Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

A glossary of terms

A glossary of terms

About hormones and the endocrine system.

Endocrine cells. Cells specialized in producing and then secreting a hormone, at the right time and in the right amount.

Feedback. The mutual regulation typical of endocrine glands. An hormone that is on the top of a regulatory cascade stimulates the production of a second hormone, then the actual level of the second hormone negatively regulates the activity of the cells that produce the first one.

Gland. A group of endocrine cells organized into a small organ within our body.

Homeostasis and Adaptation. When the global activity of our cells and organs aere meant to change something internally so that important parameters never really change following an external change.

Hormone. A natural endogenous substance that at low dose signals from one cell to another, and causes a response.

Hypothalamus. A region of our basal brain located just above the pituitary. Hypothalamic cells are specialized neurons the produce neurohormones, many of which control the pituitary. The hypothalamus in general controls many of the non-intentional functions in our body, including homeostasis, temperature, emotions and wellness.

Metabolism. The complete set of biochemical reactions that occur in our cells. Metabolism deals with thousands of small organic molecules called metabolites, and hundreds of enzymes, which are the proteins that consent and catalyze the chemical reactions. By regulating the enzymes, our body regulates this elaborated internal chemical plant.

Pituitary or Hypophysis. An endocrine gland located just below the hypothamus, controlled by the hypothalamus, and producing many key hormones.

Thyroid. An endocrine gland placed in the front and base of the neck, controlled by the pituitary. The thyroid produces the T3 and T4 iodinated hormones and controls body temperature, metabolism, energy consumpion and storage.

About epidemiology

Correlation. The process of establishing a relationship between two or more variables, events, situations. A correlation is established when statistical tests confirm the significance of a presumed association.

Epidemiology. The study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems.

Sample Population. A selected group of elements from the totality of the population being examined. It is from the study of a sample that something is known and said about the whole population. The assumption is that what is revealed about the sample will be true about the population as a whole. This largely depends on the way the sample is drawn. If the sample is a reliable replica of the whole, then the foregoing assumption is true. On the contrary if sampling is biased such inferences about the population may turn out incorrect.

Significance. The likelihood that a relationship between two or more variables is caused by something other than chance. It is often expressed as p-value, calculated with statistical tests. The lower is the p-value (below 0.05) the higher the probability that the correlative hypothesis is correct. With a p-value above 0.05 the correlation is rejected.

Statistic. The elaboration of the results of the observation of one or more characters possessed by the elements of a given set, with the intent of expressing a judgment on some aspects of interest. Statistic often refers to a set of elements, and not to the single elements, and for this reason statistics usually examines collective phenomenq. Statistics is based on mathematical tests, that can be either parametric or non-parametric.

Trend. A pattern of gradual change in a condition, output, or process, or an average or general tendency of a series of data points to move in a certain direction over time, represented by a line or curve on a graph.

About chemicals

Adverse Outcome Pathway. The sequence of events linking initial an molecular perturbation with the adverse outcomes in organisms and populations; this framework supports the use of high-throughput animal-free toxicity testing methods in regulatory decision-making.

Biomonitoring. The assesment of what levels of such a specific chemical can be found in human bodies, in particular in human biological fluids.

Migration. Chemicals that are initially present in FCM and then found in food.

Non Intentionally Added Substance. Also called NIAS, are chemicals that have not been added to food or drinks for a technical reason, but are nevertheless detected. Most likely the NIAS migrate during the production process, migrate from a food contact material (FCM) or from a food contact article (FCA).

Risk Assessment. The quantification of the risk for health damage occurring in a population due to chemical exposure. Chemical risk assessment has four phases: a) hazard identification, b) dose-response assessment (or: hazard quantification, hazard characterization), c) exposure assessment, and d) risk assessment (or: risk characterization). More than 85,000 chemicals are used in consumer products and more than 6,000 chemicals are known to be used in FCM.

Threshold for Concern. A risk assessment tool assigning human exposure thresholds to substances with known chemical structure, but unknown toxicity. Unwanted chemicals include unwanted reaction products, impurities, metabolites and/or breakdown products.

This article is from the free online

Consumer and Environmental Safety: Food Packaging and Kitchenware

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education