Experimental studies have reported on the anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols. However, results from epidemiological investigations have been inconsistent and especially studies using biomarkers for assessment of polyphenol intake have been scant. We aimed to characterise the association between plasma concentrations of thirty-five polyphenol compounds and low-grade systemic inflammation state as measured by high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP). A cross-sectional data analysis was performed based on 315 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort with available measurements of plasma polyphenols and hsCRP. In logistic regression analysis, the OR and 95 % CI of elevated serum hsCRP (>3 mg/l) were calculated within quartiles and per standard deviation higher level of plasma polyphenol concentrations. In a multivariable-adjusted model, the sum of plasma concentrations of all polyphenols measured (per standard deviation) was associated with 29 (95 % CI 50, 1) % lower odds of elevated hsCRP. In the class of flavonoids, daidzein was inversely associated with elevated hsCRP (OR 0·66, 95 % CI 0·46, 0·96). Among phenolic acids, statistically significant associations were observed for 3,5-dihydroxyphenylpropionic acid (OR 0·58, 95 % CI 0·39, 0·86), 3,4-dihydroxyphenylpropionic acid (OR 0·63, 95 % CI 0·46, 0·87), ferulic acid (OR 0·65, 95 % CI 0·44, 0·96) and caffeic acid (OR 0·69, 95 % CI 0·51, 0·93). The odds of elevated hsCRP were significantly reduced for hydroxytyrosol (OR 0·67, 95 % CI 0·48, 0·93). The present study showed that polyphenol biomarkers are associated with lower odds of elevated hsCRP. Whether diet rich in bioactive polyphenol compounds could be an effective strategy to prevent or modulate deleterious health effects of inflammation should be addressed by further well-powered longitudinal studies.
Keywords: C-reactive protein; Chronic diseases; Inflammation; Plasma measurements; Polyphenols.