Dietary recommendations typically target the macronutrients like fats and carbohydrates. Polyphenols, however, have not received the same level of attention from healthcare professionals, but research is beginning to reveal the key role they fulfill in maintaining youth and healthspan. Nutrition scientists are only beginning to uncover polyphenols’ health benefits, and research into these micronutrients is just beginning.
What does a polyphenol do?
Without getting deeply into the details, it is important to know that your body produces something called free radicals through natural processes (metabolism) and unnatural processes (smoking, stress, weight gain, excessive sun exposure).
Free radicals damage the cells of throughout the body, and they work to accelerate the aging process in cells. Accelerated aging affects more than wrinkles in the skin; it can lead to diseases such as coronary heart disease and cancer.
Antioxidants are the body’s defense against free radicals and, if they are abundant, can neutralize their harmful effects. Antioxidants are produced by the body to some extent, but this endogenous protective system is impaired over time due to aging and the very effects of cellular tissue and DNA oxidation.
Luckily for humans, antioxidants are also found in many food and nutrition sources. Herbal antioxidants or polyphenols are the best sources of optimal protection against free radicals. The science is increasingly unified in the view that a steady diet rich in antioxidants rich foods produce long-lasting health benefits through disease prevention. Incidences of incurable or life-threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease have significantly decreased in populations with high polyphenol content.
Polyphenols as Antioxidants
Obviously, the main reason for individuals consuming polyphenols is the antioxidant effect. The antioxidant polyphenols are usually of a different class than the inhibitory polyphenols. Big sources are foods like cocoa, green tea, and blackberries.
The benefits of these antioxidant properties are far-reaching. They reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in arterial walls, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. They can help reduce the likelihood of developing a few cancers as they inhibit the effects of free radicals.
Polyphenols neutralize free radicals
Polyphenols neutralize the highly reactive radicals by converting them into stable molecules. The more you incorporate these powerful compounds into your diet, the easier it is to reduce oxidative damage from highly reactive radicals.
Polyphenols prevent disease
These compounds also play a crucial role in prevention and reduction of progression of various diseases including cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
Polyphenols are prebiotic, which boost the number of beneficial bacteria in our gut. This is critical in weight management, prevention of diseases, and overall health.
Polyphenols reduce the risk of coronary artery disease
Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the risk of contracting coronary artery disease due to their ability to slow down the aggregation of platelets in the blood vessels, thereby reducing instances of internal blood clots. They also improve the condition of lipids in the blood, preventing them from blocking arteries, and reducing blood pressure in the process.
Phenolic acids keep your heart healthy
Your heart is vital to the smooth operation of your body. It transports the blood to where it is needed and helps to remove waste from the body. The good news is that the phenolic acids can help keep them healthy. They do this by lowering blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (a type of cholesterol that causes blockages in the arterial walls and increases your risk for heart disease) and suppresses the production of prostaglandins and thromboxane (2 hormones that your heart disease increase risk).
Polyphenols prevent diabetes
Diabetes is a serious discomfort that occurs when either your pancreas is no longer producing enough insulin (a hormone that allows your cells to remove glucose from your blood) or your cells are no longer responding to insulin. It causes your blood sugar level to become extremely high, ultimately damaging your body cells and vital organs.
Polyphenols reduce glucose levels in the blood and therefore assist in the prevention of diabetes. Phenolic acids protect against diabetes and relieve the associated pain.
Polyphenols benefit bone health
Polyphenols also have many benefits for bones and joints. Polyphenols keep the bones robust and prevent them from losing their density. They reduce the risk of bone cancer. Their actions prevent the processes that lead to the development of arthritis.
Phenolic acids support the immune system
The immune system is responsible for protecting your body from diseases and foreign bodies. The stronger your immune system is, the less likely you will be to succumb to the disease. Another promising benefit of phenolic acid is that it can strengthen your immune system and improve your ability to fight diseases and infections. However, before these effects can be confirmed, further studies are needed.
The phenolic acids are very poor compared to the other vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. However, they are still a nutrient you should include in your diet. The best food sources include apricots, blueberries, melons, oranges, peppers, spinach, strawberries, turmeric and vanilla pods. So fill in these health-giving fruits and vegetables and tap into all the benefits of phenolic acid discussed in this article.
Phenolic acids may alleviate the damage from multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an uncomfortable nerve disease in which your immune system attacks myelin (a protective layer that covers your nerves) in your body. This causes scarring on the nerves and prevents the nervous system from functioning properly. It causes a number of problems such as depression, reduced mobility, muscle weakness and blurred vision. The good news is that one of the promising benefits of phenolic acid is that they are able to treat MS. Before this can be confirmed, however, additional studies are required.
Polyphenols repair DNA
Polyphenols affect the body at the genetic level. They have significant control over the expression of genes that influence inflammation in different parts of the body. The mechanism by which polyphenols repair DNA involves reversing DNA methylation, in which reactive molecules bind to DNA segments and repress the expression of genes that promote healthspan.
Polyphenols are sirtuin activators
The article on Sirtuins and Aging covered the link of these proteins with longevity. Sirtuins are enzymes that regulate healthspan through various channels:
- sirtuins regulate the cell life cycle,
- they regulate gene transcription process by correcting RNA copies of DNA,
- they regulate modifications to the epigenome,
- they protect telomeres to provide genome stability over time,
- they regulate mitochondrial metabolism and ATP production,
- they regulate insulin secretion,
- they regulate the urea cycle,
- they are involved in cholesterol homeostasis,
- they regulate glycolysis,
- they regulate gluconeogenesis,
- and they regulate fatty acid oxidation.
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