Regular consumption of polyphenols in the diet can contribute to a healthy ageing: study

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/AlexPro9500
Image: Getty/AlexPro9500

Related tags: Polyphenols, anti-ageing, Antioxidant, Gut health

Polyphenols in foods can prevent inflammation in older people by altering the intestinal microbiota and inducing the production of 3-Indolepropionic acid (IPA), or indole-3-propionic acid: a potent neuroprotective antioxidant produced by the human gut microbiota.

Polyphenols are natural compounds, considered probiotics, which we eat mainly through fruits and vegetables. Several dietary polyphenols have well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as the ability to interact with bacteria present in the human gut and to produce postbiotics (such as IPA), which increases its positive effects on health.

There is increasing evidence that confirms that the regular consumption of polyphenols in the diet can contribute to a healthy ageing, especially if they are part of a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean one, and are associated with a healthy lifestyle, that is, one including regular physical activity and excluding tobacco and alcohol, for instance.

Researchers from the Research Group on Biomarkers and Nutritional & Food Metabolomics of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona and the CIBER on Fragility and Healthy Ageing (CIBERFES), researchers carried out a multiomic analysis to monitor the IPA levels in the serum, apart from analysing the composition of the gut microbiota on faecal samples of fifty-one volunteers aged over sixty-five who kept following a diet rich in polyphenols (green tea, bitter chocolate, fruits including apples, pomegranate and blueberries) for eight weeks.

Increase of IPA in blood and bacterial growth

The results show that the diet rich in polyphenols generated a significant increase in the blood IPA levels, together with a decrease in inflammation levels and changes in the bacteria of the microbiota, from the order of Bacteroidales.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, shows the interaction between polyphenols and gut microbiota can induce the proliferation of bacteria with the ability to synthetize beneficial metabolites, such as IPA, a postbiotic with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties that contributes to improve the health of the intestinal wall. Therefore, this compound would contribute to the prevention of some diseases associated with ageing.

“If we consider the beneficial effects of IPA on the gut microbiota and health in general, it is important to find reliable strategies to promote the production of this metabolite,"​ noted the co-first signatory of the study, Tomás Meroño, from the Department of Nutrition, Food Sciences and Gastronomy of the UB and CIBERFES.

Surprisingly, the researchers did not observe the same effects in the volunteers with kidney diseases, which could be explained due to the altered composition of their gut microbiota. These people showed lower amounts of IPA at the beginning of the trial compared to the volunteers with normal kidney function.

“These results could be clinically relevant, since the low IPA levels have been associated with a rapid decline of kidney function and a chronic kidney disease,”​ added Professor Cristina Andrés-Lacueva.

Therefore, a polyphenol-rich diet including probiotic foods such as green tea, dark chocolate and some fruits like apples, pomegranate and blueberries could increase the production of IPA through changes in the composition of gut microbiota. This increase in the levels of a postbiotic such as IPA in the elderly could be beneficial in delaying or preventing chronic diseases that harm the quality of life.

Reference

A Polyphenol-Rich Diet Increases the Gut Microbiota Metabolite Indole 3-Propionic Acid in Older Adults with Preserved Kidney Function

Molecular Nutrition & Food Research

DOI:10.1002/mnfr.202100349 

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