Polyphenols — It’s one of the healthcare world’s favorite buzzwords right now. And if you’re trying to take good care of yourself and your family, there’s no doubt you’ve come across “polyphenols” as you’ve scanned the internet for the best health tips and remedies.
Sure enough, the most highly recommended health products contain polyphenols. So, it really should come as no surprise that medical experts and scientists everywhere claim these vital nutrients play a crucial role in keeping your body at its best.
However, there’s growing concern that some Americans might be “polyphenol deficient.”
Researchers are finding out more each day about the common signs and side effect of polyphenol deficiency. Studies are still in the early stages, and there’s much more research to be done. But by taking a moment to understand polyphenols — how they work in your body, and why you need them — you might be able to answer this question for yourself: Are you polyphenol deficient?
So, let’s take a look at the facts —
What are polyphenols? How do they work?
Polyphenols are the building blocks of natural phytochemicals (compounds found in plants) and they have incredible antioxidant properties. They are characterized by their chemical structure.1
Have you ever wondered how fruits, berries, and vegetables get their vibrant colors? Do you know what determines their taste and aroma?
The answer is polyphenols.
Polyphenols also protect plants from damage caused by ultraviolet radiation.2
Categories of Polyphenols
Polyphenols are divided into four basic categories, some of which can be broken down into additional subgroups.3
Flavonoids are found throughout nature, and are sensitive to oxidative enzymes and cooking conditions due to their polyphenolic structure.4 They have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.5
Flavonoids are one of the biggest groups of nutrients known to scientists. Below are a just a few of the most recognized flavonoids.6
- Flavonols – also known as catechins are found in high concentrations in apples, almonds, quinoa, etc.
- Flavones – include the compounds chrysin, baicalein, and galangin are present in celery, parsley, lettuce, etc.
- Flavonones – are found in oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.
- Flavan-3-ols – the most common flavonoids consumed in the American diet are found in bananas, blueberries, peaches, pears, etc.
- Anthocyanidins – are the pigment group responsible for giving plants their colors. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries are some of the most common fruits containing anthocyanidins.
Flavonoids can be found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, red wine, green tea and other plant-based foods.7
Stilbenes are less common in the American diet. They are natural defense compounds, with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that provide protection against phytopathogens and ultraviolet stress. They are found in wine, peanuts, sorghum, and other tree species.8
In fact, one stilbene is getting a lot of buzz lately – resveratrol. Now, resveratrol can be found in some nuts, grapes, dark chocolate, blueberries, and even wine.
According to The Journal of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, Resveratrol is likely to better your health and even help reduce some chronic health issues. Resveratrol is also likely to postpone certain signs of aging, though researchers are just beginning to understand its beneficial potential.9
Like all polyphenols, lignans have antioxidant properties, and they’ve got therapeutic potential when it comes to several health issues.10
These phytonutrients have been found to reduce LDL, or ‘bad,’ cholesterol. Lignans’ other possible uses in the medicinal world are fighting against cardiovascular disease, and maintaining ovarian and uterine health, prostate health, and colon health.11
Phenolic acids are observed to be universally distributed in plants. The research involving phenolic acids has reached new heights in recent years due to their favorable protective effects against a number of serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular ailments.12
Caffeic acid and ferulic acid in coffee, vanillin, and coumaric acid are a few phenolic acids. Phenolic content can also be found in other various spices like clove, cinnamon, and oregano.13
Other Notable Facts about Polyphenols
There’s a special division of flavonols called Proanthocyanidins. And, If you’re a wine drinker, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘tannins.’ Well, proanthocyanidins are what’s known as condensed tannins. You can find them in the skin and seeds of grapes. They’re also found in red wine, because the skins and seeds are left in the juice during the fermentation process.14
Proanthocyanidins are one way in which plants protect themselves from predators. They can also protect your body against oxidative damage or free radical formation.
Now, a free radical is an atom that’s lost an electron. It’s formed when oxygen mingles with certain types of molecules. The missing electron causes the free radical to be highly reactive. And, when it reacts with certain cell membranes, your cells can start to function poorly or even expire. Proanthocyanidins can help your body defend itself against this process.15
Food sources that contain PAs are grapes, apples, unsweetened baking chocolate, blueberries, cranberries, bilberries, black currants, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and black chokeberries.16
Health Benefits of Polyphenols
Polyphenols are considered non-essential micronutrients—which means your body does not require them in order to sustain life. But they help keep your body healthy.17
Let’s discuss some of the greatest benefits of polyphenols.
Helps Prevent Angiogenesis
Angiogenesis is the growth of blood vessels in your body. There are cases in which the body becomes incapable of stopping extra blood vessels from forming or growing new blood vessels. These situations can cause angiogenesis to become imbalanced, and thus various diseases may arise – especially when these new blood vessels help play a role in the growth of tumors.18,19
But, polyphenols are believed to be effective in inhibiting inflammatory angiogenesis, which may reduce the risks of developing ailments due to angiogenesis.20 Polyphenol deficiency could be partially to blame for imbalanced angiogenesis. So, if you want to keep those blood vessels in shape, up your dose of polyphenols to protect your system.21
The anti-aging effects of polyphenols stem from their antioxidant properties. As you age, your cells and tissues change and suffer damage. This damage is caused by free radicals and other cellular stress.22
But, research shows polyphenols reduce the damaging effects of these processes and help slow certain aspects of aging. In fact, the journal Current Aging Science states there’s real potential for polyphenols to protect against age-related illnesses – calling out specific dietary polyphenols like resveratrol and curcumin. It even mentions their possible ability to alleviate certain kinds of cellular damage.23
Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
According to a recent study, the effects of polyphenols have been reported to display inhibition of glucose absorption, thus reducing blood sugar levels, and ultimately decreasing the risk of developing more serious disease related to high blood sugar.24
So to mind your sugar levels, have some olive oil and try a polyphenol-rich supplement. Remember to take include as much antioxidants in your diet as you can on a daily basis.
