Polyphenol Power: Nature’s Disease Busters

The Degenerative Disease Dilemma

Just about every day, one can always find in the mainstream media, some kind of mention of degenerative diseases: whether its the cause of death of a prominent high profile public figure or a celebrity. Commercials are flooded with specialized treatment care in attempt to manage of what appears to be: a rampant medical scourge of our times. At last count, there have been hundreds of health cases reported, ranging from cardiovascular and diabetes to carcinogenic illnesses. Why hasn’t a real effective cure been found yet?

We are what we breathe

All life on this planet as we know it, uses the essential element of oxygen for proper energy production. Whenever for some reason an anomalous reaction such as ‘oxidation’ occurs, then the damaging effects of toxicity is introduced. Consequently, it is of utmost important, that a balance must be maintained between the toxic production of free radicals, and beneficial antioxidant defense enzymes. It is when when the dangerous free radicals exceed the antioxidant capacity of living organisms, that the degenerative destructive diseases are let loose. Systemic organ injury occurs affecting cellular tissue growth. This resultant consequent damage is known as: oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress: A serious human health issue

As mentioned previously, it is always dangerous when free radicals outstrip the body’s free radicals production capacity. This is especially true under stressful conditions. Physiological systems can undergo profound impactive changes when ROS ‘reactive oxygen species’ occur. This can directly affect cell signaling transduction and modulation. One highly significant byproduct of this reaction is a compound called: peroxynitrite… the most potent rapid non-enzymatic reactions in all of biology and implicated as a crucial pathogenic mechanism or smoking gun in conditions such as stroke, myocardial infarction, chronic heart failure, diabetes, circulatory shock, chronic inflammatory diseases, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. Only recently, has oxidative stress been seriously studied as a major etiological agent in catastrophic degenerative diseases.

Polyphenols to the rescue

The fact that mounting recent evidence for ROS or ‘reactive oxygen species’ as a causal disease agent, has caught the real attention of scientists, clinicians and the general public alike, and even more significantly: that antioxidants can in fact, prevent these kinds of diseases and maintain human health. It is antioxidant’s potent defense properties to deactivate and stabilize free radicals..before they wreck biological cellular havoc. Consequently, an interest in naturally occurring antioxidants in foodstuffs has increased. More specifically, the focus of attention has been on an antioxidant class called: polyphenols.

In 2005, the 1st International Conference on Polyphenols and Health, held a symposium with cumulative evidence detailing the strong supportive role polyphenols have in preventing degenerative disorders such as cancer and heart disease. A quote from one of the speakers on cancer

“Polyphenols can also block the action of enzymes that cancers need for growth and they can deactivate substances that promote the growth of cancers,”

And another regarding heart disease:

“Increased consumption of polyphenols has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and possibly cancer and stroke.”

Polyphenol Food Sources

Clearly, the best way to protect oneself against some of these diseases such as atherosclerosis and others, is to have a diet that is rich in polyphenol compounds. Green tea, cocoa, apples, berries and other fruits can enhance the body’s immune system and safeguarding one’s health. Vegetables such as garlic, asparagus, and carrots and fruits such as pears and prunes also are good sources of polyphenols.

Blueberry Polyphenols and neurodegenerative diseases

Of particular interest, are the polyphenol properties of blueberries and their positive effects on certain brain disorders. A recent study suggests that a diet rich in blueberries can improve motor functions like coordination and balance. Brain plasticity can be enhanced by improving neuronal communication and stimulating neurogenesis. These revelations are important factors in any Alzheimer’s disease prevention and care regimen. It is of paramount importance that neuroinflammation and oxidative stress be reduced in patients with this kind of condition and especially the elderly. Nutritional intervention with blueberries can be a powerful arsenal and valuable asset in the war against age-related neurodegenerative diseases.