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Polyphenols and Their Relationship with Chronic Diseases

Polyphenols and Their Relationship with Chronic Diseases

26 Apr 2024

The polyphenolsare reactive metabolites characterized by presenting aromatic rings attached to two or more hydroxyl substituents. These chemical substances are found in abundance in plants(fruits, seeds, and leaves) and possess widely recognized antioxidant properties, as well as playing an important role in the prevention of chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

The effectivenessof polyphenols lies in maintaining their stability, biological activity, and availabilityduring their manipulation and processing. The interest in the applications of polyphenols in various industries such as food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics is increasing. That is why in recent years scientists have explored their different functionalities, as well as the health effects of polyphenols.

Polyphenols present physicochemical properties that include: solubility, ultraviolet light absorption, and plant protective properties, among others. However, the physicochemical propertythat stands out the most in polyphenols is their antioxidant power, which allows them to neutralize free radicals by donating an electron or a hydrogen atom.

Historically, polyphenols were known as “vegetable polyphenols” in the scientific literature due to the initial use of these natural compounds from polyphenolic plant extracts in the conversion of animal skins into leather. The increase in interest in polyphenol researchled to the establishment of the Plant Phenolic Group in 1957 by two prominent figures in the field, E. C. Bate-Smith and Tony Swain.

The flavonoidsconstitute the most extensive group of vegetable polyphenolsand have been the subject of numerous studies. Although it has not been definitively established that polyphenols prevent cancer due to their antioxidant properties, it is suggested that they could intervene in several key processes of tumour development, such as the initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer. Research conducted both in the laboratory and in living organisms has revealed that flavonoids can exert antiproliferative, antiangiogenic, and antimetastatic effects by influencing cellular signals related to proliferation, differentiation, and cell death.

In summary, polyphenols represent a class of reactive compounds widely distributed in nature. Although more research is needed to fully understand their role in human health, studies suggest that polyphenols, especially flavonoids, may influence multiple stages of tumour development, which could have significant implications in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

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