The Impact of Polyphenols on Aging

Aging is a health issue that may be on your mind for a number of reasons. Rather than thinking of aging as being just about the number of years, or appearance of the body, consider what is happening on a deeper level.

In the scientific community, aging is the term used to describe the natural, complex process resulting in a decline in cell function and diminished tissue and organ function, leading to increased risk of mortality. Aging is characterized by various changes in the body known as "aging hallmarks”.

While it’s true that there are some aspects of aging that we can’t control (for example, one’s chronic age), with longevity and quality of health and life in mind, certain factors such as diet and lifestyle habits have been shown to play a supportive role. Several studies have explored the potential benefits of dietary polyphenols in preventing chronic diseases and overall aging.

A recent review paper, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, examined how polyphenols present in certain foods and beverages have been shown to impact aging. The study highlighted the ability of polyphenols to address multiple aging hallmarks and prevent aging-associated diseases.

Some of the ways polyphenols have been shown to be protective are:

  • Protecting against oxidative stress leading cell DNA damage that contributes to disease (ex: cancer, Alzheimer’s)
  • Fighting inflammatory processes in the body
  • Restore activity of anti-aging proteins/compounds within the cells
  • Guard against the proliferation of harmful cells such as cancer cells
  • Increase telomerase activity, maintain mitochondrial telomere length, thus helping extend lifespan of cells
  • Supporting efficient mitochondrial function in the cells

 

By targeting these hallmarks, polyphenols minimize the risk of developing aging-associated diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, cognitive decline, and heart diseases.

Polyphenols can be found in a number of plant foods. Extra virgin olive oil, is of course, one wonderful way to work these disease-fighting compounds into the diet, but some others include berries and other fruits such as apples, cherries, plums, and black currants; vegetables—especially artichokes, chicory, red onions, and spinach; beans; nuts; cocoa powder; soy, such as tempeh and tofu; green and black tea, coffee, herbs and spices, and red wine.

To make it easier to seamlessly work polyphenols into your diet, stock your kitchen with these healthy staples and use them in everyday food preparation.

Here are a few ideas to add more polyphenols into your diet:

  • Start your day with oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries
  • Have a big salad with dark leafy greens and other colorful vegetables and beans for protein, with olive oil and lemon juice for dressing
  • Snack on fruit and nuts
  • Enjoy tofu or tempeh stir-fry with lots of vegetables
  • Add herbs and spices to your meals
  • Enjoy green and black tea and coffee
  • Take a shot of high-phenolic olive oil daily

 

Bottom line: Polyphenols found in everyday foods have been shown to help fight aging, so take advantage of those benefits and incorporate them into your everyday diet.

 

This article was written by: 

Jessica Cording MS, RD, CDN, INHC.
Jessica is a dietitian, health coach, podcaster, and author

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