consumed the rate at which the amount is consumed ...

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a form of dementia. AD and other types of dementia are most common in the elderly.


Apolipoproteins are proteins that bind lipids such as cholesterol and fat to form lipoproteins and transport lipids through blood and lymph.


Apoptosis is a type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell lead to its death. This is one method the body uses to get rid of unneeded or abnormal cells. Apoptosis plays a crucial role in developing and maintaining the health of the body by eliminating old cells unnecessary cells and unhealthy cells. The human body replaces perhaps one million cells per second. Too little or too much apoptosis can play a role in many diseases. The process of apoptosis may be blocked in cancer...

Bariatric surgical procedures

Bariatric surgical procedures cause weight loss by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold causing malabsorption of nutrients or by a combination of both gastric restriction and malabsorption

Binge drinking

Binge drinking (consuming rapidly four or more alcoholic drinks over a short period of time) has been found to have a particularly negative impact on health (Roerecke et al 2014 Chen et al 2011). This pattern of consumption results in a rapid and relatively sustained increase in the alcohol concentration circulating throughout the body and brain (Wechsler et al 1998). Such a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can impact on metabolic processes in response to alcohol drinking such as the development...


The CASCADE study (CArdiovaSCulAr Diabetes & Ethanol) is the first randomized wine study with a focus on diabetes. 224 abstainers with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to consume 1 glass (150 ml) of red wine white wine or water for 2 years on top of a Mediterranean diet that was not restricted in terms of calories.

Case-control study

A case-control study is a study comparing two groups: one with and the other without a certain disease however with similar characteristics. The aim is to try identifying the factors leading to the disease.


Cochrane is a global independent network of health practitioners researchers patient advocates and others responding to the challenge of making the vast amounts of evidence generated through research useful for informing decisions about health. It is a not-for-profit organisation with collaborators from over 120 countries working together to produce credible accessible health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest.

Confounding factors

Confounding factors is a possible source of bias interfering with the variable that you would like to examine i.e. age what people eat if they smoke etc.

Cross-sectional study

The defining feature of a cross-sectional study is that it can compare different population groups at a single point in time (see also longitudinal study).


Dementia is a form of cognitive impairment where an individual loses the ability to think remember and reason due to physical changes in the brain.

Endothelial dysfunction

Endothelial dysfunction is a condition in which the endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels fails to function normally. It has become apparent that endothelial dysfunction is an important factor in coronary artery disease (CAD)  hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions.


Epicatechin is a natural plant phenol antioxidant (phytochemical) in a cis configuration  found in grapes green tea and chocolate. It is a strong antixoidant and insulinomimetic which reduces lipid peroxidation  inhibits platelet aggregation  controls vasodilation by regulating nitric oxide  and is thought to improve cardiac efficiency.

Executive function

Executive function examines semantic fluency drawing lines to connect a sequence of letters and numbers).


Flavonoids represent a structurally diverse group of polyphenolic bioactive compounds found in many commonly consumed foods. Particularly fruits and vegetables such as blueberries apples spinach and onions are considered rich sources of flavonoids but also beverages such as red wine and tea (see polyphenols).


Frailty is a clinical syndrome characterized by an age-related decline of multiple physiological functions leading to a higher vulnerability to even minimal stressors.

Global cognition

Global cognition assesses orientation, attention, language, and memory of individuals.

Glomerular filtration rate

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a test used to check how well the kidneys are working. Specifically it estimates how much blood passes through the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood.

Source: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007305.htm

Gut microbiota

Gut microbiota is the name for the microbe population living in the human intestine. The human gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes. Microbiota can in total weigh up to 2 kg. One third of the gut microbiota is common to most individuals while two thirds are specific to each person. The microbiota in each intestine can therefore be considered as an individual’s identity card. The...

Heart rate variability

Heart rate variability is variation in the time interval between heart beats.


Hemostasis is the stoppage of bleeding or hemorrhage. It refers also to the stoppage of blood flow through a blood vessel or organ of the body.


Hyperoxia refers to an excess of oxygen in tissues and organs it causes blood vessels to constrict and acutely increases arterial stiffness.


Inflammation is a type of nonspecific immune response that defends the body against the constant threat of microorganisms and chemical substances from the environment. All components of the gut participate in the intestinal immune response. The exchange of regulatory signals via the production of immune mediators (such as cytokines growth factors etc.) facilitates and amplifies cell interactions and/or activates inflammation. These mediators play an important role in the modulation of the intestinal...

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it properly.Insulin a hormone made by the pancreas helps the body use glucose for energy. Glucose is a form of sugar that is the body’s main source of energy. The body’s digestive system breaks food down into glucose which then travels in the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. Glucose in the blood is called blood glucose also known as blood sugar. As the blood glucose level rises after a meal the pancreas...

