Polyphenols are phytochemicals naturally found in fruits and vegetables that contribute to their color, flavor, and pharmacological activities. They serve as powerful antioxidants and are the very essence of what makes fruits and vegetables healthy.
Epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly indicate that long-term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offers protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases. Polyphenol use is associated with a direct change in the count and differentiation of specific immune cells including an increase in T helper cells, natural killer cells (NK), and macrophages.
In landmark research, “Oxidants, antioxidants, and the Degenerative Diseases of Aging,” published Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1993, Berkeley researchers concluded, “Low dietary intake of fruits and vegetables doubles the risk of most types of cancer as compared to high intake and also markedly increases the risk of heart disease and cataracts”.
One has only to look at the Blue Zones, five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. that have the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world. Despite being diverse culturally and geographically, one common denominator is that the residents consume unusually high amounts of polyphenols in their diets.
Research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology (2013) titled, “High Concentrations of a Urinary Biomarker of Polyphenol Intake Are Associated with Decreased Mortality in Older Adults,” was the first to examine the association between measured Total Urinary Polyphenol (TUP) and reported Total Dietary Polyphenol (TDP) intake as it related to all-cause mortality. The study demonstrates that overall mortality was reduced by 30% in participants who had polyphenol rich diets (>650 mg/day) in comparison with the participants who had low polyphenol intakes (<500 mg/day). Mortality reduction was dependent on the objective measurement of urinary polyphenol concentration, or, what people were actually processing in their diet and not just self-reporting.
“The amount of antioxidants in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live.”
~ Dr. Richard Cutler, former Director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health
Adding years to life may not be a primary goal, but adding wellness, or life-to-years is. Longevity is relevant because a 30% mortality reduction indicates that these older adults were not succumbing to the major killers of cardiovascular disease, cancer and infection.