Polyphenols and inflammation – Insight

September 25, 2014

Polyphenols and inflammation – Insight

More intriguing, today we are able to understand the origins of inflammation and to quantify its expression better and better.

With the help of some inflammation test, already on the market, it is possible to measure and self-measure the values of inflammatory cytokines like BAFF (B-cell activating factor) and PAF (platelet-activating factor). This can provide anyone with a wider and more complete vision of his or her personal inflammatory status. As a consequence of such a better knowledge, the therapeutic opportunities become more and more precise, not only in terms of medicines, but also in terms of various natural nutraceuticals shown today to possess a specific action on peculiar inflammatory cytokines.

The polyphenols group includes the flavonoids (including flavones and anthocyanins, typically found in maqui fruit and blueberries), the phenolic acids (such as salicylic acid and gallic acid), the stilbenes (resveratrol is part of this group) and the lignans (present in cabbage and broccoli).

To come back to our beloved natural substances such as grapes, propolis, purple corn (characterized by important actions leading to fat break-up), and wood berries (maqui or blueberries are the best examples), every day we keep discovering novel polyphenols, able to stop the leucocyte-mediated release of inflammatory mediators or to reduce the arthritis manifestations in experimental models (Mossalayi MD et al, Phytomedicine. 2013 Sep 19. pii: S0944-7113(13)00318-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2013.08.015. [Epub ahead of print]).

In our clinical practice (SMA), we are fully aware that a regular use of certain natural products, as the ones indicated above, supports the treatment of various arthritis forms and of other chronic conditions so much, that for many years we have kept recommending their employment in specific therapeutic courses.

Nevertheless, the benefits of polyphenols are due to a more general mechanism, whose specific pathway of action is available today to be fully appreciated.

The American researcher Chu recently published an article on the Inflammation and Allergy Drug Targets journal, mechanistically describing all these powerful molecules (Chu AJ, Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014 Feb;13(1):34-64), and demonstrating their regulatory action on the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which means, in other words, that these substances act at the level of the innate immunity.

The consequence of this action is the inactivation of NF-κB (nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells), a central molecule for every reaction triggering insulin resistance, and for the reduced production of many pro-inflammatory mediators.

Therefore, polyphenols can be active components in the modulation and in the resolution of inflammatory processes. Such benefits should be exploited in the future to support both therapies and prevention of many common disorders.

Attilio Francesco Speciani MD – GEK srl
Clinical Immunologist and Allergy Specialist