Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Polyphenols Contained in Mediterranean Diet in Obesity: Molecular Mechanisms

Molecules. 2021 Feb 12;26(4):985. doi: 10.3390/molecules26040985.


Nutrition transition can be defined as shifts in food habits, and it is characterized by high-fat (chiefly saturated animal fat), hypercaloric and salty food consumption at the expense of dietary fibers, minerals and vitamins. Western dietary patterns serve as a model for studying the impact of nutrition transition on civilization diseases, such as obesity, which is commonly associated with oxidative stress and inflammation. In fact, reactive oxygen species (ROS) overproduction can be associated with nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB)-mediated inflammation in obesity. NF-κB regulates gene expression of several oxidant-responsive adipokines including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Moreover, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which plays a pivotal role in energy homeostasis and in modulation of metabolic inflammation, can be downregulated by IκB kinase (IKK)-dependent TNF-α activation. On the other hand, adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet is highly encouraged because of its healthy dietary pattern, which includes antioxidant nutraceuticals such as polyphenols. Indeed, hydroxycinnamic derivatives, quercetin, resveratrol, oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, which are well known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, exert anti-obesity proprieties. In this review, we highlight the impact of the most common polyphenols from Mediterranean foods on molecular mechanisms that mediate obesity-related oxidative stress and inflammation. Hence, we discuss the effects of these polyphenols on a number of signaling pathways. We note that Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) dietary polyphenols can de-regulate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase (NOX) and NF-κB-mediated oxidative stress, and metabolic inflammation. MedDiet polyphenols are also effective in upregulating downstream effectors of several proteins, chiefly AMPK.

Keywords: AMPK; MedDiet; NF-κB; inflammation; obesity; oxidative stress; polyphenols.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Polyphenols / therapeutic use*
  • Resveratrol / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Fiber
  • NF-kappa B
  • Polyphenols
  • Resveratrol