July 9, 2024

What Does Red Wine, Coffee, and Apple Have In Common?

Written by our expert


Avanthika Nityanand

M.Sc Human Genetics, B.Sc Plant Biology & Plant Biotechnology

What Does Red Wine, Coffee, and Apple Have In Common?
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What Are Polyphenols?

Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in plants, known for their antioxidant properties. They play a crucial role in protecting plants from ultraviolet radiation and pathogens. For humans, polyphenols are important due to their potential health benefits, including reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

Polyphenols are classified into several categories: flavonoids, phenolic acids, polyphenolic amides, and other polyphenols. [ref] Common dietary sources include fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, red wine, and dark chocolate. Polyphenols are widely studied for their role in promoting health and preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

How Much Polyphenols Per Day?

The optimal daily intake of polyphenols isn't officially established, but studies suggest that consuming around 500-1500 mg per day can confer health benefits. This can be achieved through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, and dark chocolate.

Including a variety of polyphenol-rich foods in your diet ensures a broad spectrum of these beneficial compounds. It's important to note that individual needs may vary, and it's best to obtain polyphenols from natural food sources rather than supplements, which can have varying levels of efficacy and safety.

Can Polyphenols Be Absorbed Through the Skin?

Polyphenols can be absorbed through the skin. This absorption is the basis for their use in many skincare products, where they are valued for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties.

Polyphenols help protect the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation and environmental pollutants, reducing oxidative stress and potentially improving skin health. Products containing green tea extract, resveratrol, and other polyphenols are popular in skincare for their ability to enhance skin hydration, elasticity, and overall appearance.

A 2022 review study underscores the growing interest in polyphenols as safer alternatives to traditional drugs for skin and hair conditions. Due to their multifunctional benefits and minimal adverse effects, they suggest offering a new perspective on treatment.

How Do Polyphenols Help Your Body?

Polyphenols help the body by acting as antioxidants, reducing oxidative stress, and neutralizing free radicals. This can lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce inflammation and associated conditions.

Polyphenols support gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and improving digestion. Additionally, they may enhance brain function, protect against neurodegenerative diseases, and improve skin health by protecting against UV damage and promoting collagen production.

Where Are Polyphenols Found?

Polyphenols are found in a wide variety of plant-based foods. Common sources include fruits such as apples, grapes, and berries; vegetables like onions, spinach, and artichokes; and beverages such as tea, coffee, and red wine. Nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and whole grains are also rich in polyphenols.

Different foods contain different types of polyphenols, making a varied diet important for maximizing intake. The concentration of polyphenols can vary based on factors such as growing conditions, food processing, and storage.

Are Polyphenols Anti-Inflammatory?

Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory properties. They help reduce inflammation by modulating the activity of inflammatory enzymes and cytokines in the body. This can be beneficial in managing and preventing inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.

Polyphenols like flavonoids, found in foods such as tea, berries, and apples, are particularly noted for their anti-inflammatory effects. Pre-clinical and clinical evidence strongly suggests that long-term consumption of polyphenol-rich diets offers protection against various chronic diseases. These include neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, diabetes, inflammatory disorders, and infectious illnesses. [ref]

How Much Polyphenols in Coffee?

Coffee is a rich source of polyphenols, particularly chlorogenic acids. The polyphenol content in coffee can vary depending on the type of coffee bean, roast level, and brewing method. A cup of brewed coffee contains approximately 200-550 mg of polyphenols. [ref]

Regular consumption of coffee can contribute significantly to the daily intake of polyphenols, providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. However, it's essential to consume coffee in moderation, as excessive intake can lead to negative health effects.

How Much Polyphenols in Red Wine?

Red wine is a notable source of polyphenols, especially resveratrol, quercetin, and catechins. The polyphenol content in red wine can vary based on grape variety, winemaking process, and aging. On average, a glass of red wine contains about 100-150 mg of polyphenols.

Moderate consumption of red wine, often cited in the context of the Mediterranean diet, is associated with cardiovascular benefits due to these polyphenols. According to a 2024 study, red wine consumption is linked to lower levels of inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory compounds. [ref]

However, it's important to balance the potential benefits with the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Can Polyphenols Help You Lose Weight?

Polyphenols can support weight loss indirectly by improving metabolism, enhancing fat oxidation, and reducing inflammation. Certain polyphenols, like catechins in green tea, have been shown to increase energy expenditure and fat burning.

