happy being - April 18th 2023
7 Reasons Why You Need More Polyphenols: Unlocking the Power of Plant Compounds for Optimal Health and Longevity"
What are polyphenols?
Ever wonder the real reason why superfoods like blueberries, turmeric, or green tea are so good for you? The secret lies in their abundance of polyphenols.
Polyphenols are remarkable plant-based compounds with a wide range of science-backed, time-tested health benefits. With their potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and disease-fighting properties, polyphenols are the unsung heroes behind the incredible health benefits of superfoods and healthy traditional diets across the world.
These powerful compounds are found in thousands of plant species and are responsible for giving fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods their vibrant colors and distinctive flavors.
But their true magic lies in their ability to support and enhance our overall health in a number of ways ways. From boosting heart health and improving cognitive function to promoting longevity and immune system support, polyphenols are the key players that help unlock the full potential of these nutrient-packed superfoods.
In this article, we’ll explore the science behind 7 of our favorite health benefits of polyphenols.
Benefits of Polyphenols
1. Polyphenols Are Powerful Antioxidants
One of their most significant health benefits of polyphenols are their antioxidant properties.
What exactly is an antioxidant, anyway? Antioxidants are molecules that help neutralize and eliminate harmful substances called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules generated through natural bodily processes, such as metabolism, or from external factors like pollution, radiation, and cigarette smoke. These unstable molecules are missing an electron, which makes them highly reactive, and they seek to "steal" electrons from nearby molecules, causing a chain reaction called oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can damage our cells, proteins, and DNA, contributing to the aging process and increasing the risk of various diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.
This is where antioxidants, like polyphenols, come to the rescue. Polyphenols can donate an electron to free radicals without becoming unstable themselves. By doing so, they help to neutralize and stabilize these harmful molecules, effectively putting an end to the chain reaction of oxidative stress. This protective action supports overall cellular health, preventing the damage that can lead to aging and disease.
2. How Polyphenols Fight Inflammation
Polyphenols also possess potent anti-inflammatory characteristics. These attributes play a crucial role in maintaining our health, as chronic inflammation is linked to the development of chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
Chronic inflammation is a prolonged, low-grade immune response that can damage tissues and organs over time. This harmful process has been associated with various health problems, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Consequently, managing inflammation is critical for maintaining overall health and preventing these chronic conditions.
Research has shown that polyphenols can help reduce inflammation in the body by modulating the activity of various enzymes, proteins, and signaling pathways involved in the inflammatory response. Some polyphenols can directly inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, while others can enhance the production of anti-inflammatory compounds. This dual action helps to restore balance to the immune system, preventing excessive inflammation that can lead to tissue damage and chronic disease.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols in both cellular and animal models, as well as in human clinical trials. For example, research has shown that polyphenols from sources such as green tea, berries, and olive oil can effectively reduce inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which are associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases
3. Cognitive Function and Brain Health Benefits of Polyphenols
Polyphenols have been demonstrated to improve cognitive function and protect brain health by acting through various mechanisms, contributing to better brain health and reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. These remarkable plant compounds, including specific polyphenols like pterostilbene, work to support our mental faculties in several ways.
Polyphenols have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, which have been implicated in the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Additionally, polyphenols promote neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to adapt in response to new experiences and learning. They do this by increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports neuron growth and maintenance.
Furthermore, polyphenols, like pterostilbene found in blueberries, can modulate cellular signaling pathways involved in learning, memory, and neuroprotection. Research on the cognitive benefits of polyphenols is abundant. A study published in The Journals of Gerontology found that supplementing older adults with a grape and blueberry polyphenol-rich extract improved cognitive function, particularly episodic memory.
Another study in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience showed that pterostilbene improved learning and memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, suggesting potential neuroprotective effects.
4. Polyphenols for Heart Health and Cardiovascular Function
Polyphenols play a significant role in promoting heart and cardiovascular health, thanks to their multifaceted effects on various aspects of the cardiovascular system. These plant-based compounds can have a beneficial impact on blood pressure, blood vessel function, and cholesterol levels, all of which contribute to better heart health.
One way polyphenols promote cardiovascular health is by improving the function of the endothelium, which is the thin layer of cells lining the interior of blood vessels. The endothelium is responsible for regulating blood flow, blood pressure, and blood clotting. Polyphenols can enhance endothelial function by increasing the production of nitric oxide (NO), a signaling molecule that helps blood vessels relax and dilate, allowing for improved blood flow and reduced blood pressure.
Resveratrol, a well-known polyphenol found in red wine, grapes, and peanuts, has been shown to exert a beneficial effect on endothelial function. Research has demonstrated that resveratrol can increase NO production, reduce inflammation, and protect the endothelium from damage caused by oxidative stress. These combined effects contribute to better blood vessel function and overall cardiovascular health. In addition to their effects on endothelial function, polyphenols can also help regulate cholesterol levels.
