Most Amazing New Supplement I Know Of

You have probably heard me wax on before about resveratrol and the major benefits of blueberries in brain aging. These are but two examples of a broad group of antioxidants present in the deeply pigmented parts for many whole foods. I was pleased and delighted to find this comprehensive review about polyphenols in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. I have abstracted the review below, but if you have even a fraction of the interest that I have in what I believe is one of the most exciting developments in nutritional medicine, then you might want to pay for a 21-page PDF of the article.

Fruit and beverages such as tea and red wine constitute the main sources of polyphenols. Several thousand molecules having a polyphenol structure (ie, several hydroxyl groups on aromatic rings) have been identified in higher plants, and several hundred are found in edible plants. In most cases, foods contain complex mixtures of polyphenols, which are often poorly characterized. These factors may be pedoclimatic (soil type, sun exposure, the polyphenol content of vegetables produced by organic or sustainable agriculture is certainly higher than that of vegetables grown without stress, such as those grown in conventional or hydroponic conditions.

Over the past 10 years, researchers and food manufacturers have become increasingly interested in polyphenols as they modulate the activity of a wide range of enzymes and cell receptors in our body. The chief reason for this interest is the recognition of the antioxidant properties of polyphenols and their great abundance in our diet, and their probable role in the prevention of various diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Neurodegenerative disease
Clinical Uses

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in most industrialized countries. The incidence of this disease in women in Western countries is five times that in women in developing countries and Japan. There is compelling evidence that carotenoids play a role in the etiology of breast cancer. Although research on breast cancer prevention has focused intensively on these micronutrients, the mechanisms involved in their reported cancer-preventing activity are not fully understood. Carotenoids include a large array of substances with different biological properties. Besides their overall influence on enhancement of immune function, these include cellular protection against DNA damage, stimulation of gap junctions intercellular communication, induction of detoxifying enzymes, and inhibition of cellular proliferation.

Carotene is effective in protecting lipid membranes from damage by free radicals and reactive species. Lycopene is the most efficient quencher of singlet oxygen species, lutein and zeaxanthin are scavengers of radical oxygen species (15), and _-cryptoxanthinmay stimulate the expression of RB (an antioncogene) and p73 (ap53-related gene).

Decrease in Polyphenols Dependent on Processing
Methods of food preparation have a marked effect on the polyphenol content of foods. Simply peeling fruit and vegetables can eliminate a significant portion of benefical polyphenols because these substances are often present in higher concentrations in the outer parts than in the inner parts. Cooking may also have a major effect. Onions and tomatoes lose between 75 percent and 80 percent of their initial quercetin content after boiling for 15 minutes, 65 percent after cooking in a microwave oven, and 30 percent after frying.

Your Gut Flora Changes Polyphenols
The type of bacteria that you have growing in your gut will frequently modify these nutrients so they can be better used. The classic example would be lignans that you obtain from whole flaxseeds (not flaxseed oil). Lignins are metabolized to enterolactone and enterodiol, which have antagonistic effects on estrogens and thus decrease the risk of breast and prostate cancers. Similarly soy isfloavones are metabolized to daidzein by your flora and daidzein appears to have phytoestrogenic properties equivalent to or even greater than those of the original isoflavone. This is one of the reasons why merely taking these supplements out of the context of a healthy diet will not provide as large a benefit.

Avoiding sugars and processed foods will allow you to optimize the health of your intestinal flora and thus maximally benefit from polyphenols. So keep on consuming the fresh and raw fruits and vegetables to obtain these health-producing substances. My favorites are blueberry and cherry capsules that I now take prior to every run. We will be offering them on our site very shortly. They are whole extracts so they have the entire range of polyphenols present in the original fruit, but virtually none of the insulin-raising sugar.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition May 2004 79(5)727-747

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