So, are you polyphenol deficient?
Now that you’ve read about polyphenols, how they work, and their benefits, the question remains:
Are you polyphenol deficient?
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I feeling fatigued? Are my muscles feeling more exhausted than usual?25
It’s possible that supplements rich in polyphenols could help reduce muscle fatigue.
2. Do my joints feel stiff?26
Recent studies show a link between polyphenols and the inhibiting of muscular and skeletal inflammation.
3. Is my vision a bit cloudy?
Some in vitro studies exhibit flavonoids possibly guarding certain retinal cells from oxidative stress-induced damage.27
4. Is my stomach often upset or do I often feel nauseous?28
Significant in-vitro studies support the positive effects of polyphenols in several gastrointestinal health issues.
5. Am I shorter of breath than usual?29
Some circumstantial evidence suggests polyphenols might help with obstructive lung and other cardiovascular issues.
Of course, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should also consult your physician.
And, after you give yourself the Am I polyphenol deficient check-up, you can determine if it might be worth your while to try to get more polyphenols into your diet. Given the source of most polyphenols – herbs, berries, nuts, and fruits – I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to spruce up your diet and take steps toward improving your health.
For more helpful articles keep reading:
1. Manach, Claudine et al. “Polyphenols: Food Sources And Bioavailability”. Ajcn.nutrition.org. N.p., 2004. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
2. “Edible Plants As Sunscreen – Environmental Nutrition Article”. Environmentalnutrition.com. N.p., 2012. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
3. “Polyphenols Health Benefit”. Raysahelian.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
4. GR, Beecher. “Overview Of Dietary Flavonoids: Nomenclature, Occurrence And Intake. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2003. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
5. Pan MH, et al. “Anti-Inflammatory Activity Of Natural Dietary Flavonoids. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
6. “Flavonoids”. Whfoods.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
7. “Flavonoids”. Linus Pauling Institute. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
8. Miura T, Muraoka S, Ikeda N, Watanabe M, Fujimoto Y. Antioxidative and Prooxidative Action of Stilbene Derivatives. Pharmacology & Toxicology. 2008;86(5):203-208. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0773.2000.pto860502.x.
9. Smoliga J, Baur J, Hausenblas H. Resveratrol and health – A comprehensive review of human clinical trials. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2011;55(8):1129-1141. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201100143.
10. Imran, Muhammad et al. “Potential Protective Properties Of Flax Lignan Secoisolariciresinol Diglucoside”. N.p., 2015. Print.
11. Fukumitsu S, et al. “Flaxseed Lignan Lowers Blood Cholesterol And Decreases Liver Disease Risk Factors In Moderately Hypercholesterolemic Men. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
12. Ren, N. et al. “Phenolic Acids Suppress Adipocyte Lipolysis Via Activation Of The Nicotinic Acid Receptor GPR109A (Hm74a/PUMA-G)”. N.p., 2009. Print.
13. Shan B, et al. “Antioxidant Capacity Of 26 Spice Extracts And Characterization Of Their Phenolic Constituents. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2005. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.14.http://www.immunehealthscience.com/proanthocyanidins.html
15. Bagchi, Debasis. “Free Radicals And Grape Seed Proanthocyanidin Extract: Importance In Human Health And Disease Prevention”. N.p., 2000. Print.
16. “Proanthocyanidins – Powerful Flavonoid Antioxidants You Should Add To Your Diet”. Immunehealthscience.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
17. “Polyphenols: (EUFIC)”. Eufic.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
18.”Angiogenesis Inhibitors”. National Cancer Institute. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
19. Adair, Thomas and Jean-Pierre Montani. “Overview Of Angiogenesis”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
20 .Scoditti E, et al. “Mediterranean Diet Polyphenols Reduce Inflammatory Angiogenesis Through MMP-9 And COX-2 Inhibition In Human Vascular Endothelial Cells: A Potential… – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2012. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
21. Scoditti E, et al. “Mediterranean Diet Polyphenols Reduce Inflammatory Angiogenesis Through MMP-9 And COX-2 Inhibition In Human Vascular Endothelial Cells: A Potential… – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2012. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
22. Menendez, Javier. “Xenohormetic And Anti-Aging Activity Of Secoiridoid Polyphenols Present In Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A New Family Of Gerosuppressant Agents: Cell Cycle: Vol 12, No 4”. Tandfonline.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
23. “Polyphenols And Aging: Ingenta Connect”. Ingentaconnect.com. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
24 .Pandey, Kanti Bhooshan and Syed Ibrahim Rizvi. “Plant Polyphenols As Dietary Antioxidants In Human Health And Disease”. N.p., 2009. Print.
25. Myburgh, Kathryn H. “Polyphenol Supplementation: Benefits For Exercise Performance Or Oxidative Stress?”. N.p., 2014. Print.
26.Shen CL, et al. “Dietary Polyphenols And Mechanisms Of Osteoarthritis. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2012. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
27. Kalt W, et al. “Recent Research On Polyphenolics In Vision And Eye Health. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
28.Dryden, Gerald W, Ming Song, and Craig McClain. “Polyphenols And Gastrointestinal Diseases”. N.p., 2006. Print.
29.Pandey, Kanti Bhooshan and Syed Ibrahim Rizvi. “Plant Polyphenols As Dietary Antioxidants In Human Health And Disease”. N.p., 2009. Print.