A bioactive compound is a compound that has an effect on a living organism, tissue or cell. In the field of nutrition bioactive compounds are distinguished from essential nutrients. While nutrients are essential to the sustainability of a body, the bioactive compounds are not essential since the body can function properly without them, or because nutrients fulfil the same function. Bioactive compounds can have an influence on health.
Bioactive compounds are found in both plant and animal products or can be synthetically produced. Examples of plant bioactive compounds are carotenoids and polyphenols (from fruits and vegetables), or phytosterols (from oils). Example in animal products are fatty acids, found in milk and fish. Some examples of bioactive compounds are flavonoids, caffeine, carotenoids, carnitine, choline, coenzyme Q, creatine, dithiolthiones, phytosterols, polysaccharides, phytoestrogens, glucosinolates, polyphenols, anthocyanins prebiotics, and taurine.
Sellers of bioactive substances often attribute health benefits to these compounds, but there is insufficient research into the effectiveness and safety of these substances, either in long term use or in quantities that exceed normal consumption levels. In addition, some flavonoids have been shown to influence the effects of drugs. However, a number of bioactive substances have been shown to act as an antioxidant. As bioactive compounds are not essential, advice on daily intake is often unregulated.