The phenolic compounds are a large group of phytonutrients (non-essential, plant based nutrients that have a number of health benefits in humans). They can be broken down into the following 8 sub-groups:
- Hydroxycinnamic Acids.
- Phenolic Acids.
- Tyrosol Esters.
The phenolic compounds can be sourced from a wide range of fruits, herbs, nuts, vegetables, teas and wines. Whilst you do not technically need these natural nutrients to survive, failing to consume them means you will miss out on some significant health benefits. In this article I will be providing a full breakdown of 36 impressive phenolic compound health benefits:
1) FIGHTING CANCER:- Cancer is a nasty disease where the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in your body’s cells gets disrupted and causes them to grow in a rapid, uncontrollable way. This then leads to the formation of a cancerous tumour which spreads to other areas of the body and destroys the cells around it. The good news is that the phenolic compounds have serious cancer fighting properties. The flavonoids, monophenols and phenolic acids are all confirmed cancer fighting nutrients. Additionally, the hydroxycinnnamic acids, lignans, punicalagins, stilbenoids and tyrosol esters may also protect against cancer but further evidence is needed before this can be confirmed.
2) FIGHTING DIABETES:- Diabetes is an unpleasant disease where your blood glucose levels become dangerously high as a result of either your body’s cells failing to respond to insulin (a hormone which allows them to take glucose from the blood) or your pancreas failing to produce enough insulin. If left untreated, diabetes can significantly damage your body’s cells. Fortunately, the flavonoids, the hydroxycinnamic acids and the phenolic acids can all help you manage this nasty health disorder by boosting insulin production, making your cells more responsive to insulin, mimicking the action of insulin (by allowing your body’s cells to take glucose from the blood) and slowing the release of glucose into the blood after eating a meal.
3) FIGHTING FREE RADICALS:- Free radicals are dangerous by-products that get released into your body’s cells during oxygen related reactions. They are believed to cause cancer, diabetes, premature ageing and a weak immune system. The good news is that all the phenolic compounds can minimise the impact these nasty substances have by acting as antioxidants (substances which protect your body’s cells from free radicals).
4) FIGHTING TOXINS:- Toxins are natural poisons that get produced within living organisms. Fortunately, the phenolic acids can help keep you safe from these dangerous substances by acting as an antitoxic (a substance that fights toxins within the body). Provisional studies suggest that the stilbenoids may also have antitoxic properties but further research is required before this can be confirmed.
5) FIGHTING VIRAL INFECTIONS:- Viral infections are a type of infection caused by viruses. They are extremely difficult to treat because they host themselves inside your body’s cells and regularly mutate into new strains. The good news is that provisional research indicates that both the phenolic acids and the tyrosol esters may be able to minimise the impact of viruses by acting as antivirals (substances that inhibit the growth of viral infections). However, further studies are required before these viral fighting properties can be confirmed.
6) HEALTHY BLOOD:- Your blood is a crucial substance that carries oxygen to the cells that need it, assists in the removal of waste materials and fights infection (in the form of white blood cells). Fortunately, the flavonoids, hydroxycinnamic acids and phenolic acids can all keep this supportive substance healthy. The flavonoids do this by acting as hypolipidemics (substances that lower the amount of lipids in your blood), improving blood circulation, preventing atherosclerosis (a condition where hard plaques block your artery walls, restrict the flow of blood and increase your heart disease risk), preventing haemophilia (a condition that causes uncontrollable bleeding), protecting the capillaries (the smallest blood vessels in the human body), reducing blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (a type of cholesterol that blocks the artery walls and increases your heart disease risk) and reducing high blood pressure. The hydroxycinnamic acids also boost the blood by preventing atherosclerosis and reducing blood levels of LDL cholesterol. Finally, the phenolic acids keep your blood healthy by also lowering blood levels of LDL cholesterol.
7) HEALTHY BONES:- Your bones protect your body and give it structure. The good news is that the hydroxycinnamic acids, lignans and tyrosol esters may be able to keep these structural cells strong. Early research indicates that the hydroxycinnamic acids might be able to prevent bone degeneration and osteoporosis (reduced bone mineral density). Additionally, the lignans may also be able to prevent osteoporosis and the tyrosol esters may be able to prevent bone loss. However, further studies are needed before these bone boosting properties can be confirmed.
