There are thousands of polyphenols found in foods. Most people are not consuming enough. Polyphenols are a large group of molecules found naturally in plants; the highest concentrations are found in colorful fruits and vegetables. These colors represent healing compounds. There have been over 8,000 identified polyphenols, but there are likely to be many more. Plants make polyphenols to defend themselves against stressors like UV radiation and microbes, meaning polyphenols are part of a plant’s immune system. Research indicates that polyphenols work through several pathways in our bodies; they especially appear to influence and be influenced by the gut microbiome. Data indicates that consuming the right polyphenols may improve our microbiome health. They also appear to be protective against cardiovascular diseases in addition to other chronic conditions such as Type II diabetes, different cancers, age-related disease, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. 1
Research on the health benefits of polyphenols goes back to the 1930s when Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Györgyi and coworkers described the ability of flavonoids extracted from lemon juice and paprika to counteract vascular failure associated with ascorbic acid deficiency. Those findings led them to consider flavonoids as a vitamin.2
Until now, Polyphenols have not been considered essential nutrients like micronutrients and macronutrients. However, the latest research is suggesting otherwise! Polyphenols have been called ‘lifespan essentials’ due to their significant impact on health.
The four main classes of polyphenols
Flavonoids are the most abundant group of polyphenols and the most studied. They are classified into subgroups such as flavonols, tannins, and anthocyanins.
High flavonoid intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders.
The good news here is that you can enjoy some dark chocolate! Cocoa is a flavonoid that has been shown to reduce blood pressure and LDL levels while increasing good cholesterol. Cocoa also supports improved blood flow through arteries.
Phenolic acids are mainly divided into two sub-groups: hydroxybenzoic and hydroxycinnamic acid. There are many studies describing the protective role of phenolic acids in degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, and chronic inflammation Phenolic acids are readily absorbed through intestinal tract walls, providing antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by free-radical oxidation reactions along with providing antimicrobial properties.
Stilbenes are found in only small amounts in the human diet; one of them that is very well known is resveratrol. It is found in red wine and grape juice, blueberries, cranberries, and cocoa. Stilbenes have been shown to present several biological activities that include antioxidant, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects along with a reduced risk of obesity.
Lignans are found in relatively low concentrations in various seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables, and in higher concentrations in sesame and flax seeds. Due to their various bioactive properties, dietary intake of lignan-rich foods may prevent certain types of cancers and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Polyphenols and gut health
Polyphenols can provide prebiotic substances that benefit gut microbes and in turn provide abundant health-promoting metabolites that improve gut function such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterial, improve digestion, and long-term health.
Polyphenols and immunity
Polyphenols are phytonutrients that are being studied for their influence on innate and adaptive immune function.11
There is evidence that dietary polyphenols can influence dendritic cells. A special type of immune cell that is found in tissues, such as the skin, boosts immune responses. They also have an immunomodulatory effect on macrophages and increase the proliferation of B cells, and T cells. Polyphenols reduce inflammation by suppressing the pro-inflammatory cytokines in inflammatory bowel disease by inducing Treg cells in the intestine. Treg cells are essential for maintaining, preventing autoimmunity, and limiting chronic inflammatory diseases. Polyphenols Treg cells have a potential role in the prevention/treatment of auto-immune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis by regulating signaling pathways and suppressing inflammation.12
Incorporating Polyphenols into your diet
Several different types of berries are rich in polyphenols.
- highbush blueberries, with 560 mg polyphenols
- blackberries, with 260 mg polyphenols
- strawberries, with 235 mg polyphenols
- red raspberries, with 215 mg polyphenols
Other foods rich in polyphenols are green and black tea, olive oil, pomegranates, cocoa powder or dark chocolate, and red wine. Adding spices to your food like clove, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and peppermint is another way to boost your polyphenol intake.
Significant advances in research are being made around the world to fully understand the compounds in these colorful fruits and vegetables, their bioavailability, and the positive effects they have ranging from the immune system to excessive inflammation, infections, allergies, and the link they have to lowering the rates of chronic disease.
Consuming enough of these healing compounds in our daily diet can be difficult. It may be beneficial to incorporate a supplement like Spectrum Vibrance that can fill in the gaps and provide a foundation for optimal cellular health.