Nutrition Dictionary

Still sounds like I am talking another language? Here are the definitions to some of those more tricky nutrition terms.


Basal Metabolism
The minimum amount of energy used in a fasting state to keep you alive when resting and awake in a warm, quiet environment.

A key molecular or cellular event that links a specific environmental exposure to a health outcome

The red, yellow, and orange fat soluble pigments in fruits and vegetables that can be converted in the body to retinoids.

A fibrous protein that gives strength to connective tissue.

A term normally used when talking about proteins. Denaturation occurs when a protein is exposed to high temperatures, or acidic/basic environments causing the 3D structure of proteins to unravel changing the structure and how the protein works.

Diverticular Disease
A condition in which small pockets in the bowel bulge through weak spots. These pockets (diverticula) can cause no symptoms or they can become inflamed or infected (known as Diverticulitis).

A protein that can initiate, facilitate or speed up the rate of a chemical process but is not itself altered by the process.

The covering of internal and external surfaces of the body and the lining of vessels, body cavities, glands and organs. It consists of epithelial cells bound together by connective material.

Fat-soluble Vitamin
A fat-soluble vitamin is one that dissolves in fat and is absorbed into the body from the intestinal tract. They do not dissolve readily in water. Vitamin A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins.

Free radical
Molecules that contain an unshared electron. These unshared electrons react with oxygen to form reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are damaging to our bodies and are thought to contribute to the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A carbohydrate made of multiple units of glucose. It is the storage form of glucose in humans. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles.

A hormone produced by beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin helps regulate blood-sugar levels and promotes glycogen storage.

More commonly referred to as fat, however a lipid is actually a substance such as a fat, oil, cholesterol or wax that dissolves in alcohol but not in water.

Randomised Controlled Trial
Also known as a RCT. Is a type research design in which people are assigned randomly to receive one of several clinical interventions. Of the randomly assigned groups, one group is always the ‘control’ whereby they either receive a placebo (such as a sugar pill) or no intervention at all. This allows the researchers to determine whether the intervention group/s have been effective.

RCT’s are considered to be the ‘gold standard’ when it comes conducting nutrition research.

The collective term for the biologically active form of vitamin A. Retinol, retinal and retinoic acid are retinoids.

Serum Cholesterol
Refers to the total cholesterol level in a person’s blood. It takes into account the amount of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and LDL cholesterol  (“bad” cholesterol) in the bloodstream.

The ability of humans to regulate body temperature within narrow limits. Shivering when cold is an example of the body attempting to regulate temperature.

Thermic effect of food
The body requires energy to digest, absorption and process nutrients in food you have consumed. The energy used to complete these tasks is known as the thermic effect of food.

A group of four similar compounds that have vitamin E activity (alpha, beta, delta and gamma). Alpha-tocopherol is the most biologically active tocopherol in humans.

A group of four compounds with a similar basic chemical structure as tocopherols but are slightly altered that cause them to exhibit less vitamin E activity than tocopherols.

Pin It on Pinterest