8) HEALTHY BRAIN:- As you age, your mental health tends to deteriorate. Fortunately, this age related decline can be stopped by filling up on flavonoids. Studies have shown that these powerful plant based nutrients can prevent both Alzheimer’s disease (a mental disorder that causes memory loss, thought problems and speech problems) and Parkinson’s disease (a mental disorder that leads to impaired mobility and speech). Provisional studies indicate that the phenolic acids may also be able to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, the stilbenoids may have a role to play in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. However, further studies are needed before the links between mental health, the phenolic acids and the stilbenoids are fully confirmed.
9) HEALTHY EYES:- Your eyes give you 1 of your most important senses – vision. Unfortunately, vision tends to deteriorate with age. The good news is that the phenolic compounds can negate this age related decline. The flavonoids can prevent the onset of cataracts (clouding on the lenses of the eyes), glaucoma (a disease that damages your optic nerve and reduces vision) and macular degeneration. Early studies indicate that the phenolic acids may also prevent glaucoma but further studies are needed before this can be confirmed.
10) HEALTHY HEART:- Heart disease is 1 of the main reasons for premature deaths in the UK. Fortunately, the flavonoids, the hydroxycinnamic acids and the phenolic acids can all keep this vital organ strong. Provisional studies suggest that the lignans, punicalagins, stilbenoids and tyrosol esters may also have heart boosting properties. However, further evidence is needed before this can be confirmed.
11) HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM:- Your immune system is responsible for keeping you safe from disease and foreign bodies. The stronger your immune system is the less likely you are to succumb to illness. The good news is that the flavonoids and tyrosol esters can both strengthen your immune system and help keep you in tip top shape all year round. Provisional studies suggest that the phenolic acids may also have immune system boosting properties but further evidence is required before this can be confirmed.
12) HEALTHY KIDNEYS:- Your kidneys are a crucial organ that assist in the removal of waste material from your body. Fortunately, early evidence indicates that the phenolic acids, the stilbenoids and the tyrosol esters may give these vital organs some much needed protection from disease and damage. However, further studies are needed before these kidney boosting benefits can be confirmed.
13) HEALTHY LIVER:- Your liver is an important organ that supports healthy digestion and helps remove dangerous toxins from your body. The good news is that the flavonoids can help you maintain optimal liver health by inhibiting the production of the hepatitis C virus (a virus that leads to liver damage and liver inflammation), preventing liver inflammation and treating various types of liver disease. Provisional research suggests that the lignans may prevent the accumulation of fats in the liver whilst the phenolic acids may detoxify the liver and prevent liver problems. Additionally, the stilbenoids may be able to protect against kidney damage. However, more research is needed before the effects of these phenolic compounds on the liver can be confirmed.
14) HEALTHY NERVOUS SYSTEM:- The nervous system is an essential network of nerves and neurones that controls all the processes within your body. Fortunately, the phenolic acids can protect this crucial system from damage and ensure that it functions effectively.
15) HEALTHY SINUSES:- The sinuses are hollowed out spaces in your skill which make it lighter, help your voice to resonate and protect your brain from heavy impacts. Despite these benefits, the sinuses are very susceptible to infections and inflammation. The good news is that the phenolic acids can support your sinuses by preventing sinus infections and sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses).
16) HEALTHY SKIN:- Your skin controls your body’s temperature, keeps infection at bay and much more. Fortunately, the flavonoids, monophenols and phenolic acids can all keep your skin healthy. The flavonoids do this by preventing skin problems (such as acne and eczema), protecting the skin cells from ultraviolet (UV) damage and protecting the collagen (the main protein in animal connective tissues such as skin) from damage. The monophenols can also treat various skin related problems whilst the phenolic acids boost the skin by preventing psoriasis (a skin condition that leads to red, itchy, scaly patches), preventing shingles (a skin rash that causes pain and burning), reducing the visible signs of ageing, removing warts (small, hard benign growths on the skin), treating acne, treating calluses (thickened, hardened areas of skin), treating corns (small, thickened areas on the skin of the foot) and treating dandruff (the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp). Early research indicates that the hydroxycinnamic acids, punicalagins, stilbenoids and tyrosol esters may also be able to keep your skin cells safe from UV damage. However, additional evidence is required before this can be confirmed.
