Polyphenols are secondary metabolites involved in a myriad of critical processes in plants. Over recent decades, special attention has been paid to the anti-oxidative role of fruit-derived polyphenols in the human diet, with evidence supporting the contribution of polyphenols in the prevention of numerous non-communicable disease outcomes. However, due to the low concentration in biological fluids in vivo, the antioxidant properties of polyphenols seem to be related to an enhanced endogenous antioxidant capacity induced via signaling through the nuclear respiratory factor 2 pathway. Polyphenols also seem to possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and have been shown to enhance vascular function via nitric oxide mediated mechanisms. Consequently, there is rationale to support fruit-derived polyphenol supplementation to enhance exercise performance, possibly via improved muscle perfusion. Fruit-derived polyphenol supplementation in exercise studies have included a variety of fruits, e.g., New Zealand blackcurrant, pomegranate, and cherry, in the form of extracts (multicomponent or purified), juices and infusions to varying degrees of benefit. For example, research has yet to link the health-related benefits of black elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) ingestion to exercise performance in spite of the purported health benefits associated with black elderberry provision in vitro and in vivo models, which has been attributed to their high antioxidant capacity and polyphenol content. This review summarizes the existing evidence supporting a beneficial effect of fruit-derived polyphenols on various biological processes and outlines the potential for black elderberry ingestion to improve nitric oxide production, exercise performance, and the associated physiological responses before-, during- and post-exercise.
Keywords: anthocyanins; antioxidant; health; nitric oxide; phytochemicals; polyphenols.