According to new research published in the November 2007 issue of The FASEB Journal a common ingredient in red wine, fruits and vegetables, has the ability to affect cancerous tumors, and can battle heart disease.

The French team found that high and low doses of polyphenols have different effects.

Most notably, very high doses of antioxidant polyphenols– equivalent of one bottle of red wine per day -- were able to shut down and prevent cancerous tumors, by cutting off the formation of new blood vessels needed for tumor growth.

Alternatively, relatively low doses of polyphenols – equivalent to approximately one glass of wine a day -- were found to play a beneficial role in combating heart disease, benefiting your circulatory system by facilitating blood vessel growth.

Polyphenols are commonly found in:

  • Red wine
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Green tea.


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

In the last few years, studies have shown that polyphenols--abundant micronutrients present in many whole unprocessed foods--can indeed be beneficial in preventing the spread of a number of degenerative conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. This latest study also confirms previous findings that the positive effects of polyphenols are dose-dependent, giving you different results depending on the amount you consume.

Your main sources of natural polyphenols are fruits, vegetables, berries (such as cranberries) and beverages like wine, and black and green teas.

As usual though, most medical scientists are not interested in the common sense of eating a healthy diet to maintain health, or to combat disease. They want to distill this down to the smallest active component so they can sell it to you in a pill.

Instead of waiting for  that “magical pill” they will eventually come up with, after they’ve removed all the “non-essential” parts (in their mind, that is), your best bet is to simply eat a healthy diet containing plenty of vegetables, berries, and fruits high in polyphenols, as long as they fit your nutritional type. This way you’re getting the maximum benefit, because these compounds do not work in isolation! They work synergistically, where the end result is greater than the sum of each individual part.

Why You Should Not Get Your Polyphenols From Wine

Although they refer to wine when giving dosing equivalence in this article, I would not recommend you incorporate wine drinking into your diet. Alcohol is a neurotoxin that can poison your brain. Obviously not a great thing when you’re aiming for optimal health.

Even moderate amounts of alcohol are not recommended, because alcohol can leave you more vulnerable to various preventable cancers, and it can also harm your body's delicate hormonal balance. And, naturally, drinking to excess can cause major health problems, including liver damage.

However, there is one major benefit of using wine as a carrier with many of these powerful polyphenols like reservatrol. The primary one is that wine has alcohol which serves to significantly improve its absorption. So if you are taking reservatrol supplements and not using some alcohol to increase its absorption it is likely much of your supplement is not going into your blood stream but rather going down the toilet.

That is likely why the studies show red wine works so well, the alcohol itself is not directly helpful but indirectly it facilitates the absorption of these highly beneficial polyphenols.

How to Prepare Your Food Properly for Maximum Polyphenol Content

Your method of preparation has a marked effect on a food’s polyphenol content. Because polyphenols are found in higher concentrations in the outer parts of fruits and vegetables, peeling alone can eliminate a significant portion of its beneficial value. Also, cooking may cause fruits and vegetables to lose most of their polyphenol content. What happens to onions and tomatoes when they are cooked?

  • Frying: 30 percent loss
  • Microwave: 65 percent loss
  • Boiling: 75 percent to 80 percent loss

Merely taking polyphenol supplements out of the context of an overall healthy diet will not provide as large a benefit, so focus on consuming fresh, raw produce, preferably organic, or grown locally, to obtain maximum benefit.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the type of bacteria growing in your gut will frequently modify these nutrients so that they can be used better by your body. Avoiding sugars and processed foods will allow you to optimize the health of your intestinal flora and thus maximally benefit from polyphenols.

If you frequently, or always, find you don’t have the time to prepare quality food, including vegetables, please take a look at where you might be able to modify your schedule to fit this in as a priority. Your health, and that of your family, should be high on your personal list.

Benefits of Green Tea – With a Note of Caution

As already mentioned, black and green tea are sources of polyphenols, as well as other antioxidants that can

fight a host of diseases including AIDS, Alzheimer's and, perhaps, autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren's Syndrome.

But, when selecting the right green tea for your health, remember to do your homework and be sure the kind you drink isn't high in fluoride, as this is a very common occurrence.

Bearing that in mind, the healthy polyphenols in green tea may constitute up to 30 percent of the dry leaf weight. So, when you drink a cup of tea, you're basically drinking a solution of tea polyphenols. In fresh, unfermented tea leaves, polyphenols exist as a series of chemicals called catechins, of which epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most powerful.

Widely acclaimed for disease prevention and anti-aging purposes, catechins have been studied for centuries for their potential ability to:

  • Neutralize the effects to your body of harmful fats and oils
  • Inhibit bacteria and viruses such as HIV, hepatitis, and herpes
  • Improve digestion
  • Protect against oxidation in your brain and liver
  • Help promote healthy gums