Polyphenols can be both naturally occurring but can also be created artificially. The effects of polyphenols on degenerative and cardiovascular conditions will be looked at in more detail using two published research studies. The former will be looked at with the results taken from research by Taira et al., ‘Dietary polyphenols increase fecal mucin and immunoglobulin A and ameliorate the disturbance in gut microbiota caused by a high fat diet’, J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2015 Nov; 57(3):212-216. The premise of this research was to assess how different components within the digestive system were affected, if at all, by dietary polyphenols. This study was carried out in rats, with the rats fed two different types of diet – high fat and low fat. The significance of this will be discussed in due course within this article. The type of polyphenols responsible for this were those taken from ariona, haskap and bilberry which are all northern fruits.

The result of this research study showed that two components, fecal mucin and immunoglobulin A (IgA) molecules, were increased, both very important in maintaining a barrier within the intestine to keep the digestive tract healthy and free from disease. In addition, these beneficial effects on the colonic environment did not require the polyphenols to be taken in by the digestive system, and may be responsible for staving off the onset of a degenerative disease. When consuming a high in fat diet, there can be a change in the bacterial population present within the digestive system, although this study revealed that the presence of polyphenols helped to prevent this - revealing yet another role for these molecules.

Whilst the effects of dietary polyphenols were relatively easy to establish, how these molecules actually work within the body does not appear to be all that well-understood, or when they act directly on cells relative to the many bacteria present within the digestive tract. Furthermore, it is postulated that polyphenols may work within the large intestine due to their antioxidant capabilities that help to preserve the lack of oxygen within this environment.

It is clear from this study that polyphenols may have advantageous effects biologically, and could explain their presence in certain organic supplements available to purchase.

Polyphenols and the Cardiovascular System

The relationship between polyphenols and the cardiovascular system is one that forms the basis for a number of research studies. One such paper is by Guo et al., details of which are: ‘Effects of Polyphenol, Measured by a Biomarker of Total Polyphenols in Urine, on Cardiovascular Risk Factors After a Long-Term Follow-Up in the PREDIMED Study’, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Volume 2016, 2016, Article ID 2572606. This study uses a technique called the ‘Folin-Ciocalteu method’ to assess the presence of polyphenols in humans. The individuals that took part in this study were a mix of both men and women aged between 55 and 80, with all of them having to be at potential risk of contracting cardiovascular conditions (without having suffered from one at the time the study took place). These risks could be considered to be a number of things including smoking, having type-2 diabetes or cholesterol issues. Interestingly, this study was carried out over a period of 5 years, allowing for ‘real-time’ results to be obtained, and polyphenol volume was assessed via total urinary polyphenol excretion (TPE) in urine. It should be noted that it is the employment of this technique that helps to differentiate between this and other studies.

The results revealed that increasing the amount of polyphenols taken in via diet could be advantageous in reducing certain conditions that are associated with cardiovascular issues. These include a decrease in diastolic blood pressure and in plasma glucose concentrations alongside a reduction in triglyceride levels. However, as with all research there are limitations that should be taken into account. As the individuals participating in this study were considered to be at risk for certain cardiovascular conditions and were of a certain age, the results may not be directly applicable to the wider world/individuals that do not fit this criteria. This is important when attempting to draw any definitive conclusions, and should form the basis for further studies.

It appears that the presence of polyphenols within the diet may have a range of biological effects within the body. Further research should help to elucidate exactly what these effects are and the mechanisms by which they act. Consequently, this could help to demonstrate the benefits and advantages of taking certain polyphenol-containing supplements that are currently available on the market.