Interventional studies

Interventional studies or clinical studies are considered to provide the most reliable evidence in epidemiological research.  Intervention studies are designed to analyse the cause-effect relation examining the effect of the introduction or modification of certain elements (either medical or behavioural) in a group and evaluate whether an agent or procedure reduces the risk of developing a particular disease among individuals free from that disease at the beginning of the trial. In intervention...

Lay epidemiology

Lay epidemiology compromises knowledge and beliefs about health and causation of disease which are constructed primarily from subjective experience, observation of family and social networks and media sources. This contrasts with standard epidemiology which claims an objective understanding of the causes of diseases based on statistical evidence.

Liver fibrosis

Liver fibrosis is the scarring process that represents the liver’s response to injury. In the same way as skin and other organs heal wounds through deposition of collagen and other matrix constituents repairs the liver injury by depositing new collagen. Over time this process can result in liver cirrhosis where the blood flow through the liver and liver function become disrupted.

Longitudinal Study

In a longitudinal study, researchers conduct several observations of the same participants over a period of time sometimes lasting many years. The benefit of a longitudinal study is that researchers are able to detect developments or changes in the characteristics of the target population at both the group and the individual level. The key here is that longitudinal studies extend beyond a single moment in time (see cross-sectional study).

Mediterranean drinking pattern

The Mediterranean diet, which includes moderate consumption of wine, is considered as one of the healthiest diets in the world by the World Health Organisation. It is not a single diet but a general eating pattern, which is marked by local and cultural differences throughout the Mediterranean region. The traditional Mediterranean Diet encourages the intake of fresh, seasonal and local foods and is closely associated with social and cultural factors.

Mendelian Randomization

The basic idea of the Mendelian randomization is to use genetic variables as instrumental variables i.e. genes associated with an exposure (in this study alcohol consumption or alcohol metabolism) but not directly related to outcome (in this study HDL-cholesterol and other lipid parameters).  Since the genetic pattern is determined before birth it should not (at least in theory) be confounded by later lifestyle exposures or outcome variables.  Thus it allows the investigators to make causal inference. Mendelian...


A meta-analysis is a method of summarizing the results of the same research purpose and comprehensively evaluating its combined effect. It can be an objective systematic comprehensive qualitative and quantitative statistical analysis. It has functions that improve estimates of effect construct a general review method for omitting inadequate study conclusions and reinforce the effectiveness of statistical results to yield more comprehensive and reliable study results that are more representative of...

Metabolic Equivalent Task

Metabolic equivalent task refers to energy expenditure from sports and walking during the week.

Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of abnormalities including increased abdominal fat poor ability to use the hormone insulin high blood pressure and high blood levels of triglycerides.

Moli Sani

The Moli-sani study (www.moli-sani.org) is a cohort study aiming at evaluating the risk factors (environmental genetics bio-molecular) linked to chronic-degenerative disease with particular regard to cancer cardiovascular cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative disease.

Source: http://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/cohort/the-moli-sani-study/

Nitric oxide

Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule produced by the body that helps the body cells to communicate. It signals the body to release more blood to the organs when needed. One of the common ways to increase the concentration of NO in the body is through exercise. While working out body muscles need more oxygen which is supplied with blood. The heart pumps with high pressure to supply sufficient blood to the muscles; the lining of the arteries releases NO into the blood in order to relax and widen the...

Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is a common often “silent” liver disease. It resembles alcoholic liver disease but occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol. The major feature in NASH is fat in the liver along with inflammation and damage. Most individuals with NASH feel well and are not aware that they have a liver problem. Nevertheless NASH can be severe and can lead to cirrhosis in which the liver is permanently damaged and scarred and no longer able to work properly.


Non-alcoholic-fatty-liver-disease is defined as the presence of fat in the liver (with > 5 5% of liver cells being fatty hepatic steatosis) after the excluding secondary causes of fat accumulation in the liver (e.g. significant alcohol consumption certain medications and other medical conditions). NAFLD occurs when the liver has problems breaking down lipids causing fat to build up in the liver tissue. NAFLD is now the most common chronic liver disease in high-income countries and it is estimated...

Observational studies

Like intervention studies observational studies attempt to understand cause-and-effect relationships. However unlike interventions the researcher is not able to control how subjects are assigned to groups and/or which treatments each group receives. Researchers record variables’ values as they naturally occur (can be retrospective or prospective) during a certain follow up period (see Intervention studies).

Over-the-counter drugs

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicines sold directly to a consumer without a prescription from a healthcare professional as opposed to prescription drugs which may be sold only to consumers possessing a valid prescription.


