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Polyphenols - a key ingredient for healthy living

Sunday May 23, 2021
Polyphenols - a key ingredient for healthy living

Polyphenols may sound like a new buzzword but studies have shown these plant based compounds can play an important role in supporting our health. From their anti-allergy action to antioxidant and antibacterial activities, we explore the powerful effects of polyphenols.   


Polyphenols are pigment-based compounds found in plants, berries, and seeds.  These plant-based bioactives have been shown to benefit health and this is via beneficial mechanisms that are triggered when polyphenol-rich foods are consumed. Polyphenols are known to exert a variety of benefits and this is due to several mechanisms that are triggered by their consumption.



Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the release of histamine, which is the immune compound that triggers allergic reactions such as hives, itching, swollen eyes and face, and nasal congestion. Alongside histamine secretion in an allergic response is inflammation, subsequently polyphenols are shown to reduce inflammation via interrupting the inflammatory signalling cascade.  Finally, polyphenols are considered to interrupt the energy supply to the cells that produce histamine, this further reduces the amount of available histamine to generate the allergic symptoms.



The molecular structure of polyphenols is in such a manner each molecule can store electrons. Electron donation is the core to quelling oxidative stress.  The act of donating an electron is what calms the aggressive molecule.  Thus, polyphenols are considered highly antioxidant.



Polyphenols are poorly absorbed, and although initially this may not sound like a benefit, it is.  The polyphenols exert several benefits in the large intestine.  They are selectively antibacterial; studies suggest that polyphenols have an antibacterial effect upon infection-causing bacteria and promote beneficial bacteria.  They promote beneficial bacteria by acting as a prebiotic.  Prebiotics ‘feed’ the beneficial bacteria so that they can produce the highly beneficial short chain fatty acids which signal to the liver, brain, and influence hormone and immune activity, plus they further ‘feed’ beneficial bacteria.  It is these recently documented effects that realised the powerful effects of polyphenols on digestive health.


Heart Health

Polyphenols have been shown in research to have a beneficial effect upon cholesterol.  Results showed a decrease in both total cholesterol and importantly a decrease in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which if elevated is often associated with negative outcomes.  Furthermore, through the antioxidant benefits of polyphenols there is considered a protective effect against hardening of the arteries.


Blood Glucose Management

Polyphenols are considered to improve the activity of insulin and so, the glucose levels in the blood are balanced and the cells are adequately supplied with glucose.  This activity is linked to the amount of excess glucose that is transformed into triglycerides and stored as fat deposits on the body.  It is suggested that the transformation of glucose to triglycerides is stalled and so may reduce the amount of visceral fat accumulation.


Sports Performance

Polyphenols are considered to promote the recovery from exercise and similarly, research has shown that fatigue induced from multiple sustained efforts was reduced.  Which may allow the individual to train hard frequently and require less recovery.



Research has shown polyphenols can benefit health in several ways.  It further supports the advice; eat a variety of foods in the different colours of the rainbow.  However, there are days when this is just not an option and so a food supplement may be a useful option.  Please contact your local health food store to discuss your dietary requirements and advice at,


Author: Jenny Carson is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Services Manager at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science and is a Master of Research (MRes) in Public Health.

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Enomoto T, Nagasako-Akazome Y, Kanda T, Ikeda M, Dake Y. Clinical effects of apple polyphenols on persistent allergic rhinitis: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled parallel arm study. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2006;16(5):283-9.

Kawabata, Kyuichi et al. “Role of Intestinal Microbiota in the Bioavailability and Physiological Functions of Dietary Polyphenols.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 24,2 370. 21 Jan. 2019.
Nagasako-Akazome Y, Kanda T, Ikeda M, Shimasaki H. Serum Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Apple Polyphenols in Healthy Subjects. J Oleo Sci. 2005; 54(3): 143-151

Shoji, T., Yamada, M., Miura, T., Nagashima, K., Ogura, K., Inagaki, N. and Maeda-Yamamoto, M., 2017. Chronic administration of apple polyphenols ameliorates hyperglycaemia in high-normal and borderline subjects: A randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes research and clinical practice, 129, pp.43-51.

he information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: NewsAllergies, polyphenols


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