Polyphenols are naturally occurring phytochemicals found in all plants. Dietary polyphenols are neuroprotective compounds that may have therapeutic uses as mood stabilisers. The mechanisms by which polyphenols can act as neuroprotective agents is not known, but it has been suggested that they may alter synaptic transmission and enhance cognition through their ability to act as antioxidants. In fact, many pharmaceutical drugs used to treat mood disorders share structural similarities with polyphenols and are also antioxidants. In their role as antioxidants, polyphenols may affect a number of intracellular and extracellular systems including inflammatory pathways. In addition, polyphenols can prevent the formation of lipid peroxides from the high content of polyunsaturated fat in the brain, and this helps to maintain normal cellular function. Polyphenols can also regulate the activity of neurotransmitters directly by modulating levels of monoamine oxidase in cells, in a similar way to many pharmaceutical antidepressants.
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