Cancer and diabetes mellitus are served as typical life-threatening diseases with common risk factors. Developing therapeutic measures in cancers and diabetes have aroused attention for a long time. However, the problems with conventional treatments are in challenge, including side effects, economic burdens, and patient compliance. It is essential to secure safe and efficient therapeutic methods to overcome these issues. As an alternative method, antioxidant and pro-oxidant properties of phytochemicals from edible plants have come to the fore. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds, considered promising agent applicable in treatment of various diseases with beneficial effects. Either antioxidative or pro-oxidative activity of various phytochemicals were found to contribute to regulation of cell proliferation, differentiation, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis, which can exert preventive and therapeutic effects against cancer and diabetes. In this article, the antioxidant or pro-oxidant effects and underlying mechanisms of flavonoids, alkaloids, and saponins in cancer or diabetic models demonstrated by the recent studies are summarized.
Keywords: Cancers, diabetes, reactive oxygen species, antioxidant, pro-oxidant, phytochemicals