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Berries Polyphenols and Metabolic Health

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 13 July 2023
Berries Polyphenols and Metabolic Health

How much do we really know about the microbiome? What does it take to identify new probiotic strains and their associated health benefits? When should we leverage precise single strains and when is it more effective to use synergistic blends?

The microbiome is an incredibly rich new field of study, where, with the help of DNA sequencing, we are able to identify entirely new strains that were previously unknown. But it is not just individual probiotic strains that play a key role in human health – it is their synergistic effects that confer the most benefit.

Berries, renowned for their vibrant colours and delicious taste, have long been celebrated for their potential health benefits. One of the key factors contributing to their positive effects is the presence of phenolic compounds, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. These compounds have often been associated with the health-promoting properties of berries. However, the question arises as to how these compounds truly impact our health, considering their poor bioavailability due to their complex chemical structures.

What are the Polyphenols?

Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plant-based foods like tea, coffee, fruits, and vegetables. They offer various health benefits due to their diverse structures and properties. Polyphenols include flavonoids and other compounds that have been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and cancer. These compounds possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, chemopreventive, and neuroprotective properties, making them valuable for promoting health.

The Role of Metabolism:

While the direct impact of phenolic compounds on health may be limited, their metabolites hold significant potential. When these compounds undergo metabolism. They are transformed into smaller phenolic compounds that can enter the bloodstream and reach various organs. The primary site of this metabolism process is the gut, facilitated by the action of microorganisms. Interestingly, polyphenols and their metabolites can also influence the composition of the gut microbiota, creating a reciprocal relationship.

Effects on Gut Microbiota:

In studies involving healthy individuals, the consumption of berries or their compounds has shown a propensity for modulating the microbial populations in the gut. Specifically, these modulations often lead to an increase in beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Akkermansia. This suggests a prebiotic-like effect of berries or their components, promoting a healthy gut environment. When we consume polyphenols, most of them are broken down by gut bacteria before being absorbed. This process influences the compounds' effectiveness and biological activity. Gut bacteria play a vital role in metabolising polyphenols through different mechanisms, affecting how these compounds benefit our health.

Polyphenols and Carbohydrate Metabolism:

The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of dietary carbohydrates, such as starch and sucrose, can be influenced by polyphenols. These compounds have the potential to impact glucose levels and insulin secretion, which are essential for maintaining glucose balance in our bodies. Polyphenols can affect carbohydrate metabolism by inhibiting carbohydrate breakdown and absorption in the intestine, stimulating insulin release, regulating liver glucose production, and enhancing glucose uptake in tissues.

Importance of Glucose Homeostasis:

Maintaining balanced glucose levels is crucial for overall health. Problems with glucose control can lead to metabolic syndrome, a combination of symptoms like obesity, high blood sugar, and abnormal lipid levels. Insulin resistance, often caused by poor diet and lifestyle habits, is a key factor in metabolic syndrome and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Disrupted glucose metabolism can also contribute to inflammation, oxidative stress, and dysfunction in organs.

Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsPrevention & RecoveryCancerBlogs


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • British Naturopathic Association