Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in an array of fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans, and grains. They contribute to the flavor, color, scent, and oxidative stability of a plant. “More than 8,000 polyphenolic compounds have been identified in various plant species.”1 Polyphelons aid plants in the defense against ultraviolet radiation and pathogenic invasion from fungal, viral, and bacterial organisms. They also perform antioxidant functions during the growth process and upon injury. Polyphenols offer plants many biological effects that also benefit humans when high polyphenol plants are consumed in the daily diet.
Plant Polyphenols as Dietary Antioxidants in Human Health and Diseases, an article published in the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), states:
“Epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly suggest that long term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases.”1
The main classes of polyphenols include phenolic acids, flavonoids, stilbenes and lignans. Phenolic acids include benzoic acid and cinnamic acid. There are six classes of flavonoids: flavonols, flavones, flavanones, flavanols, anthocyanins and isoflavones . Within these six categories, there are over 4,000 identified flavonoids. Resveratrol is the most studied stilbene, recognized for its anti-aging factors. Lignans, a type of phytoestrogen, are especially abundant in flax seeds.
Clinical studies have repeatedly shown an inverse association between the risk of chronic human diseases and the consumption of a polyphenol rich diet. Based on this scientific understanding, polyphenols offer great hope for the prevention of disease.
“Polyphenols, found abundantly in plants, display many anticarcinogenic properties including their inhibitory effects on cancer cell proliferation, tumor growth, angiogenesis, metastasis, and inflammation as well as inducing apoptosis. In addition, they can modulate immune system response and protect normal cells against free radicals damage.”2
“Inflammatory cytokines and whole body oxidative stress have been associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease. Foods that are high in polyphenols such as grapes can exert a cardioprotective effect not just by lowering plasma triglycerides but also by reducing inflammation and whole body oxidative stress.”3
“Currently the consumption of fruits and vegetables is gaining attention of worldwide for the health benefits which includes cardioprotective, anticancer, anti-diabetic and anti-obesity properties. The bioactive compounds such as polyphenols including flavonoids, tannins, catechins, vitamins C and E, β-carotene, etc., and several others confer these health protective benefits.
From the observed results we concluded that the acetone extract of fruit pulp of P. ligularis is rich in polyphenolic compounds, such as ellagic acid, gallic acid, rutin, kaempferol and caffeic acid contents, which demonstrated potent antioxidant, anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties.”4
“Neurodegenerative diseases cause a progressive functional alteration of neuronal systems, resulting in a state of dementia which is considered one of the most common psychiatric disorders of the elderly. Dementia implies an irreversible impairment of intellect that increases with age causing alteration of memory, language and behavioral problems. The most common form, which occurs in more than half of all cases, is Alzheimer’s disease, characterized by accumulation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Neuroinflammation and oxidative stresses have been considered as a hallmark of Alzheimer disease, playing a crucial role in neurotoxicity. For this reason, an adequate antioxidant strategy may improve the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia. Several studies support the neuroprotective abilities of polyphenolic compounds resulting in neuronal protection against injury induced by neurotoxins, ability to suppress neuroinflammation and the potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive functions.”5
“Age-associated changes within an individual are inherently complex and occur at multiple levels of organismal function. The overall decline in function of various tissues is known to play a key role in both aging and the complex etiology of certain age-associated diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and cancer. Continuing research highlights the dynamic capacity of polyphenols to protect against age-associated disorders through a variety of important mechanisms.”6
Nutritious Foods Containing High Polyphenols
- Aronia (Chokeberry)
- Black Currant
- Red Raspberry
- Many Herbs
Nature’s bounty of foods containing polyphenols are proven to have beneficial effects aiding in the prevention of a wide variety of degenerative processes, thereby potentially lowering the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, nerve disorders, plus a host of other issues correlated with premature aging. Based upon an abundance of clinical studies, it is extremely healthy to enjoy a variety of fresh or frozen foods containing therapeutic polyphenols.