Oxycholesterols is a group of cholesterol compounds that contain extra oxygen atoms were found to be highly toxic and highly effective in producing arteriosclerosis. The highly damaging oxycholesterols are found in foods in which cholesterol is subjected to heating and exposure to the oxygen of the air during food processing  cooking or preservation.


The PREDIMED study is one of the few randomized controlled trials about the Mediterranean Diet. More than 7400 individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease were recruited and tracked in 11 study sites. The study participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: The participants receive advice on how to follow a Mediterranean diet as well as free extra-virgin olive oil The participants receive advice on how to follow a Mediterranean diet as well as free nuts The control...


Pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas associated with inappropriate release of digestive enzymes into the small intestine to aid the digestion of carbohydrates proteins and fat as well as the release of the hormones glucagon and insulin into the blood stream. These hormones are involved in the blood glucose metabolism. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and most often resolves within several days. Most cases of acute pancreatitis are linked to gallstones. Cigarette smoking and...

Placebo-control study

A placebo-control study is a study comparing the cause-effect in two groups, where one receives the real treatment and the other one a placebo (a treatment with no effects). The scope is to observe medical and/ or behavioral effects in both groups. If the study is blinded, neither one of the 2 groups know if they are receiving the treatment or the placebo.


Polyphenols are mainly phytochemicals found abundantly in natural plant food sources. The most important food sources are fruit and vegetables green tea black tea red wine coffee chocolate olives and extra virgin olive oil. Herbs and spices nuts and algae also supply certain polyphenols. Some polyphenols are specific to particular foods (ie. flavanones in citrus fruit isoflavones in soya phloridzin in apples). Others such as quercetin are found in all plant products such as fruit vegetables cereals...


Prebiotics are usually non-digestible carbohydrates oligosaccharides or short polysaccharides (ie. inulin oligofructose galactofructose etc.). Prebiotics work in partnership with its host’s digestive system to derive energy and carbon from complex plant polysaccharides which would otherwise be lost in faeces.


Prehypertension is defined as levels of 120--‐139 Mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 80--‐89 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure.

Prospective study

A prospective study (sometimes called a prospective cohort study) is a type of cohort study or group study where participants are enrolled into the study before they develop the disease or outcome in question. The opposite is a retrospective study where researchers enroll people who already have the disease/condition. Prospective studies typically last a few years with some lasting for decades. Study participants typically have to meet certain criteria to be involved in the study. For example...


Proteinuria is a condition where the urine contains an abnormal amount of proteins. Albumin is the main protein in the blood. Proteins are the building blocks for all body parts including muscles bones hair and nails. Proteins in the blood also perform a number of important functions. They protect the body from infection help blood clot and keep the right amount of fluid circulating throughout the body. As blood passes through healthy kidneys the waste products are filtered out and proteins that...

Publication bias

The term “Publication bias” in a broader sense refers to a number of factors that suppress and distort publication or dissemination of relevant empirical results including selection biases due to language availability cost familiarity impact timing citation and media coverage (in particular evidence of selective use of results and outcomes on the part of primary investigators and health policy interest groups).


Quercetin is a plant flavonol from the flavonoid group of polyphenols. It is found in many fruits vegetables leaves seeds and grains; capers red onions and kale are common foods containing appreciable amounts of it. It has a bitter flavor and is used as an ingredient in dietary supplements beverages and foods.

Randomised-controlled trial (RCT)

A Randomised-controlled trial (RCT) is a study comparing the relation cause-effect into two groups where one receive the real treatment and the other one a placebo or no treatment. Participants are randomly assigned to either the control or intervention group reducing the selection bias.

Red Blood Cells deformability

Red Blood Cells deformability refers to the ability of red blood cells (erythrocytes RBC) to change shape under a given level of applied stress without rupturing. This is an important property because erythrocytes must change their shape extensively under the influence of mechanical forces in fluid flow or while passing through microcirculation.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammatory arthritis leading to progressive joint and organ system damage and increasing disability. The rate is three times higher in women than in men. Both genetic and environmental factors (such as smoking hormone use) seem to play a role in the risk of developing RA.

Sick quitter

Sick quitters are abstainers who quit drinking alcoholic beverages because of health problems resulting in a poor health profile of abstainers.


Steatosis also known as fatty liver is the collection of excessive amounts of triglycerides and other fats inside liver cells.

Systematic review

A systematic review is an analysis comparing and summarizing the data from different studies on a certain topic.

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease (CD) is the most common type of inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis affects only the colon and rectum. Crohn's Disease can affect any part of the digestive tract.