A 2020 meta-analysis of several randomised control trials showed significant reductions in body weight (−1.78 kg) and BMI (−0.65 kg/m²) with GT consumption. Significant reductions in waist circumference were noted with GT dosages of ≥800 mg/day and treatment durations of <12 weeks. A more substantial weight reduction occurred with GT dosages of <500 mg/day over 12 weeks. [ref]

Additionally, polyphenols can improve gut health, which plays a role in weight management. While polyphenols alone are not a magic solution for weight loss, incorporating polyphenol-rich foods into a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can support weight management efforts.

Can Polyphenols Be Harmful?

Polyphenols are generally safe when consumed in amounts found in a typical diet. However, excessive intake of polyphenol supplements can potentially be harmful. High doses may interfere with nutrient absorption, affect thyroid function, or cause other adverse effects.

It's best to obtain polyphenols from natural food sources rather than supplements to avoid potential toxicity. As with any nutrient, moderation is key, and it's important to maintain a balanced diet to ensure overall health.

Can Polyphenols Cause Diarrhea?

In some cases, consuming high amounts of polyphenols, particularly from supplements, can cause gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea. This is because polyphenols can affect gut motility and the balance of gut bacteria.

Foods high in polyphenols, when consumed in large quantities, may also lead to digestive discomfort in sensitive individuals. To avoid these side effects, it's advisable to consume polyphenols as part of a balanced diet and to introduce high-polyphenol foods gradually.

Can Polyphenols Reverse Aging?

Polyphenols have anti-aging properties due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. But its important not to get carried away here as aging is a complex biochemical process.

According to a 2021 review study some polyphenols have been shown to extend lifespan in various model organisms. Although polyphenols can scavenge ROS directly, their poor bioavailability suggests other antioxidant mechanisms in vivo. Aging and related disorders are complex, influenced by diet and genetics. This review highlights new evidence on the antioxidant and anti-aging actions of polyphenols but notes the uncertainty of long-term use of pure polyphenols in humans. Foods and diets, like the Mediterranean diet, contain numerous polyphenols, making it misleading to attribute benefits to individual polyphenols. Future research should focus on the combined effects of multiple polyphenols or polyphenol-rich foods, which may have synergistic or additive benefits. [ref]

Can Polyphenols Help Diabetes?

Polyphenols can help manage diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity, reducing blood sugar levels, and combating inflammation. Flavonoids, a type of polyphenol found in foods like berries, tea, and cocoa, have been shown to enhance insulin action and glucose metabolism.

Regular consumption of polyphenol-rich foods can support blood sugar control and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes. However, polyphenols should be part of a comprehensive diabetes management plan that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

Can Polyphenols Cause Acne?

There is no strong evidence to suggest that polyphenols cause acne. In fact, due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, polyphenols may help reduce acne. They can help lower inflammation in the skin and protect against oxidative damage, both of which can contribute to acne.

However, individual reactions can vary, and some people might experience skin issues from other components in polyphenol-rich foods or supplements. It's best to monitor your skin's response and consult with a dermatologist if needed.

Can Polyphenols Help Depression?

Polyphenols may have potential benefits for mental health, including depression. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help protect brain cells from damage and reduce inflammation linked to depression. Polyphenols like flavonoids and resveratrol, found in foods such as berries, dark chocolate, and red wine, have been studied for their neuroprotective effects.

While polyphenols alone are not a cure for depression, incorporating them into a balanced diet can support overall brain health and complement other treatments for depression.

What To Know Before Having Too Much Polyphenols

Polyphenols are abundant in plants and consumed significantly in the human diet, with extracts like EGCG, resveratrol, quercetin, and curcumin having pharmaceutical and cosmetic potential due to their versatile biological properties. However, they can be toxic at high levels, and it's unclear if their benefits are due to interactions with other food components. More research is needed on isolated polyphenols, considering factors like matrix effects, enzymatic interactions, and genetic traits.

Most clinical studies on isolated polyphenols are short-term, so future research should focus on long-term effects. Polyphenols' impact on skin includes anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antioxidant properties, and DNA repair activities, useful for preventing skin disorders. Their therapeutic use is limited by low solubility and stability, but efficacy increases with more hydroxyl groups. Enhancing transdermal absorption and using nanostructured particles can improve delivery, solubility, bioavailability, and stability for topical applications. [ref]

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