17) IMPROVING EXERCISE PERFORMANCE:- If you exercise regularly then you may be interested in this potential flavonoid benefit. Early research suggests that the flavonoids may protect your muscles from damage, improve your endurance and improve your energy levels during exercise. The potential implications of this are fewer injuries, faster recovery between workouts and improved overall performance. However, the research on these benefits is still in the very early stages and more needs to be done before these benefits can be confirmed.
18) INCREASING LIFE EXPECTANCY:- As a general rule, the more you eat the lower your life expectancy. This is because following a high calorie diet makes you much more likely to develop a serious health disorder such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. The good news is that the stilbenoids may be able to reverse the effects of a high calorie diet and extend the life expectancy of people who consume lots of calories. However, the research on this is still in the very early stages and further studies are required before this benefit can be confirmed.
19) INCREASING YOUR METABOLISM:- If you are looking to lose weight and want to burn a few extra calories then you may want to start eating more flavonoids and phenolic acids. Studies have shown that these natural nutrients increase your metabolism. The flavonoids do this by stimulating the production of triiodothyronine (a metabolism boosting hormone also known as T3) whilst the phenolic acids give your metabolism a temporary thermic boost.
20) LOWERING YOUR BODY FAT LEVELS:- If you want to get lean then consuming more hydroxycinnamic acids could be the answer. These natural nutrients force your body’s cells to use fat for energy and can help lower your body fat levels.
21) PREVENTING ARTHRITIS:- Arthritis is a painful condition where your joints become inflamed. Fortunately, both the flavonoids and the phenolic acids can help relieve the pain associated with this unpleasant condition.
22) PREVENTING ASTHMA:- Asthma is a respiratory disorder where your airways narrow temporarily which causes breathing difficulties. The good news is that early studies suggest that the hydroxycinnamic acids may be able to treat asthma and prevent asthma attacks. However, further research is required before this can be confirmed.
23) PREVENTING FUNGAL INFECTIONS:- Fungal infections are usually caused by inhaling or touching the spores of fungi. For this reason they often develop in the lungs or on the skin. Fortunately, early studies indicate that both the punicalagins and tyrosol esters can protect you from these unpleasant infections by acting as antifungals (substances that treat fungal infections). However, further research is required before these fungal fighting properties can be confirmed.
24) PREVENTING GINGIVITIS:- Gingivitis is a painful condition where your gums become inflamed. The good news is that early research indicates that the punicalagins may be able to prevent gingivitis although more studies are required before this can be confirmed.
25) PREVENTING MALE HAIR LOSS:- If you are worried about going bald then it might be worth eating more lignans. Provisional studies suggest that this natural nutrient may prevent male hair loss although more evidence is needed before its hair boosting properties can be confirmed.
26) PREVENTING THE HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (HIV):- HIV is a very nasty virus which leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (a disease known as AIDS that progressively destroys the immune system). At the moment there is no cure for HIV but very early research indicates that the flavonoids and the hydroxycinnamic acids may be able to stop this virus from replicating. However, this research is in the very early stages and much more is needed before these effects on HIV can be confirmed.
27) PREVENTING UNNECESSARY INFLAMMATION:- Inflammation is normally a controlled process where your body responds to infection, injury, irritation or stress and repairs any damage that was caused. However, sometimes your immune system triggers inflammation unnecessarily and damages your body’s cells. Fortunately, the flavonoids, hydroxycinnamic acids and monophenols can all help you avoid this unpleasant process by acting as anti-inflammatories (substances that minimise unnecessary inflammation in the body). Provisional evidence indicates that the lignans and stilbenoids may also be anti-inflammatories but additional studies are needed before this can be confirmed.
