Purpose of review: Polyphenols are the most abundant dietary antioxidants and research on their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases has developed quickly over these last few years. This paper reviews the recent studies on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases by polyphenols, focusing on human studies.
Recent findings: A large number of recent intervention studies have shown that several biomarkers of cardiovascular risk are influenced by the consumption of polyphenol-rich foods. Effects on biomarkers of oxidative stress, lipemia and inflammation appear so far inconclusive. More consistent effects have been observed on endothelial function and haemostasis and support a reduction of risk by polyphenols in agreement with the few epidemiological studies already published. All clinical studies have used foods or beverages containing a mixture of different polyphenols and the exact nature of the most active compounds remains largely unknown. Absorption, metabolism and elimination vary widely between polyphenols. These data on bioavailability should be taken into account to improve the experimental design and the interpretation of the observed effects.
Summary: Future intervention studies should include a detailed assessment of the bioavailability of polyphenols. Beyond clinical trials carried out with polyphenol-rich foods, more studies with pure polyphenols will also be needed to establish their role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.