Some polyphenols, such as those found in green tea, cocoa, and olive oil, can help reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease. By reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol, polyphenols can help maintain a healthy cholesterol balance and promote heart health.
Numerous studies have supported the heart-protective effects of polyphenols. For instance, a 2019 review published in the journal Nutrients analyzed the effects of polyphenols on cardiovascular disease risk factors and found that the consumption of polyphenol-rich foods was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
5. Polyphenols Support Gut Health
Polyphenols play an essential role in supporting gut health, which is crucial for overall well-being. A healthy gut is important for several reasons, including optimal digestion, immune system function, and even mental health.
Polyphenols can act as prebiotics, which are substances that promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These plant compounds are not easily absorbed in the small intestine and, as a result, reach the colon mostly intact. Once there, polyphenols are metabolized by the gut bacteria, producing bioactive metabolites that can have health-promoting effects.
The prebiotic effect of polyphenols helps to support a diverse and balanced gut microbiome, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. This microbial balance is essential for maintaining gut health and preventing conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and obesity.
Research has shown that polyphenol-rich foods, such as cocoa, green tea, and berries, can have a positive impact on the gut microbiome. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 found that regular consumption of cocoa-derived polyphenols increased the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, while reducing the abundance of potentially pathogenic bacteria.
6. Polyphenols Promote Longevity
Polyphenols support longevity and healthy aging in several ways, including influencing the aging process at the cellular level, protecting cells from damage, and keeping our cells functioning properly.
As we age, our cells go through a process called cellular senescence, where they lose their ability to divide and function correctly. Polyphenols help delay this process and reduce the risk of age-related diseases by activating specific pathways in our cells that regulate their health and lifespan. In addition, polyphenols are powerful antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
This means they help protect our cells from harmful substances called free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body. Both free radicals and inflammation are known to contribute to aging and age-related diseases, so consuming polyphenol-rich foods can counteract these harmful effects and support healthy aging.
Polyphenols also play a role in maintaining telomeres, which are protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes that get shorter as our cells divide. Shortened telomeres are linked to cellular aging and age-related diseases. Some polyphenols, like EGCG in green tea, can help slow down the shortening of telomeres, promoting longevity.
7. Polyphenols Enhance Immune Activity
Polyphenols play a vital role in enhancing immune function, contributing to overall health and protection from infections and diseases. One way they support the immune system is through their potent antioxidant properties. By neutralizing harmful free radicals that cause oxidative stress and damage cells, polyphenols help maintain the proper functioning of the immune system, including immune cells.
In addition to their antioxidant effects, polyphenols also possess anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce chronic inflammation. Since chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system, polyphenols can support immune function by mitigating inflammation. Polyphenols not only protect immune cells but also regulate their activation, proliferation, and function by influencing immune cell signaling.
This fine-tuning of the immune response ensures an adequate defense against pathogens without causing excessive inflammation or tissue damage. Another way polyphenols contribute to a robust immune system is by supporting gut health. Acting as prebiotics, they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which is essential for optimal immune function, as a significant portion of the immune system is located in the gut.
By maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, polyphenols indirectly contribute to a strong immune system. Furthermore, some polyphenols, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, have been shown to possess antimicrobial properties. By inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi, polyphenols help the immune system combat infections more effectively.
Scientists know of at least 8,000 different kinds of polyphenols, but a few have been well-studied.
Some of the most known polyphenols include:
Sources: Blueberries, grapes, almonds.
Benefits: Improves cognitive function, supports heart health, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
Sources: Red wine, grapes, peanuts, dark chocolate.
Benefits: Supports heart health, promotes longevity, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Sources: Green tea, cocoa, apples, berries
Benefits: Improves cognitive function, supports heart health, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Sources: Onions, apples, kale, berries, green tea
Benefits: Supports immune function, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, may improve exercise performance
Sources: Turmeric, curry powder Benefits: Has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, supports brain health, may reduce arthritis symptoms and improve joint health
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG):
Sources: Green tea, white tea, oolong tea
Benefits: Supports heart health, improves cognitive function, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may aid in weight management
Polyphenols & happy being
At happy being, we're big fans of polyphenols. The research is clear - more polyphenols leads to better health outcomes.
The only proble: the polyphenol content in food is literally microscopic compared to the polyphenol doses used in research that. That's where we come in.
By isolating and extracting polyphenols, we can infuse them into powerful doses into our products.
In doing so, one bottle of happy being healthy tea has as much pterostilbene as 6 pounds of blueberries, and one packet of happy being nourished has as much quercetin as 20 apples - plus 7 other key polyphenols!