28) PROTECTING AGAINST DISEASE CAUSING MICROORGANISMS:- Most microorganisms are harmless but some can make you very sick and cause various diseases. The good news is that the monophenols can shield you from these tiny microorganisms and keep you safe from disease by acting as antimicrobials (substances that inhibit the growth of disease causing microorganisms). Early research suggests that the tyrosol esters may also have antimicrobial properties but further evidence is needed before this can be confirmed.
29) PROTECTING AGAINST GENETIC MUTATIONS:- Genetic mutations are often caused by mutagens. Mutagens are dangerous substances that change the genetic material of an organism and increase the risk of genetic mutations. Some common environmental mutagens include cigarette smoke and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Fortunately, the phenolic acids can protect you from these harmful substances by acting as antimutagenics (substances that work against mutagens and prevent genetic mutations).
30) PROTECTING AGAINST HARMFUL BACTERIA:- Bacteria are a type of single cell microorganisms. In most cases they are harmless but in certain circumstances they can cause infectious diseases. The good news is that the monophenols, phenolic acids and tyrosol esters can all keep you safe from these nasty microorganisms by acting as antibacterials (substances that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria).
31) REDUCING ALLERGIES:- When you have an allergic reaction to something your body releases histamine. Histamine causes a number of allergic symptoms such as itching, sneezing, swelling and redness. Fortunately, the flavonoids and the phenolic acids can help you avoid allergic reactions by acting as antihistamines (a substance that counteracts the negative effects of histamine).
32) REDUCING DENTAL PLAQUE:- Dental plaque is a soft deposit that forms on the surface of your teeth and contains many different types of bacteria. Long term plaque buildup can damage your gums and lead to gum disease. The good news is that the punicalagins may be able to reduce dental plaque and keep you safe from the various gum problems it causes. However, further research is required before this can be confirmed.
33) REGULATING ESTROGEN LEVELS:- Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. It stimulates female sexual characteristics and the female reproductive system. Men also need some estrogen to break down testosterone (the male sex hormone). Although it is a very useful hormone, too much estrogen can be hazardous to your health and cause cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Fortunately, the flavonoids can keep your estrogen levels under control by acting as phytoestrogens (substances that regulate estrogen levels in the body).
34) RELIEVING PAIN:- Most people’s first reaction to pain is to reach for the aspirin or ibuprofen. However, the phenolic compounds can provide a natural solution to this common ailment. Studies have shown that the monophenols, the phenolic acids and the tyrosol esters can all prevent headaches, migraines, joint pain and muscle pain. Early evidence suggests that the hydroxycinnamic acids may also provide natural pain relief but more studies are needed before this can be confirmed.
35) SOOTHING THE STOMACH:- If you experience stomach pain regularly then you might want to consider eating more phenolic compounds. Studies have shown that both the monophenols and the phenolic acids have a calming effect on your stomach. The monophenols soothe the stomach by preventing stomach inflammation and infection whilst the phenolic acids prevent indigestion, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and stomach ulcers. Provisional studies suggest that the phenolic acids may also be able to prevent indigestion and reduce abdominal pain. However, additional evidence is required before this can be confirmed.
36) TREATING MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS (MS):- MS is an unpleasant disease where your immune system attacks the myelin (a protective sheath that surrounds the nerves) in your body. This damages the nerves, inhibits their ability to function properly and can cause depression, reduced mobility, muscular weakness and vision problems. The good news is that early studies suggest the phenolic acids may be able to treat MS. However, these findings are still in the preliminary stages and much more research is required before they can be confirmed.
PHENOLIC COMPOUND HEALTH BENEFITS SUMMARY
As you can see, the phenolic compounds have a massive range of health benefits in the human body. The power of plants really should not be underestimated and I hope this article has shown you just how beneficial they can be. If you want to know which foods are the best sources of phenolic compounds then check out this article but as a general rule sticking to a diet that contains a wide selection of fruits, herbs, nuts, vegetables and teas should cover all the bases.
So next time you are out shopping make sure you fill your basket with natural produce. Not only will this give you a healthy dose of essential vitamins and minerals but it will also allow you to enjoy all the phenolic compound benefits listed in this article.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Were you aware of the phenolic compounds before reading this article? Did you know that plant based foods had so many health benefits? Are there any phenolic compound benefits I have missed? Leave a comment and let me know.