In a groundbreaking study, scientists from the University of Barcelona have discovered that polyphenols—natural compounds found mainly in fruits and vegetables—can prevent inflammation in older individuals by altering their gut microbiota.
The study, led by Professor Cristina Andrés-Lacueva, was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
What are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are natural compounds considered to be probiotics. They are primarily found in fruits and vegetables and have been known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
These compounds interact with bacteria in the human gut and produce postbiotics like IPA (Indole Propionic Acid), amplifying their positive health effects.
Researchers examined fecal samples from 51 volunteers aged over 65 who followed a diet rich in polyphenols, including green tea, dark chocolate, and fruits like apples, pomegranates, and blueberries, for eight weeks.
The study showed that the interaction between polyphenols and gut microbiota promotes the proliferation of bacteria capable of synthesizing beneficial metabolites, such as IPA.
IPA possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties, contributing to the health of the intestinal wall.
The polyphenol-rich diet led to a significant increase in blood IPA levels and a corresponding decrease in inflammation levels.
The team emphasizes that these findings could have clinical implications, particularly because low IPA levels have been linked to rapid kidney function decline and chronic kidney diseases.
Implications for Healthy Aging
Regular consumption of polyphenols, especially when combined with a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet and a lifestyle that includes regular physical exercise while avoiding tobacco and alcohol, can contribute to healthy aging.
These natural compounds could potentially delay or prevent chronic diseases that degrade the quality of life.
A polyphenol-rich diet, including foods like green tea, dark chocolate, and fruits such as apples, pomegranates, and blueberries, could be an effective way to alter gut microbiota composition, leading to increased production of beneficial postbiotics like IPA.
This could, in turn, be beneficial in preventing inflammation and other chronic diseases associated with aging.
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