Polyphenols are chemicals found in plants that are believed to have important health benefits, according to the American Cancer Society. Some evidence exists that polyphenols help prevent health dangers such as cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Foods high in beneficial polyphenols include red cabbage, berries, red and purple grapes, broccoli, radishes, tea and apples. So far, there is no conclusive research about the benefits of polyphenols. Experts advise consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, beans and vegetables.
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Possible Cancer-Fighting Benefits
Berries--especially raspberries and strawberries--are rich in a polyphenol called ellagic acid, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, or AICR. In laboratory studies, ellagic acid prevented cancers of the bladder, lung, breast, esophagus and skin. Ellagic acid fought cancer by deactivating certain cancer-causing substances and slowing cancer cell reproduction. Grapes and grape juice, garlic and green tea are also thought to contain polyphenols that prevent certain cancers, the AICR says.
Possible Benefits to Heart Health
Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in red wine and grapes that may benefit heart health. According to MayoClinic.com, doctors agree that red wine is good for the heart, and researchers believe polyphenols are responsible for that benefit. Polyphenols are thought to reduce the buildup of fat in the blood vessels, decrease inflammation, increase HDL or good cholesterol and prevent blood clots. Doctors are hesitant to advise drinking red wine due to possible health risks from alcohol. American Family Physician reports that green tea may reduce the risk of heart disease. Pomegranate has shown some promise in treating heart disease, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC.
Possible Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Persuasive evidence exists for the anti-inflammatory effects of dietary polyphenols, according to an article by Joo-Heon Yoon and Seung Joon Baek in the October 31, 2005 Yonsei Medical Journal. Although the immune system fights infections with inflammation, excessive inflammation is detrimental. According to the authors, most diseases, including cancer, hardening of the arteries, heart attack, diabetes, asthma, allergies and arthritis, are caused by inflammation. People who eat foods rich in certain polyphenols have lower rates of inflammatory disease.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- PubMed Central: Molecular Targets of Dietary Polyphenols with Anti-inflammatory Properties
- MayoClinic.com: Red wine and resveratrol: Good For Your Heart?
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Green Tea: Potential Health Benefits
- American Institute for Cancer Research: Foods That Fight Cancer?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Pomegranate
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Green Tea