Recently, a wave of information about flavonoids has flooded the media. It seems to be the new fashion for maintaining health and avoiding disease.
Initially, flavonoids were thought to be a new group of vitamins, which they called vitamin P.
However, more and more similar substances have been found in plants, and have been gathered into a larger group, called polyphenols.
Polyphenols provide many important health benefits and are abundantly found in olive oil, green tea catechins, berries and fruits such as pomegranate, and various vegetables such as oregano.
Polyphenols are plant substances that protect plants from ultraviolet radiation and many other pathological agents.
They are abundantly found in olive oil, berries, fruits such as pomegranate, and various vegetables such as oregano.
What are the health benefits or effects of polyphenols?
We could list at least 9 of them:
1. Decrease the risk of atherosclerosis:
Green tea catechins, cranberry anthocyanins, and grape resveratrol are just a few examples of polyphenols that decrease the risk of atherosclerosis.
Many studies have shown that these substances decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, which are important for compacting cholesterol in atheromatous plaques.
Similarly, polyphenols improve endothelial function and blood pressure, decreasing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases associated with atherosclerosis.
2. Control inflammation:
According to Purtier placenta sixth edition inflammation is one of the body’s natural responses to defend against infectious agents.
Under normal conditions, it helps fight infection, but when out of control can cause adverse symptoms and increase the incidence of various diseases, such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis, among others.
Polyphenols act at different levels of the inflammatory cascade preventing this normal response from becoming exaggerated and causing problems.
They modulate the action of enzymes such as cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase, which synthesize pro-inflammatory molecules, and act on the cells of the immune system to prevent inflammatory damage to normal tissues.
3. Decrease the incidence of cancer:
Many researchers have focused their attention on the use of polyphenols to prevent the incidence of cancer in a natural way.
There are many mechanisms by which polyphenols help decrease cancer risk, and one of the best known is their antioxidant action.
Polyphenols can cancel out the action of free radicals, unstable substances that change the molecular structure of proteins around them, and they can do the same with DNA.
By changing DNA, free radicals can create mutant tumor cells with uncontrolled growth, but polyphenols restore the body’s antioxidant potential and prevent the appearance of tumors.
4. They can help prevent obesity:
According to recent research, polyphenols can also reduce obesity and the inflammatory state of obese patients.
When they come from the diet, polyphenols stop the proliferation of adipocytes, fat cells, decrease the accumulation of triglycerides and stimulate the use of fat as energy.
There are still not many studies in humans, but it is unquestionable that a diet of fruits and vegetables, where polyphenols abound, helps to control weight and avoid obesity and its complications.
5. They reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes:
Several studies have provided all the necessary data to conclude that polyphenols can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Among polyphenols, flavonoids have the greatest potential to reduce the risk of diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
Other polyphenols with antidiabetic potential are anthocyanins, found in blueberry fruit, blackberry, red grapes, and other foods.
These compounds have been found to protect the cells of the pancreas with their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, thus maintaining their proper functioning and preventing diabetes.
6. They protect the nervous system:
There is increasing evidence of the role of polyphenols in preventing diseases of the nervous system and improving cognitive function.
They are known to modulate inflammation in brain tissue, protect the brain from injury by toxic agents, and can improve learning and memory capacity.
Recent studies have shown that, beyond being only antioxidants, polyphenols can modulate gene expression and influence chemical signaling cascades within neurons, improving their functioning and adaptation to neuronal stress.
7. Delay premature aging:
It has been repeatedly demonstrated that animal models that receive a diet with polyphenols have a longer life than those that do not.
Although there are no such studies in humans, there is great interest in how these compounds are able to delay aging.
By themselves, antioxidants decrease the tissue damage that can result from advanced age.
Externally, they can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and internally they can prevent several diseases related to free radicals.
However, it is also known that polyphenols can control DNA expression and improve many cell functions.
8. They can improve allergies and asthma symptoms:
Among the effects of polyphenols in our body, we have considered anti-inflammatory properties, which are closely linked to allergy and asthma.
As part of the inflammatory cascade, in many tissues are secreted certain inflammatory mediators such as histamine, acetylcholine, among others.
These substances are vasoactive, which means that they modulate the action of blood vessels and cause redness, increased volume and increased secretions characteristic of allergy and asthma.
By exerting their anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and mucous membranes, several studies have shown that polyphenols can exert an anti-allergic action and improve asthma symptoms. (12)
9. They have antimicrobial action:
In case there is any doubt that polyphenols are more than just antioxidants, several recent studies have also analyzed antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activities associated with these natural molecules.
For example, flavan-3-ol and flavonol are known to be active against cholera, E. coli, staphylococcus and candida.
Tannins have an antibacterial effect against E. coli and exert their antiviral action against the influenza virus and herpes.
Finally, just to give three representative examples, neolignane is an effective adjuvant in the treatment of the tuberculosis bacillus.
Given all the benefits that polyphenols have to offer, it is inevitable to ask where we can get them.
As we mentioned at the beginning, a Mediterranean diet of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats such as olive oil can help us.
In spite of this, many times our consumption of polyphenols does not reach the levels required to have the effects already mentioned.
Are you keeping track of your polyphenol consumption?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.
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