Mechanisms That Make Polyphenols Neuroprotective

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.

polyphenols anxiety depression

The best way to obtain high levels of neuroprotective polyphenols in the diet is to eat a diet high in fruit and vegetables. For an even greater intake of polyphenols, a number of other foods can be consumed. Tea, red wine, cocoa, filter coffee, dark chocolate and nuts are all high in polyphenolic compounds. Certain supplements such as pine bark extract and grape seed extract can also be used to increase polyphenol intake.

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Gomez-Pinilla, F. and Nguyen, T. T. 2012. Natural mood foods: The actions of polyphenols against psychiatric and cognitive disorders. Nutr Neurosci, 15(3), 127-133

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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