Vanillic acid is a polyphenolic phytochemical. Like all polyphenols, vanillic acid is derived from benzoic acid through enzymatic reactions in plant cells. In cuisine, vanillic acid is used as a flavour enhancer and preservative, and this latter role is possible because polyphenols are antioxidants and this is a necessary characteristic of certain food preservatives. Vanillic acid is found in a wide range of foods including whole grains, herbs, fruits, green tea, juices, beers and wine and is therefore fairly common in the typical diet. Therapeutic doses of vanillic acid have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immuno-stimulating, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, and antiapoptotic properties. One particular role for vanillic acid is as a neuroprotective agent. This may relate to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as both inflammation and oxidation are highly damaging to the integrity of neurones. Consuming foods containing vanillic acid may therefore aid mental health and wellbeing.
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