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Polyphenols as dietary supplements: A double-edged sword

Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, and neurodegeneration. Pro-oxidant-induced oxidative stress contributes to the pathogenesis of numerous chronic diseases and, as such, dietary antioxidants can quench and/or retard such processes. Dietary polyphenols, ie, phenolic acids and flavonoids, are a primary source of antioxidants for humans and are derived from plants including fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs. Based on compelling evidence regarding the health effects of polyphenol-rich foods, new dietary supplements and polyphenol-rich foods are being developed for public use. Consumption of such products can increase dietary polyphenol intake and subsequently plasma concentrations beyond expected levels associated with dietary consumption and potentially confer additional health benefits. Furthermore, bioavailability can be modified to further increase absorption and ultimately plasma concentrations of polyphenols. However, the upper limit for plasma concentrations of polyphenols before the elaboration of adverse effects is unknown for many polyphenols. Moreover, a considerable amount of evidence is accumulating which supports the hypothesis that high-dose polyphenols can mechanistically cause adverse effects through pro-oxidative action. Thus, polyphenol-rich dietary supplements can potentially confer additional benefits but high-doses may elicit toxicity thereby establishing a double-edge sword in supplement use

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