Dr Hollman, associate professor at RIKILT – the Institute of Food Safety at Wageningen University, said decades of research had turned up little that demonstrated polyphenols’ ability to deliver antioxidant benefits in vivo.
The compounds had other more complicated potentialities for human beings, he said, which was where his research efforts, and those of other scientists were moving.
“What we have found is that polyphenols don’t add too much [to the body’s defence against oxidative damage],” he said at the NutraIngredients Antioxidants 2010 conference in Brussels recently.
“If you are really depleted with all kinds of antioxidants and your system is not functioning well then maybe there is some possibilities that antioxidants can have an additional effect but for a healthy population there is no effect at all.”
“But there is a lot of evidence that polyphenols have good effects in your body; they have good effects on the cardiovascular system and there is some good evidence for that but that has nothing to do with their antioxidant activity. So they are healthy compounds to some extent but not because they are antioxidants but because they have lots of other properties. That’s the interesting part. There are a lot of other properties which are really very interesting.”